Monday, February 10, 2003

'Naughty' cakes bare it all

Teri Scheff admires one of her anatomically alluring cakes.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Give Teri Scheff a little flour, butter, sugar and eggs, and a good hour's work in her bakery, and she'll make you blush.

The owner of Just Desserts in Silverton, Scheff has found her niche in conservative Cincinnati. She makes cakes depicting partially clothed or completely bare (customer's choice) male and female body parts. These are not mere drawings or photos on top of the cakes, they are artfully sculpted anatomically correct "naughty" cakes.

"My customers call them special cakes," says Scheff, 47, who laughs heartily while discussing her unusual edible creations.

She usually sells a few special cakes for Valentine's Day, but will get more orders as spring wedding season approaches. Many customers serve them at bachelor and bachelorette parties, while others order them year-round for slumber and divorce parties.

Beth Stein of Finneytown guesses she bought six to eight of the cakes last year - male and female torsos and various body parts. She brings the cakes to birthday parties and impromptu celebrations with colleagues and friends.

"Everyone enjoys them and she puts so much art into the cakes," says Stein, who sells medical supplies in Montgomery. "And who wouldn't enjoy eating a piece of art?"

Scheff's naughty cake business is so good, she's going to begin selling "porn cookies" within a couple of weeks. So far, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office hasn't dropped by the bakery.

After honing her skills at several bakeries and restaurants in town, Scheff opened her bakery in 1999. There, in her innocent-looking shop, behind the case of sugary schnecken and other pastries, Scheff does her "dirty" work. Most of her business comes from crafting custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs and other occasions. She is most proud of an elaborately detailed cake shaped like a Russian basilica and another like the Belle of Cincinnati riverboat.

But she'll also boast about how she adds just the right amount of muscle tone to her nude male torso cakes.

"Why shouldn't I be proud?" says Scheff, who wears a red apron and blue and teal tie-dyed bandana while working.

• What to do if someone serves naughty cake at a your party?
  If you're the surprised host, etiquette expert Ann Marie Sabath says you have two choices: Get upset, make a big deal of it and ruin the party. Or, say, "What a clever cake!'' and enjoy it.
• What if you're a surprised guest at someone else's party?
  Avoid making a scene, says Sabath, author of Business Etiquette: 101 Ways to Conduct Business with Charm and Savvy (Career Press; $12.99).
  "You may not have chosen the cake and it may not be in your taste, but get over it,'' she says.
  Don't leave, but walk into another room if you're uncomfortable, Sabath suggests. And if you can't bring yourself to eat the cake, you certainly don't have to.
  "Just say you ate too many sandwiches or something," Sabath says.
She is not the only retail baker to tap into the sale of these indelicate pastries. A quick search of the Internet reveals businesses with names such as Naughty Desserts and Erotic Bakery.

Scheff may be more qualified than most in this line of work. As a girl growing up in Roselawn and Bond Hill, she was a natural in the kitchen, baking bunny- and chicken-shaped cakes. Later, she took classes in anatomy while studying art in Oakland, Calif. She also sketched and sculpted nudes in clay.

But no, she never worked as an exotic dancer.

"I can put anything on a cake that I see," she says. "But some things just stay in my memory."

She made her first naughty cake 20 years ago for a friend, before she began baking professionally. It was a cake topped with a "flasher," complete with a plastic film coat that could be lifted up.

Obviously, Scheff had learned a few things since the bunny cakes of her childhood.

Shortly after she opened her Silverton shop, a customer asked if she could do a nude male torso cake. She had the skills and few inhibitions. Living in free-spirited northern California for five years can do that. So why not?

Word spread, and customers kept coming back. If they want to see examples of her past work, Scheff keeps a scrapbook of photos of her special cakes. At least the more tasteful ones.

Her parents, who were upset when they heard their daughter was sketching nudes as a 15-year-old at summer camp in Israel, only laugh and say they're proud.

"You mean the porno cakes?'' says her mother, Shirley, who lives with her husband, Marty, in Boca Raton, Fla. "They're done in fun, so they don't bother me. I saw one once, but I couldn't eat it."

In just the few years since she opened, Scheff has gotten referrals from other bakeries who can't - or won't -make the cakes.

"Another bakery owner sent a customer to me,'' Scheff says. "The owner told herr, `If I can't say it, I won't make it.' ''

Like all of her oven creations, the naughty cakes are made from scratch. She has baked plain yellow naughty cakes, carrot cakes and chocolate mousse cakes. They cost $25 to $150, depending on the ingredients - and, of course, the amount of detail requested.

Her most popular naughty cake is a nude female torso, but Scheff says women order more of them than men. (She suspects many women order the cakes for bashful husbands and boyfriends.) Some customers have asked her to personalize nude torsos with certain features. She won't say what features.

"I usually do ask if their belly button is an innie or an outie," she says.

Sometimes, people have friends call to order because they're "too embarrassed," she says. "I know because I can hear them giggling in the background."

Scheff, who is single, says her cakes have embarrassed a few of her boyfriends.

She always asks for a deposit on the cakes, because if someone doesn't pick it up, she can't sell it from the display case. But there was that time when a customer had failed to pick up a nude female torso.

Scheff had finished the cake except for a few vital small details, when a rabbi friend dropped by.

"He offered to take the cake home to his wife" she says. "But he wanted me to finish it first."


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