Cake Magic

Video by Simone McCarthy and Kyra Gurney

Evelyn Vargas, 52, has wanted to be a pastry chef since she was a teenager. She used to stop at her local bakery every afternoon on her way home from school to watch the cake decorators at work. When she graduated from high school, Vargas wanted to go to culinary school, but she couldn’t afford the tuition. Instead, she got a series of office jobs to help her family pay the bills.

Then, in 2007, Vargas was laid off from her job at a trading company during the financial crisis. She decided it was time to pursue her passion and transformed her apartment into a cake studio. Vargas taught herself to decorate cakes by watching cake shows and online videos. She started to sell her creations and slowly, she built up a clientele.

Now, she sculpts wildly inventive cakes in the shapes of shoes, purses, animals, hamburgers—anything and everything she and her clients can dream up. “I have a very active imagination so it comes across on my cakes,” Vargas said.

The cakes are so popular that Vargas’ business has outgrown her Bronx apartment, and she is trying to raise enough money to open up a bakery. Her goal is to leave a business behind for her two daughters and her grandchildren. Vargas has faced a lot of setbacks along the way, but she has never given up on her dream. “You always come back to what you love to do,” she said.