She doesn't bake sugar plums, but Apison resident Toni Repko is cooking up quite a reputation as the "Ace of Cakes," a title awarded at this year's Formal Affair wedding expo by TV's "Ace of Cakes" Duff Goldman.
Having seemingly found the recipe for success, Repko is now savoring the experience of running her own bakery, Sweet Angel Cakes in Ringgold. Her sweet journey to self-employment began in 2002 in a cake decorating class at the Sugar Shoppe on East Brainerd Road. Within a year Repko was teaching cake decorating classes at Michael's Arts and Crafts.
Prior to her baking career, she spent 17 years with Krystal in regional management. She said she enjoyed combining her loves of training and baking into her classes.
"In 2005 I got my first big break," said Repko. "I made a four-tier cake with green and black icing cut out in diamonds and circles for a quinceanera, a Hispanic girl's coming of age celebration."
She said the girl turned out to be the daughter of Read House Executive Chef John Palacio. He liked the cake so much that he recommended she become the new contract cake baker for weddings at the Read House. Since that day, she has been baking cakes for brides that wed at the downtown attraction.
Repko's next big break came on the heels of entering the 2011 Formal Affair sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Goldman, of the Food Network's "Ace of Cakes" show, was the main celebrity judge.
"There were gorgeous cakes there," said Repko. "I figured there was no way I was going to win. Cakes were judged on taste, artistic ability and theme components. I teased Duff and said, 'Pick the right one.'"
Her winning cake theme incorporated scenes from the Scenic City such as the Chattanooga Choo Choo with train tracks and a turntable, the Lookouts baseball players, the Krystal store, MoonPies, a river, Frisbee golf and a hang glider.
"The Cake Ace winner is chocolate chip cheesecake baked into the center of a dark chocolate cake," she said. "It has butter cream and chocolate ganache on top. Now we sell it in cupcake form called Cake Ace Cupcakes."
Repko said after winning the prestigious competition, her phone began ringing off the hook with cake orders. She opted to open a store on Cloud Springs Road to share with another business, Take and Bake, which sells oven-ready entrées and side items.
"We try to have cupcakes and signature cakes by the slice on a daily basis," said Repko. "We change up the flavors."
Aside from her top-selling Cake Ace Cupcakes, Repko said her second best-seller is wedding white cupcakes made with super moist white cake and almond butter cream icing. She said her apple or pumpkin pies baked inside cakes are popular too.
"The craziest cake I ever did was a groom's cake with the groom himself sleeping on a couch in the living room," she said. "Everything from the leather couches to the remote control to the soft drinks, coasters and TV were edible."
Repko said she can make cakes shaped like cameras, basketballs, Ford Broncos and more. But it is the spoonful of thought and sprinkle of love she puts inside each one that makes them so savory.
"I sample all my icings," she said. "We have good mellow butter cream icing that tastes just right."