Working as a pastry chef at Masque Restaurant in El Dorado Hills gave Mussarat Afshan a good introduction to local tastes and pastry-making techniques. Afshan said she learned a lot from the women she worked with at Masque and is still friends with them.
At the same time she worked at Masque, she was making artisanal cakes and desserts for family and friends.
In 2008, she decided to go out on her own and opened Pretty Sweet in El Dorado Hills.
She moved to her present location at 4100 Cameron Park Drive, Suite 117, in Cameron Park, in 2011.
Afshan describes her cake decorations as a combination of modern and classic. She does everything freehand.
“I don’t use any templates,” she said.
Many of her designs are inspired by her Pakistani background.
Three samples are: 1) a four-tier cake in diminishing squares with pink icing and floral patterns applied with edible gold paint; 2) a three-layer round cake with elegant white icing and rows of edible silver sequins in three bands around the bottom layer and a large orange flower jauntily attached to the side of the top layer; and 3) a three-tier round cake with coffee-latté colored icing decorated with henna tattoo patterns.
In Pakistan, it is traditional for the bride to have her hands and feet decorated with henna tattoos, said Afshan. “The tattoos last 7-10 days.”
She said she has always liked baking.
“I like producing something. It’s like ‘giving birth.’ I like to see the smile on customers’ faces when I deliver the cake to them.”
She learned her craft at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, where she graduated with a degree in pastry arts. She worked for several restaurants in New York before moving to California.
A visit to her brother who works at Intel convinced Afshan and her family to move to the area.
“I loved the weather. There are so many things to do and the people are very nice,” she said.
Her husband, Nadeem Syed, who owns the Baskin and Robbins in Placerville, has been supportive from the beginning of her enterprise.
“I feel very lucky,” she said. “When I started with a booth at the Farmers Market, he would set it up before going to work and come to take it down at the end of the day. He helps with deliveries and orders.”
Their three children, Maryam, 18; Sarah, 16; and Ahad, 15, attend Oak Ridge High School. “They enjoy eating the leftovers,” she said.
Her customers from the Farmers Market have stayed with her, she said. “The community has been very supportive.”
Afshan makes large wedding cakes, miniature cakes, cupcakes and cake pops. She has a large selection of cake flavors.
In a nod to Apple Hill, she has apple and pumpkin spice. She has a choice of five different frostings and more than 20 fillings. Her fillings include some unusual flavors, such as lavender Bavarian cream, carmelized pineapple mousse, and lemon, lime, grapefruit or passionfruit curd.
Working with American fruit was a learning experience for Afshan.
“I had never tasted berries or apples. I had to get used to them. In Pakistan, we had guava, papaya, mango and lychee. I like to play with ingredients, and I like to use fresh fruit,” she said.
“One of my favorite summertime cakes is lemon cake with lemon curd and fresh strawberries or raspberries. It’s light and fresh-tasting,” she said.
In addition to cakes, Afshan makes decorated sugar cookies for special occasions like birthdays, baby or wedding showers, thank you gifts and get-well treats.
Her all-American favorite cookies include chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and jelly, sandwich and shortbread.
For pie lovers, she also makes pies, mini-pies and pie pops.
For birthday orders, one or two weeks’ notice is preferable. Wedding orders should be placed at least a month in advance. Deliveries in the local area are free. She also does mail orders.
To make an appointment for a consultation call 916-952-3043. To order online, search for “pretty sweet cameron park.”