Ava Sweet Cakes spreads icing on a sweet first year
Ava Sweet Cakes owner Mande Gabelson was seven months pregnant when her husband lost his job at Halliburton.
The holder of an art degree, she was searching for a creative outlet and a way to help with family finances when she had an idea. She had learned to bake and decorate cakes from her mother and knew she could jazz them up with her art skills.
She moved into the Grand Junction Business Incubator Center, 2591 Legacy Way, seven months after her daughter was born and named the business after her, calling it Ava Sweet Cakes.
Gabelson, 33, celebrated one year at the Incubator this month, and said her first 12 months in business have been hectic.
“My phone rings all the time,” she said. “If you asked me a year ago how many cakes I’d make in my first year, I would have thought a few dozen. I have done hundreds.”
Gabelson stays home with Ava, now a year-and-a-half old, and son Marcus, 4, and works on her cakes at night at the Incubator. Her claim to fame is “three-dimensional” cakes in shapes ranging from a rhinoceros to a Broncos football helmet. The cakes are similar to those on shows like TLC’s “Cake Boss” and “Fabulous Cakes” and can take up to six hours to complete.
“No one else in town is doing these 3-D cakes. I think people in this town just want something different, and I hope they’re finding that in me,” she said.
In addition to the variety of shapes, the cakes comes in 30 flavors, ranging from twists on traditional favorites like white German chocolate, red velvet, Snickers and white chocolate raspberry to new creations like root beer float, green tea, maple bacon and pink strawberry champagne with chocolate chips. There are 23 icing flavors to choose from, including a sweet avocado that pairs well with coconut lime cake.
Cakes start at $15 for a six-inch, round cake and get into the thousand-dollar range for the most extravagant creations. Gabelson also makes cupcakes that range from $2 to $3.75. Sample boxes of six cupcakes in different flavors are available with a new assortment each month for $12 a box. Next month’s sampler will include cupcakes that incorporate Girl Scout cookies.
Marillac Clinic acquired Gabelson’s services this month for a Valentine’s Day-centric fundraiser. The clinic sold boxes of Ava Sweet Cakes cupcakes in four flavors for $15 apiece and raised nearly $10,000 for clinic operations and programs.
“It was great for both of us; it got my name out there for people who wouldn’t otherwise hear about me, and it raised a lot of money for them,” Gabelson said.
Marillac Director of Community and Consumer Relations Kristy Schmidt said the clinic wanted to do something different this year to raise money and decided to capitalize on the nationwide cupcake craze. Schmidt said fundraiser organizers were “very pleased” with the project and impressed with the quality of the cupcakes.
“We’ve never done anything like this before. We feel like this was very successful for the time it took and the work involved. There’s a strong possibility we’ll do this again,” Schmidt said.
In the meantime, Gabelson has plenty to keep her busy. She’s booked through May, and anyone who wants a cake made for a special occasion should call at least two months in advance of an event.
Gabelson hopes to someday have her own storefront and is gradually buying the tools and equipment she needs to make it on her own. But she has no designs on expanding into a full bakery.
“I want to strictly be a cake studio. Pies and cookies aren’t my focus,” she said.