For Calgary baker Vicki Manness, life is pretty sweet
Owner of Pretty Sweet bakery uses butter and sugar to make 'edible art'
When you walk in the door of Pretty Sweet's first official location in the Manchester industrial park, you're instantly enveloped in the smell of butter and sugar.
Baker Vicki Manness is known for her (highly instagrammable) cookies and cakes, and after years of working in bakeries around town, she's finally settled into her own space.
Born in Winnipeg, Manness moved to Calgary when she was seven years old, and has loved baking since she was a kid. She entered the SAIT culinary arts program as soon as she graduated from high school.
"I realized I loved baking way more," Manness said, so she enrolled in baking and pastry arts for an additional two years before moving on to work in the kitchens at Nectar Desserts, River Cafe, the Little Cupcake Shop in McKenzie Towne and Jelly Modern Doughnuts.
"They were all run so differently," she said. "It was interesting to see how everyone runs their businesses."
She started her small company on the side eight years ago while she was working full time, but eventually decided to leave the baking field to focus on building her own brand.
"If you give your all to one thing, the other thing suffers," she said.
She began doing web design on the side while working on growing Pretty Sweet. She offered smaller-scale cookies, brownies and other desserts at markets around town, and built a devoted following at Market Collective.
She moved into her new space in October, which was was originally meant as a space to bake and a pick up point for people who placed orders. Now that the Christmas rush has passed, Manness started opening for a few hours on Saturdays, filling the front display case with ready-to-go sweets.
Her focus is on modern interpretations of old-school recipes — cookies, baked doughnuts, brownies, squares and dainties — and even perfect macarons in flavours from bubblegum to champagne.
"When I started this, I thought I was going to be known as the rustic baker, because decorating and design is not my thing," she said, but having been inspired by bakers in Australia, she's already well known for her simple but stunning multi-layered cakes.
She doesn't do character cakes, but tall, elegant layer cakes with bare or scantily frosted sides, or smoothly frosted and topped with mini doughnuts or doused in caramel.
Her cakes are in demand for weddings and other celebrations, her style already recognizable — with a simple, rustic beauty, often dappled in watercolour-like hues or fresh flowers and greenery, they still look like cakes you actually want to eat.
"I really want to make edible art," she said of her creations. "I love making a centrepiece that becomes a focal point for the party. And then you get to eat it, which makes it the best decoration of all."