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DeWitt: Meet the woman behind the wedding cakes

Connie Decker is not your typical artist. Her canvas is food and her creations are cakes. Blessed with a gift that comes naturally for Decker, she is also backed by passion and a top culinary education -- the perfect mixture for a handpicked talent.

Decker started "The Chocolate Truffle" -- her business built by word-of-mouth -- more than 20 years ago, but her love for baking and cooking came long before then, and she attributes it to necessity.

"I'm one of seven children," she said. "We needed wedding cakes."

Being the second oldest child, and still the oldest girl, Decker said she took on the chore of cooking.

"Everybody was a cog in the machine and that was where I ended up falling into," she said. "I would probably say it was just something out of necessity came a passion."

After graduating in '78 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Decker moved to California and worked for highly regarded chefs in exceptional kitchens before returning to Central New York. Around 1982, she moved back and became the sous chef at Nikki's in Mattydale before heading the same restaurant in another location -- Manlius. During that same period, Decker taught cooking classes at "The Silver Nutmeg" -- a hot, high-end kitchen store at the time.

"I made many connections and from that I ended up making desserts for people privately for parties," Decker said. "Between the private party desserts and the wedding cakes that I always made for my own family, the word got around."

Skills and challenges

With fondant and pastillage being central components of decorative wedding cakes, it makes sense that over the years, Decker learned to handle both meticulously. Fondant is a confection used as a filling or coating for cakes, while pastillage is sugar-based dough used to create flowers among other themes on cake.

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