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Bench Strength: A Sweet New Direction

Bench Strength: A Sweet New Direction

Shamika Moody figured out what she wanted and went after it. Right after high school, the native Philadelphian was enrolled at Hampton University, studying accounting. Soon, she realized that it wasn't for her.

“I didn't like it when I got there,” she recalls. “The idea of baking for a career kept popping into my head. I was home for break one time, and my mom said I should look into culinary schools.”

Soon, Moody had changed her direction, enrolling in a baking and pastry program at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. From her first wedding cake class, Moody knew she was now on the right track.

Moody has creativity to spare, and it's not unusual to find her dreaming up a cake in the shape of the Liberty Bell or a pair of sneakers. Today, she continues on her path as baker at Comcast Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA, where she has been baking sweet sensations since February.

First cooking experience?

I would make cupcakes with my mom and my sister. We would use store-bought icing. We also baked cookies, but not from scratch.

What were your favorite classes in pastry school?

I had a really good class in bread production, and a whole class just on chocolate. But the wedding cake class was definitely my favorite. And also, I had a class on how to present a plate. We did a lot with sauces on the plate; you can pull a toothpick through to make it pretty.

How did you know baking was for you?

When I worked at Lowe's, I would bake cakes for every holiday and bring them in. A lot of employees there started asking me to make birthday cakes for them. My sister, Shanae, and I started baking cakes on the side, which we still do.

How did you get your job at Comcast?

I found it through school. We had a career person who helps you set up a resume and look for jobs. I wanted to stay in Philadelphia; I never thought about moving away.

What's a typical day like for you?

In the morning, I come in and prepare breakfast pastries and set up for breakfast. Then, I start the desserts for the day — cookies, brownies and various treats for the catering that we do. For the lunchtime, I usually make a cake. I set everything up and make it look good on a table.

What's the biggest challenge in the day-to-day of your job?

I'd say the biggest challenge is just time management. Especially when I first started. Just trying to get everything done in the time required. The time between breakfast and lunch is tough. In the beginning, I would sort of panic, but now I've got it down to a T.

What are some ways you use to make the baked goods look delicious?

I use repeating colors and patterns a lot. People really do eat with their eyes first. For example, someone's eyes will go right to the red on the strawberries on a strawberry shortcake.

Would you rather work with fondant or creamy frosting?

Fondant. You can do so much more with it. You can make different shapes and letters. A lot of people may not like the taste, but I always tell them that you can peel it off.

What's the craziest cake you've ever baked?

Probably the Liberty Bell cake. We had to make it the right shape and color, and we looked online to see what it said on the plaque, and we wrote that on there.

Have you ever had a baking disaster?

Of course! I've had cakes that we made and then dropped on the floor. Or, one time, my old boss challenged me to a bake off, and I tried to make a cake with mousse. The mouse wasn't firm enough. I kept freezing it, and it kept falling apart. I ended up eating some of it and throwing the rest away. It looked bad, but it tasted good!

What new skill would you like to learn or improve?

I'm always looking to improve my decorating skills. I'd like to do a 10-tier wedding cake. I've never done that. And I'd like to try some sugar art. On the Food Network, I've seen some competitions where they do a lot of sugar art. I'd like to learn how to do blown sugar. Right now, I can sculpt some things, like the sneaker cake I made, but I'd like to be able to sculpt some characters.

What's your proudest accomplishment?

Finishing school and following through with something that I love to do. I'm happy I got a career in my field.

Bench strength profiles up-and-comers who have embarked on careers in onsite foodservice

Age: 21

Favorite Meal: Cheese fries with bacon and ranch sauce; any chicken dish; chocolate cake

Family and Pets: I've been dating my boyfriend, Darnell, for four and a half years. We like to go to dinner and a movie, and we also like going to Dave & Buster's. I have a dog named Hershey, part Poodle, part Lhasa Apso.

Favorite Book: The Coldest Winter Ever

Favorite TV Show: Friends, Gossip Girl

Favorite Movie: The Temptations

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