She's a self-taught baker who created a one-of-a-kind dessert studio.
Alex Narramore spends most of her working days isolated in the mountains. She stands in the studio, carefully sculpting and then hand painting sugar flowers—dahlias, peonies, roses, hydrangeas and orchids—that will later adorn a custom cake.
Narramore, known to many as The Mischief Maker, is a botanically accurate sugar flower artist based in Lexington, Kentucky. She specializes in custom wedding cakes, sugar flowers and special event cakes.
The Whitesburg, Kentucky native, who is a self-taught baker, learned as much as she could about art during her time in college. When her husband, Deron, began his career at the Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Narramore transferred to Northern Kentucky University.
“I dragged around cake books and watched everything I could to teach myself,” she says. “I used school to learn more of the aesthetic portion. NKU’s art program was cultivating in a more refined way—a more elevated way, a more serious way. I spent more time in the studio, I met more people.”
Narramore completed her degree in studio art in 2012, but she was making custom cakes for years before then.
And now, her one-of-a-kind dessert studio allows her to merge her love of gardening with design—particularly color and sculpting.
So, what does it mean to be a botanically accurate baker?
“In general, nature is what is being observed and copied for those flowers. I grow all references for sugar flowers in my garden, cut and sculpted from life,” she says. “From seed to cutting them, I can observe the fresh flowers, so every single detail is accurate when they are sculpted and painted in sugar. Every petal, every stem is copied exactly from life if possible. That’s what makes us different.”
Narramore spends her time in Lexington in the garden and at her home, where she bakes her custom cakes. But she does the majority of her creative work at her Mamaw’s house in Jenkins, Kentucky.
“It’s helpful to be in the mountains and work. It’s more isolated,” she says. “I can get my morning coffee, walk my dog, Mocha, and be surrounded by mountains, which is where the greenhouse is. Right before the cake is due, I leave here, go back to Lexington and finish up there. I have two bases—one in the city and one in the mountains.”
Narramore’s mother, Lisa, helps her make the sugar flowers one by one.
“We work best with each other,” she says. “We work on all of the sugar flowers together, going to great lengths to provide every painstaking detail. From delicately thin sugar petals and veining, all the way to custom color palettes and edible scents. No detail is left unturned.”
There are weeks of work that go into the detail for each cake, so Narramore only works on one each month.
“My cakes are low volume, high detail,” she says. “This isn’t a high-commercial bakery. I might spend a day—or even a few days—on one flower.”
Narramore’s bakery prowess earned her a spot on the Food Network last year to be an expert judge for “Buddy vs. Duff.” The network wasn’t the only one to notice Narramore’s work. In 2015, she was named one of the top four international wedding cake designers by the Cake Masters’ Awards. And in 2017, she won the Golden Tier Awards’ International Wedding Cake Artist of the Year. One year later in 2018, Cake Masters magazine named The Mischief Maker as one of the top 10 cake artists in the U.S.
Narramore has made plenty of cakes in the last decade, but no two custom orders have looked the same. Her designs are retired soon as they leave the kitchen. For the Mischief Maker, these sugar flowers are just as much art as they are nature.
“The gardening is super important,” she says. “Growing the flowers and then sculpting them bridges even further into an art direction. I always wanted this to be seen as art and not craft. I think they are sculptures. I sculpt and paint as any artist would.”