Everything nice is inside a handpainted wedding cake.

If you ever get married or know someone who gets married or if you ever go to a wedding in Santa Fe, sooner or later you�ll see and taste one of Maggie Faralla�s cakes. For eight years she�s been crafting the kind of visually***image1*** stunning cakes that the creative set craves. Tall stacks of perfectly proportioned cakes are covered with silky smooth fondant and dotted with marzipan pears, orange blossoms or perhaps a flock of multicolored butterflies. These are not ordinary cakes.

Faralla is an artist at heart and her work with food is a second career. A Hollywood, Calif., native, she worked for years in the recording industry in Los Angeles until she had a creative crisis and suddenly decided to apprentice herself to a chef. When she moved to Santa Fe 25 years ago, she continued to cook, working at Santacaf� and Zia Diner. After working with Walter Burke Catering and doing a few interesting cakes, she decided on a whim to strike out on her own with Maggie�s Cakes.

Now, although she does cakes for any occasion, Faralla spends most of her time dealing with couples as they plan the most exciting celebration of their lives.

SFR: How did you become a cake designer?


Well, I spent 15 years in the music business and then I opened, with a buddy of mine, our own PR firm. And then she ran off with Emerson, Lake and Palmer�s manager and our firm came to an end. And then I said to myself, �I want out of LA. It�s been a great ride but if I stay here I might die.� My father said to me, �Why don�t you call that chef friend of yours at that high-end restaurant? Because all you ever talk about is food.�� So I called the chef and said, �My Dad thinks that you should hire me.� He said, �Oh really?� And I said, �I think I�m ready to change careers.� And so he thought about it and called me back and said, �You�re hired.� And he paid me $4.50 an hour.

Did he tell you exactly what you�d be doing?

He apprenticed me for three years through the kitchen. He started me in pastry�and I kicked and sputtered the whole way! I thought, �This is so boring! Where�s the color, the texture, the season, the aroma, the artistry?� It was so scientific and I wanted art.

And somehow you ended up in Santa Fe.

It was a process of elimination. I�d never been here before.

You worked in restaurants for a while and then you did catering?

The only hole in my career had been catering, so I went with Walter Burke as his pastry chef for five years.

Is that when you really fell in love with baking?

I won�t ever say I fell in love with baking, I fell in love with food. But I was really curious about baking. A chef said to me once that every great chef knows how to bake a cake. And I took that seriously. I thought I needed to learn more about baking. It was more about learning than being passionate.

So how did you end up with Maggie�s Cakes?

Walter Burke and I had one final discussion about money and I said, �I guess I�m opening a cake business.� I don�t know where it came from. It was ***image2***completely spontaneous. And so, in 2000, I sallied forth, terrified, and took a giant leap of faith. I�d done birthday cakes, but mostly Walter brought in cakes from outside.

Did you know right away that you�d found your calling?

I knew that I had found my groove. I knew I knew how to bake. I had my recipes and I needed to make art. I thought, �I can actually make money doing this!�

Can you imagine going back to a life where you didn�t make art?

It�s inconceivable.

Let�s talk about love. There are so many kinds. For example, there�s romantic love and love for what you do. What�s the difference?

It�s so intertwined. I love some of the cakes I do as much as my best friend or my lover. I look at them and go, �You�re so beautiful I wish I could keep you!� I love the Zen of the way we cart a cake off and then it�s enjoyed as eye candy and then mouth candy and then�it�s gone.

What�s more important: How a cake looks or how a cake tastes?

Both! A cake is like a person, it�s got to be great on the outside and great on the inside. Do not accept any substitutes!

Is it hard to make a good-looking cake taste good, too?

Only if you don�t care.

Is it fun working with people who are getting married? Are they all blissfully happy or stressed out and miserable?

It�s a combination of all of the above. It�s highly enjoyable because every client is so different.

Has working with them given you insights into marriage that you couldn�t have gotten any other way?

I sometimes feel like a pre-marriage counselor because I can see how they�re interacting with each other about big decisions, so I get a heads-up on what the relationship is all about. It�s fascinating.

Are you ever tempted to say to them, �You know, you guys should really call it off?�

Boy, have I been! Lately I�ve wanted to go through my files and e-mail my clients and find out if they�re still together.

How does it feel to play a part in so many intensely emotional events?

I feel so distanced from it on a romantic level. I feel like I�m standing outside looking in because I�m not in their position or time of life. I feel like the elder giving the blessing of a cake, in a way. But I become a part of their lives for a brief part of time and we establish a relationship. I want them ultimately to walk into the reception, look at the cake they contracted for a year ago and say, �Oh my god! It exceeded my expectations.� That�s what I live for.

Lots of chefs seem to thrive on that kind of positive feedback, that affirmation. It�s like being loved.

That�s why we do it. Because of the love and affirmation we get. If you don�t put that out there you don�t get it back.

Do men think it�s sexy that you make great cakes?

Men love cake! This is the one meeting that the men all come to. They go through the portfolios and look at the cakes and their eyes get big. They�re like kids in a candy shop.

Maggie�s Cakes is not listed in the phone book, but

Faralla can be reached at 989-1416.  â?¤