Story by DANNY MOGLE // Photos by SARAH PEREZ // May/June 2017
It’s a good thing that Dylan Humphrey has a steady hand and nerves of steel. At this moment he needs both.
From a piping bag, he’s squeezing out a razor thin line of black icing onto the side of a cake covered with white fondant. If his hand begins to shake, the line will become a wiggly mess. If he doesn’t keep steady pressure on the piping bag, the line will have gaps.
Neither option is acceptable when you’re a self-proclaimed “pastry engineer.” At only 22, Dylan owns Kool Kakes by Dylan, a Tyler-based bakery known for beautiful traditional cakes and outlandish specialty cakes.
His clients expect perfection.
As Dylan leans closer to the cake, his eyes are glued to the task. One more thing is weighing on his mind. Time — tick, tick, tick — is running out. In less than an hour, he has to finish the groom’s cake and deliver it to a wedding venue where a nervous bride is counting on it to be sensational so she can have the wedding of her dreams.
There’s no room for error; no time to fix mistakes.
Dylan should be a nervous wreck. If he’s rattled, he doesn’t show it. The groom’s cake must look exactly like Krispy Kreme delivery truck.
Earlier he transformed one stack of cake layers into the rectangular shape of the truck’s trailer. He carved another stack into the shape of the cab.
Dylan looks at an image of a Krispy Kreme truck as a reference source as he adds the details.
Everything is edible. The wheels are made of chocolate formed by molds. The mirrors, lights and bumpers are made of fondant and painted with food coloring.
Dylan is best known for appearing on “Cake Wars,” the popular Food Network TV show that pits four bakers in competition to see who can make the tastiest and most over-the-top cake based on a theme.
“Someone told me about auditioning and I thought let’s go for it,” Dylan says. “I’m the type who is willing to jump in and do it.”
He sent show producers a photo of himself, photos of some of his best cakes and an audition tape.
A few weeks later, he was asked to be on the show.
“I was flipping out,” he says of the thought of competing on national television against more experienced bakers.
“I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to participate in this experience, and it will definitely be something I will never forget!” he posted on Kool Kakes’ Facebook page in announcing his appearance.
In October of 2015 Dylan and a baking assistant flew to Los Angeles for the taping. The contestants were challenged to make a cake to celebrate the first birthday of Rosie, a hippo at the Los Angeles Zoo.
Dylan made it through the first round just fine. In the second round, he set out to make a multiple-layer cake that was 4-feet high and featured Rosie and her animal friends gathered to celebrate her birthday.
“I ran out of time,” Dylan says of not being able to complete the top tier. The judges praised his creativity and beautiful work but eliminated him.
“It was a really cool experience,” Dylan says of being on “Cake Wars.” “I would definitely do it again.”
He says the day after the show aired, he was overwhelmed with praise and positive reaction on social media. Since then, business at Kool Kakes by Dylan has been booming.
Dylan grew up in Whitehouse, Texas, and at an early age enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with his grandmother, Peggy Malone.
“She loved baking,” Dylan says. “She did it for fun. … Chocolate sheet cake was her favorite.”
He remembers as a kid taking a decorating class. He quickly realized he had knack for sculpting and designing. By the time he was 12 he was making specialty cakes for his friends. When he was 13, he made his first wedding cake. Word spread that Dylan was the go-to-guy when it came to cakes.
“I love to bake. I’m creative in the kitchen,” Dylan says. “When I picture something in my mind I’m determined to find a way to make it.”
His cake baking began to take over his parents’ home and all of his spare time.
“Sometimes I was so busy it was overwhelming … There were a lot of things in high school, I missed out on,” he says.
He now works out of a commercial kitchen in a retail center between Whitehouse and Tyler. He recently acquired additional space that serves as a showroom and cake decorating classroom.
He promotes Kool Kakes by Dylan as “the new standard of pastry engineering” and “custom cakes for all occasions.”
His parents remain supportive and helpful. His mother, Tracey, does much of the baking. Dylan concentrates on the sculpting and decorating.
Wherever Dylan goes, people talk about seeing him on television.
“Food Network and being on TV legitimized what I was doing,” he says. “When I was growing up decorating cakes wasn’t cool. That’s changed. I went to (speak at) an elementary school and all the kids were super excited to see me. Not just the girls but the boys too.”
Dylan loves being a part of the joyful celebrations of people’s lives. “I love seeing the first reaction of kids and brides (seeing their cakes). That makes up for the hard work.”
“Dylan is absolutely amazing,” praises one happy client on the website weddingwire.com. “He made cupcakes for our wedding. … Everyone loved them. For the groom’s table he made a Sonic Cup cake. So awesome. Dylan is so talented and creative beyond his years. Thank you Dylan for making out wedding so awesome.”
“I get to meet a lot of people,” continues Dylan. “I get to impact their lives. I love it. I love what I do.”