Baking Up a Sweet Career
By Jenny Collins '05
It must’ve been a clever person with a sweet tooth who first realized that the word “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts.”
For studio art graduate Emily (Osterbauer ’06) Marks, stress and desserts seemed to be a perfect pairing. “Making desserts was something I always liked to do,” said Marks. “Whenever I was stressed out, I would bake stuff.”
After graduation, she moved to Oregon, got married and found herself working at a coffee shop, struggling to find full-time work in the competitive field of fine arts.
Marks eventually found her niche by combining her passion for baking and art, enrolling in a 9-month pastry program at a cooking school. “I always knew they [art and baking] were interrelated,” Marks said. “It takes a lot of creative skill to create pastries.” Her background in art really set her apart in the class and her instructors commented on her artistic eye.
“The attention to detail that comes from art is useful—things need to look the same and be consistent,” she said. She also discovered that making edible flowers and working with sugar sculptures was a lot like working with clay.
Marks and her husband, Sterling, returned to the Twin Cities, where she’s worked at several bakeries including Rustica, The Bikery and Sweets Bakeshop.
Battling batter on ‘Cupcake Wars’
Last fall, when Marks was working as head baker and kitchen manager at Sweets Bakeshop in Minneapolis (now Cupcake Caramel), she and owner Ly Lo were selected to be contestants on the Food Network’s competition show Cupcake Wars.
On April 7, they appeared in Season 8, episode 1, competing against three other bakeries for $10,000. On the show, Lo said of Marks, “Emily is the perfect person to have with me…because she has everything under control 100 percent of the time.”
In the first challenge and in honor of celebrity guest judge “Weird Al” Yankovic, contestants had to choose from a surprise selection of weird ingredients (Lo and Marks picked dragon fruit and lychee) to create a tasteful cupcake.
Making it to the second round, the teams had to create three different cupcakes paying homage to Weird Al’s personality and songs. Marks was encouraged when one judge called their salted caramel buttercream “divine” and another noted it was probably the best buttercream he’d ever tasted on the show.
Lo and Marks made it to the final round, where they had two hours to create 1,000 Pinterest-worthy cupcakes and work with a master carpenter to design a 1,000-cupcake display for Weird Al’s book release party. In the end, the judges chose the other team, but Lo and Marks represented their bakery, and Minnesota, with class and poise.
Reflecting on the 12-hour day of prepping, baking, judging and filming, Marks concluded, “It was a lot of fun and a lot of work.” A sweet reward for following your passion.
Marks is now the pastry manager at Cossetta’s in St. Paul for their new Pasticceria, which opened in April.