Sugar Shack

Fly me to the moon: Sweet Celebration's Ann Sames shows off an out of this world cookie cutter
Jayme Halbritter
Sweet Celebrations
14276 Plymouth Ave., Burnsville, 952.435.3377
1870 Beam Ave., Maplewood, 651.770.8647

I am right now looking at a molded sugar Motocross guy on some kind of bike. He has a yellow, purple, and red helmet, yellow pants, goggles, and is crouched in such a way that suggests he has just made the jump of his life. He is, in a word, rad. He is also edible. If you were so inclined, he could be affixed to a cake-and-icing half-pipe, or a cake-and-icing dirt track, or a cake-and-icing Noah's Ark, or whatever you like. I found him--bypassing the football guy and soccer guy, who also cost $2.99--on an entire wall of molded sugar things, in Burnsville. Things like molded sugar chainsaws, koala bears, Easter chicks in bonnets, baby faces, clown faces, sea shells, ivy leaves, pansies, roses, music notes, doves of peace, American flags, dump trucks, and about a million, billion, trillion other things. I was going to say anything you can imagine, but I knew you'd get to imagining things like Celine Dion, in space. No! Not that. But there are wise little owls, wearing graduation mortarboards, hand-painted, in sugar.

I have now directed my attention to a birthday candle in the shape of an open and ready-to-apply tube of lipstick ($3.29). It came packaged with a birthday candle in the shape of a bottle of nail polish, another in the shape of a bottle of perfume, and a fourth that looks like, and is labeled as, a tube of mascara. I selected this from birthday candles of: beer bottles, beer cans, champagne bottles, buckets of sand complete with shovels, bottles of suntan lotion, lady bugs, rubber ducks, Big Bird, cowboy boots, bowling pins, hammers, saws, simple trucks, backhoes, basketballs, basketballs plunging through nets, gravestones, and, oh so eerily, the space shuttle.

Because, my friends, I have been shopping at Sweet Celebrations, and all the tops of all the cakes within my reach will be endangered forevermore. Sure, I had heard of Sweet Celebrations for years, from all my wedding-cake decorating friends, who talk about it all the time. Except now I have been there myself and: My God. My entire perception of the universe has shifted, because I now know of thousands and thousands of things I never knew existed. Little bread pans that make 3D canapé loaves in the shape of stars. Cake molds that make cakes in the shapes of bunnies, a computer, Harry Potter, leaping stallions, rocking horses, a tractor, an SUV, a slot machine, motorcycles, cats with bows--I could do this all day.

Did you know there are cookie cutters in the shapes of razor scooters? I couldn't dream of counting the bazillions of cookie cutters, but I am not even slightly exaggerating when I say that they have at least 500, and quite possibly more. There is a kangaroo cutter, but also a boxing kangaroo cutter. You can make both a regular-wrench cookie and a pipe-wrench cookie. There are spring-action cookie cutters that flip the cookie out for you; there are ones that look like they came out of the same production run as your grandmother's. There are large copper cookie cutters suitable for hanging on the wall.

Because--who knew?--one of the nation's largest specialty baking supply stores is based here in the Twin Cities. It's a mom-and-pop operation, quite literally, owned and run by husband and wife Charles and Christine Dalquist, who run it all out of three locations: the two retail stores, in Burnsville (right off both I35-W and I35-E, where they converge) and Maplewood, and in an Edina warehouse that serves the catalog division. The catalog supplies most of the nation's specialty bakers with all the highly specific things you can get only here: incredible candy molds, lollipop molds, wedding-cake pan sets, rosette irons in the shapes of spiders in webs, and more, more, more! Like a battery-operated flour sifter. A 120-piece set for cutting vegetables into garnishes.

They also sell ingredients--all the specialty European chocolates like Callebaut, Scharffenberger, and Valrhona All the molds you need to turn that chocolate into your own hearts, bunnies, daisies, carpenters, dentures, bunches of beets, baby Jesuses...get the idea? Not to mention the quilted and heart-shaped, rectangular, or rose-topped molds to make chocolate boxes to put your chocolate eggs, fish, dominos, or flamingoes in. And if you don't know how to do this, and you want to? No problem! Call them up, or drop by, to get a class schedule, and for around $16 you can take a single intro class on, say, icing roses or kransekage. Or, for around $40, you can take an entire daylong candy-basics class, where you'll learn all the rudiments of caramels, marshmallows, truffles, peanut butter cups, cherry cordials, and more.

You can take a class? You didn't have to be born into one of those families with a grandmother like Mrs. Claus? Really?

"We get people coming in all the time who say, 'Oh, I used to do this with my mother or grandmother,'" says Charlie Dalquist. "They want to get back into it, so they take a class. Ever since September 11, whereas overall businesses are in a slump, we are getting quite a few new customers. People are staying home. Mints are very easy to make. The stores are a fun place to go shopping. Making candy, baking, they're very modest in price."

That's really all I have to say. If you, or the people you know, have birthdays, if you like wasting time on e-Bay, if you like perusing dictionaries or peeking into closets, you should try to stop here sometime. I feel like my understanding of the world we live in, of America, has been expanded by a single visit to this place. People! There are women among us who are making cakes for their teenage sons, and putting Motocross sugar guys on them! They are making chocolates in the shape of saws! They are serving 3D teddy bear cakes!

Maybe the war is making me hysterical, but I could only walk up and down these aisles with their millions of cookie cutters and boggle: Who is getting this much love? Who among us is being swaddled in such sugary attention? Who is receiving these homemade gifts that are so precisely tailored to their lives: I know you like razor scooters, I made you a razor scooter cookie. I know you like saws. So I put on my apron. Is there really this much love in the world?

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