Meet Shant'e Dunton, Tri-C's own cake boss
December 15, 2017
Shant’e Dunton will graduate from Cuyahoga Community College this month with more than just a culinary arts degree. She will graduate with a growing business featuring a list of clients that stretches all the way to the East Coast.
Dunton has become Tri-C’s own cake boss. You may be familiar with the Cake Boss reality television franchise, featuring the staff of Carlo’s Bake Shop in New Jersey and the wildly imaginative cakes they produce.
Dunton’s flour-and-sugar-based creations are designed in the same spirit—and, unlike Carlo’s Bake Shop, Dunton’s operation is a one-woman show. She operates her business, Simply Cakes by Shant’e, out of her Cleveland home.
“I’ve baked cakes for weddings, graduations, birthday parties, you name it,” Dunton said. “The designs have been a little bit of everything. I’ve done a blue jean cake, a liquor bottle cake, shoes, animals. I even traveled to Maryland to make a cake designed to look like a Louis Vuitton handbag. I try to draw inspiration from everything around me.”
Although Dunton has received many opportunities to bake cakes for out-of-town clients, she is tabling those requests for now. Her number-one priority after completing her degree is to get her business plan finalized, with the goal of moving into a storefront space.
“Right now, it’s a home-based business,” she said. “In order to grow, I’ll need a bigger space and employees, so those are goals for me in the coming years. Five years from now, I’m hoping I have an actual business space and a staff of maybe six to 10 people.”
In addition to an associate degree, Dunton will also earn certificates for professional baking, personal chef and professional culinarian.
Thanks in large part to her Tri-C education, Dunton is confident that she can attain those goals.
“I’ve learned a lot in my classes,” she said. “Everything from how to purchase ingredients to kitchen safety, to how to make a kitchen sanitary. I’ve gained so much knowledge during my time at Tri-C.”
Dunton credits her teachers for their willingness to go the extra mile for their students.
“Our teachers at Tri-C are amazing,” Dunton said. “They help us with questions whenever we need it. When you’re baking, you’re often doing it very early in the morning. I once called my teacher at 3 a.m. with a question, and she answered the phone. They love what they do, and they want us to succeed.”
Not only is Dunton at work in the kitchen, she’s also at work in front of the TV camera. In October, she made an appearance with Tri-C culinary professor Maureen Leonard on the Fox 8 Morning Show for a Halloween cookie demonstration.
“I was nervous,” she said. “The producer told me to turn off my phone while they were shooting because everyone I knew would start calling. Sure enough, I turned my phone back on when we were done filming, and I had all kinds of messages saying ‘Hey, I just saw you on TV!’”
She’s scheduled to make a second appearance on the show in January, this time focusing on one of her specialties—a cake topped by a realistic-looking, edible high-heeled shoe.
Dunton has come a long way from her very first cake, baked for her brother’s birthday when she was a freshman at John F. Kennedy High School. But she’s only getting started.
“It was a chocolate cake,” she said. “I didn’t even have decorating tools. I had to improvise with sandwich bags. But I knew this is what I wanted to do, and if you’re passionate about something, you’ll find a way.
“I’ve worked very hard, but I’m also grateful for all the help I’ve gotten along the way and especially to the culinary program at Tri-C. The people in that program are a big reason why I’ve already made it this far.”