Baking It On My Own: How Cake Helped Me Transition As a Military Spouse

Baking It On My Own: How Cake Helped Me Transition As a Military Spouse

By Alice Duehring

Cake brought me to Dog Tag Bakery. I started cake decorating six years ago, all thanks to my six year old son. He came to me, asking for my help to design an entry for the cake auction at his very first Cub Scout “Blue and Gold” ceremony. Up to that point, I’d never given much thought to cake decorating; but as a generally crafty person, I thought it could be fun. My son gave me a crayon drawing resembling a scene out of the Jurassic period––complete with dinosaurs, a volcano spewing molten lava, and a river running through the middle with trees and rocks scattered about. It was a very specific drawing, and I did not want to disappoint him while bringing his cake dreams to life.


I made the cake from a box mix. I went online to find out how to make marshmallow fondant for the decorations––which was a total disaster the first few times I mixed it together. With multiple starts and restarts, somehow I eventually made it work. My son and I set out to recreate his drawing on the cake. We used stick pretzels for tree trunks, green Airhead strips for leaves, and rice crispy treat balls covered with fondant for the volcano. I bought $30 dollars worth of candy––including an assortment of different colored tubes of icing (blue to make the river, red for the molten lava coming down the volcano, and green to add accents around the trees). When complete, it was lumpy in different spots; Fondant tore along its sides and edges. It wasn’t the prettiest cake. But we were finally done, and it had all the requirements my son wanted; He thought it was the best cake he’d ever seen. More importantly, we had fun collaborating and designing the cake together. He was happy it sold for $25 dollars at the auction. However, he was disappointed he didn’t win the auction for his own cake.


I have been a stay-at-home military spouse for the past 14 years. I am now finally at a place in my life where I want to rejoin the workforce doing something I enjoy. Since that first lumpy cake that brought my son’s drawing to life, I’ve baked and decorated dozens of cakes. Impressed with my work, friends and family tell me I should do cake decorating for a living. But how do I––a military spouse and self-taught baker, who holds an art history degree and moves every two to three years––successfully do that? That’s what I’m finding out as a Dog Tag Fellow. Because let’s face it; Even though all I want to do is bake and create, a business is more than just baking––and my art history degree didn’t prepare me for the logistics of running my own bakery. While being a part of Dog Tag’s fellowship program, I’m learning exactly what it takes to start and manage a small business. It’s A LOT!

Alice is a Navy Spouse who will graduate from the Dog Tag Fellowship program in June 2018. To learn more about Alice and other Winter 2018 Dog Tag Fellows, click here!