MARQUETTE– A Wisconsin man that became a cake decorator in Manhattan, has planted his roots in the U.P. His artisan cakes are a staple for many celebrations.
Cake Artist Joe Heck is from Muskego, Wisconsin, but after High School went to Manhattan. There Joe earned his love for cake decorating in the city for 15 years.
“This is the one I’ve been making since, gosh, I was back in New York. The week of Christmas in a four day period we sold 80 Raspberry Bombs,” Heck said.
Joe got his love for food from his mom, who owned a restaurant. Why cakes? Joe said he’s allergic to fish so baking seemed to be the best fit. His first job in New York was working at a bakery in a grocery store.
“A lady that owned a bakery called Classic Cakes, which was kind of the big upscale bakery in New York, saw the stuff that I was doing. As I was playing around, and kind of I guess, saw something in me, saw I was passionate,” Heck said. “She ended up paying for my culinary education and I worked for her for many many years until I left New York.”
Although there are differences between life in the city and the U.P., according to Joe it may surprise many but he hasn’t had to change his cakes. The desserts appeal to yoopers and New Yokers the same.
“It’s great that Marquette has allowed me to do that, but still have the small town connection with your customers. The customers become friends and people you know,” Heck said. “I just fell in love with it so this is home to me now.”
Cakes such as these take a team effort. The work environment is different than the big city cake operation.
Joe compares their process to painting or making art.
“You look at kind of our decorative birthday cakes that are in there, and you can tell which ones Jim Hillier did, and you can tell which one Luci Schneider did, because they have the high, pretty, fluffy roses on them,” Heck said. “I’m more of like the abstract chocolaty kind.”