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Published September 11, 2013, 10:00 PM

A sweet outlet: Cakes a creative hobby for West Fargo woman

WEST FARGO - The fondant-wrapped cake and frosting creations Sanita Repak bakes in her kitchen here are so artistic, it seems a shame to cut them. But Repak insists, sharpening a knife and serving thick slices on polka-dotted dessert plates.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

WEST FARGO - The fondant-wrapped cake and frosting creations Sanita Repak bakes in her kitchen here are so artistic, it seems a shame to cut them.

But Repak insists, sharpening a knife and serving thick slices on polka-dotted dessert plates.

Underneath the thick, colorful icing is rich red velvet, poppy seed or German chocolate cake layers separated by creamy frosting. As a lighter option, Repak’s strawberry cheesecake is surrounded by blueberry-filled jelly rolls and topped with lemon yogurt cream.

Baking has always interested 46-year-old Repak. In her Bosnian homeland, afternoon cake and coffee was a tradition, she says.

She learned how to bake from her mother and grandmother. She traded recipes with neighbors and friends in Bosnia as well as Germany, where she and her husband, Zijad, lived for 7½ years.

When they moved to North Dakota in 2008, most of her suitcases were filled with cookbooks.

“I didn’t want to leave them,” she says.

Now the mother of a college freshman, she scours the internet seeking new ideas for the 3-D confections or more traditional cakes and desserts she makes for friends’ parties or weddings, though never replicating others.

“I like to tell a story on the cake,” she says.

It’s something she does in her spare time, which seems to be a rare commodity. Repak works full time at nights for Caterpillar in West Fargo, and has part-time jobs at Victoria’s Secret and Pier One Imports in Fargo. She also occasionally works as a translator for the West Fargo School District.

Her desserts are a creative outlet. She used to paint, but making a cake doesn’t take as long as a picture, she says. She also likes to make jewelry.

Through word-of-mouth, she’s been hired to make cakes or desserts for bridal and baby showers, bachelorette, birthday and anniversary parties and weddings.

She’s done cakes for almost every Bosnian wedding in town, she says. It’s a different custom than at many American weddings, where the cake serves as a centerpiece throughout the reception. Instead, she says, the focus is on the flavor – they typically feature a cream filling – and the cakes are rolled out only for the big cake-cutting moment.

But she prefers making the 3-D cakes she started dabbling in about a decade ago. Her portfolio of print photos and iPhone snapshots shows the elaborate results.

A graduation cake features books topped with a mortar board and rolled-up diploma. A tall glass of lemonade is adorned with sliced fruit and topped with melted sugar “ice” cubes. A purse and pair of shoes feature the interlocking Cs of Coco Chanel.

And every last bit is edible, save for an occasional piece of wire or toothpick.

“You can’t help but be interested in them when you first see them because of her creativity,” says friend Julie Laufenberg. “You want to see what’s underneath.”

Repak made a cake shaped like a pair of lips for Laufenberg when her daughter got her braces removed.

For Laufenberg’s son’s birthday, she made a cake that looked like a pizza, “only each little pepperoni was actually cake,” she says.

Laufenberg has seen many of Repak’s designs, and been with her as she delivered cakes. A child’s birthday cake isn’t a cartoon character on a sheet cake, but a cake shaped like the actual character, she says.

“It’s a little bit different than you’d get at a normal bakery,” Laufenberg says.

Repak says she doesn’t buy any specialty pans. Rather, she frosts, carves, and frosts again.

She says maybe one day she’d consider opening her own bakery, but that seems like too much work.

For now, she charges enough to cover supplies and some of her time, and the referrals keep coming in.

Jenna Simpson of Fargo was thrilled with the three-tiered wedding cake Repak made for her 2010 wedding. She asked Repak to make bra- and panty-shaped cookies for a bachelorette party she later hosted. A couple friends at that party then had Repak make cakes for baby showers.

“I don’t tell her anything other than the theme and just let her go with it. I’ve always been amazed,” Simpson says. “On top of that, she has such a kind, service heart. She’s unique in the way she cares a lot about the people being happy with her work.”

Repak says she loves to see the awed response people have to her desserts.

“That’s the best reward,” she says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556

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