Teen Expresses Creativity by Baking Cakes
“It’s funny because I actually don’t like cake,” says 15-year-old baker and Bishop Kelly High School student Ellen Dale.
Although she might not enjoy consuming the end product, Dale definitely loves the process, which is a good thing. It can take up to seven hours to bake and decorate each of her edible works of art. Somehow, Dale manages to squeeze her baking time into an already busy schedule: juggling flour, sugar and eggs right alongside her homework, basketball and student council.
Dale discovered her passion for baking as a first grader helping her aunt make cookies for family gatherings in Arkansas. Back in her family’s kitchen in Tulsa, she baked and decorated her first cake in third grade – a dessert in the form of a hamburger.
“Now, when I look back on it, it was really bad, but I was in third grade, and it was my first-ever cake,” she laughs. “Growing up, my mom was always in the kitchen, and I was always helping her. She was right there next to me when I baked it. I remember when I put the cake in the oven. I was terrified! After that, I was perfectly fine.”
Dale continued to bake cakes, watching plenty of YouTube videos and improving with every effort. According to her, cakes are fundamentally an expression of her creativity.
“I’ve always been creative, but growing up, everyone around me could draw,” she explains. “I’m so bad at drawing and painting, so it was another way for me to express my creativity in a nontraditional way.”
The baking and decorating process takes time, patience and attention to detail. Dale bakes alone, focusing closely on the task at hand. It’s a craft for which she’s well suited.
“I like cake baking. It gets really intense, and it’s a very long process,” Dale says. “It’s a weird kind of escape for me to be on my own. I’m in control the entire time. No one else is changing what I’m trying to do.”
Like any artist, Dale has accumulated quite a few tools over the years. Between trips to Michaels and Hobby Lobby, she’s amassed enough to fill a few boxes and several kitchen drawers. That all came in handy this spring, when graduation cakes were in high demand. Among those seniors celebrating with one of Dale’s creations was her own sister, Anna Dale. For her older sibling, Dale made dozens of cake pops, perfect for a drop-in reception.
When contemplating her own graduation in a few years, Dale is certain baking will continue to be a part of her life.
“I think throughout my life, no matter what I end up doing, if baking isn’t full time, I definitely see myself having a side hustle or just doing it for family and friends. I’m definitely never going to stop.”
Julie Wenger Watson is a freelance writer who’s worked in all aspects of music promotion. She’s also Co-Director of “Live From Cain’s,” a public radio show pilot.