By: Angie Wieck, INFORUM

Cake baker and decorator Minda Ringdahl at Nichole’s Fine Pastry in Fargo enjoys the creativity her job allows her. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO – Some fine arts degree graduates may have a hard time figuring out how to use their degree in the professional world.

Minda Ringdahl, general manager, pastry chef and all around “Cake Boss” at Nichole’s Fine Pastry at 13 S. 8th St. in Fargo, did not have that problem.

She recently sat down to talk about the pressures of her job and about how her degree helps her to be a better baker and cake decorator.

How did you get into the field of baking and decorating cakes?

It was kind of a natural progression of working here. I started eight years ago while I was studying printmaking at MSUM (Minnesota State University Moorhead). I started up front (at the counter) and eventually moved into the kitchen because I was a little more interested in being behind the scenes.

How did your degree help you?

I think my art degree really helped with hand-eye coordination. I’m a good drawer, and that transfers to the icing work. It takes a little while to get used to drawing on the side of something, but once you get the technique down it’s almost like using a pencil. You can do a lot with that as your medium.

Printmaking is also similar to baking in that it’s very process-oriented. You have to have an ultimate outcome planned before you begin. Also, you really have to enjoy the process sometimes more than the finished product. That’s similar to baking. You really have to enjoy the step-by-step.

What are some of the challenges to your job?

I think that every chef would agree that it’s just physically draining and stressful for the most part. If you take too many orders, you’re stuck here. It’s got to be fresh and you can’t compromise it, so there are some days where you work 20 hours and you hardly get any sleep and you start the next day over, and it’s just as busy. You’re under extreme deadlines, and you just have to go with it.

What do you like best about your job?

I like that it’s creative. I never really envisioned that this is the way my degree would help me, but it really has. I kind of feel like this is probably what I’ll keep doing. I like creating new recipes and coming up with the unique things that people can enjoy.

How do you help customers decide what to order?

A lot of our cakes are by design rather than picked out from an album. I’ll do drawings based on their colors or their theme. Sometimes it’s based on their invitations. I encourage them to look online and then bring me in several of the photos they like. Then I’ll do a sketch based on those. … I do my best work on more organic or free-flowing designs.

Do people ask you for cakes like they see on shows like “Cake Boss”?

Yes. Those shows have been good on the one hand because it gets couples thinking about their cake more than before, but I think they give them a very misconstrued version of what it’s like. They (the shows) don’t talk about price. They don’t talk about how long it actually takes to make it. The focus is just on it being really fun and on having this awesome finished product. Someone might ask me for a guitar cake with knobs that turn, which I could do, but they’re going to have to pay a pretty hefty price for it.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501