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Having your cake - and eating it too

Jackie Tyrrell cut into her seven-layer red vel

Jackie Tyrrell can't remember when she started baking, but somehow her knack for pastries has taken over her life and her home.

The Brainerd resident is the owner of Edible Art, the bakery that operates right out of her back yard.

"I've done this all my life," Tyrrell said.

Tyrrell, originally from Staples, said it was fate that she ended up becoming a pastry chef. As a college student at Bemidji State University, Tyrrell started out as a fine arts major. A couple of years into her undergraduate studies, she changed her path.

"I did an about face and went into food," she said.

Tyrrell graduated with a degree in commercial catering from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and launched her career in food service. Tyrrell has spent the last several years operating her own catering business, and in 2009 decided to ditch the full-service food business to focus on pastries.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Tyrrell said. "I'm kind of a one-man show."

Her backyard bakery has grown quickly. Last summer, Tyrrell did 50 wedding cakes. "I max out at three in a weekend," she said.

Part of the challenge of cake making is turning a great tasting cake into a great looking cake. Tyrrell said she has had requests for all kinds of cakes - from a three-dimensional cake of Mille Lacs Lake to a cake for a newly graduated chiropractor that included a replica of a human spine.

"I'll try anything," Tyrrell said. "They are letting me be a part of their day. I want to be special."

Tyrrell said Edible Art is a family affair, with her husband, Neil, and daughter, Taylor, often help out with the cake making. Taylor, 11, wants to enter the 2011 Cake of the Lakes competition, a competition that Tyrrell has won twice.

"She's going to be in charge," Jackie said, "and I'll be her assistant."

Tyrrell said the most common misconception about having a bakery in your backyard is that people assume that means there are always sweets around the house.

"People ask Taylor if she gets cookies and cupcakes all the time," she said, "Taylor's response is usually, 'The only time I ever get one is if it's broken and my mom can't sell it.'

"Sometimes I have to break some on purpose. You know, for quality control."

Tyrrell started out at Cafe Latté on Grand Avenue in St. Paul and eventually moved back to the Brainerd lakes area and worked as a pastry chef at several area resorts, including a stint as the head pastry chef at Grandview.

"I think I've worked at nearly every resort in the area," she said.

When she's not busy with wedding season, which typically has her booked from April through October, Tyrrell said she caters pastries to area businesses and enjoys doing cakes for graduations, birthdays and "anything else you could possibly need a cake for."

Tyrrell said her next big feat will be to find a way to create a cake that is more health conscience.

"A diet cake?" she said. "I don't think so. I'm trying to come up with something lower in sugar. The only problem is you can't make a great cake without lots of butter."

SARAH NELSON may be reached at or 855-5879.