WINTERSVILLE - Most nights after her son goes to bed you can find Jennifer Cesta in her kitchen, baking and decorating bite-sized cheesecakes and candies for her home-based bakery, Finishing Touches.
"I work full-time and I have a 5-year-old, so I don't actually start baking until 9 or 10 at night," said Cesta, a Wintersville resident and public relations coordinator at the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. "I don't start until my son is asleep."
While that makes for some long days, Cesta figures the trade off being able to do what she loves, without giving up the day job she also loves - is more than worth it.
ARTFUL DISPLAY — With a careful balance between family and work, Jennifer Cesta spends her spare time doing something she loves — baking and decorating bite-sized cheesecakes and candies for her home bakery. - Linda Harris
FINISHING TOUCHES — Jennifer Cesta, creator of Finishing Touches – The Art of Entertaining, says it’s the presentation, not the preparation, of food that intrigues her. Here she shows off flowers with an edible cheesecake center. - Linda Harris
"Balancing everything is hard," she said. "You have to learn to be organized. That's why some days I just take the evening off and watch TV, just take a rest."
It was a TV show, in fact, that got her started on the road to entrepreneurship: The idea for her signature product, chocolate-dipped and drizzled cheesecake lollipops, grew out of a show she'd seen on the Food Network.
"I love the presentation of food and when I saw it, I thought they looked so beautiful I had to try them," she said.
At first she formed the cheesecake balls by hand, "but it was too time consuming," she said. "I'd have to wait for the cheesecake to partly freeze. Then I found molds, and they work so much better. It's so much easier to do it now with the molds."
She experimented with flavors, and now routinely markets original, tiramisu and raspberry flavors as well as a cinnamon version for which she donates the profits to charity this year, it's the School of Bright Promise that's benefiting.
She added cake lollipops to her repertoire after finding a recipe in a book at where else the library.
"I fell in love with the idea, it was so cute," she said. "A lot of what I know and do with the business I learned at the library, through programs we've offered or the books and magazines we have there."
She came up with using corn syrup and sugar to "paint" designs on glass for her mirrored treats, Sweet Reflections, when she was invited to an appetizer party at a friends' house.
"I made a leaf," she said. "It was a pie crust shaped like a leaf, and I decorated it with brie cheese, dried cranberries, honey and nuts. In bed one night I was thinking about how to present the leaves and out of nowhere, I had this idea to paint a tree out of sugar on a mirror, and put the leaves on the tree ... the baked goods always relate to the design on the mirror."
She also makes custom-designed cutout cookies and for birthdays does a "Party in a Box" for kids, with either a chef's hat or an apron, along with icing and sprinkles to decorate cookies on a stick.
Cesta's currently experimenting with cupcakes.
"I always have ideas running through my head," Cesta said. "Like making different kinds of cheesecake pops or how to make them look different ... I like my products to be unique."
Though she works full time, she still manages to put about 20 hours a week into her business.
"I never expected them to be so popular, but I get a lot of joy out of seeing people enjoy them and appreciate them as much as I do. I enjoy watching other people enjoy my desserts.
"I love what I'm doing. Even though I get started late at night and get tired, it's the finished product I enjoy seeing and tasting. It's a lot of work, but I enjoy it."
Find out about Cesta's products at www.finishingtouchesentertaining.com