Icing Smiles bakes up plan to provide cakes for sick kids

IcingSmiles1WBy Betsy Stein

Icing Smiles, a nonprofit based in Ellicott City, makes life a little sweeter for critically ill children and their siblings by providing them with custom dream cakes.

For his 4th birthday, a Sugar Angel from Icing Smiles made Caelen Gorman the coolest cake ever. It was a two-tiered cake topped with his favorite monsters: Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc.

"They are such an amazing organization," says Kayte Gorman, Caelen's mom, who recently moved from Annapolis to Florida. "I am so appreciative."

Caelen was born with a heart disease and has undergone three open-heart surgeries in his short life. He will eventually need a heart transplant, his mom explains.

It's kids like Caelen that drove Tracy Quisenberry to found Icing Smiles four years ago.

"I feel everyone has an obligation to serve with the skills they have, and I have two skills — taxes and decorating cakes," Quisenberry says. "Cakes seemed more fun."

After both her children were born prematurely, Quisenberry was drawn to helping kids with medical conditions. She began by baking the cakes on her own, but the company grew quickly.

"It took on a complete and utter life of its own in months," she explains. "I like to joke that my 10-year plan was really a 10-month plan. It was a runaway train."

Icing Smiles goes viral

IcingSmiles2WIcing Smiles went viral after Quisenberry cold-called a baker in New York to make a cake for a child there. The baker was Kate Sullivan, who then blogged about the experience and, after that, the business picked up 300 bakers (or Sugar Angels as they call them) in one day.

Now the nonprofit has over 5,000 volunteers with many famous bakers who have been on The Food Network or TLC. The company has baked nearly 4,500 cakes for critically ill children and their siblings across the country.

Hobby baker Pam Obee Sargent, of Edgewater, was the Sugar Angel who baked Caelen's dream cake. It's the third cake she's made for Icing Smiles, and she's hooked.

"It really does make people smile," she says.

Quisenberry, who recently quit her job in the international tax field to manage Icing Smiles full time, agrees.

"It's just a cake, but a great cake makes people smile," she says. "It gives them something to focus on beside the negative."

To find out more about Icing Smiles, visit the website icingsmiles.org.