Photo by Porter Loves.
“I show my love by giving things to people,” says Casey Renee Shively, a two-time James Beard Semifinalist and owner of Confections by Casey Renee. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, she has designed and baked special desserts for people to celebrate in small and fun ways. Casey’s commitment to go above and beyond typical flavor combinations turns every cake, cookie, cupcake, and truffle into a piece of art. In December of 2020, Confections opened its own production space in Wilkinsburg, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. This is where Casey also offers a venue for private tea parties, Safe-Tea. Safe-Tea is currently taking bookings through the end of March.
Casey approaches her desserts as an artist, meandering through many flavors and textures until her creations are absolutely complete. For Casey, this creative process is the foundation from which she offers her clients desserts that truly make them feel celebrated on their special occasions.
“I take a long time to tweak recipes, so whenever you’re eating something I make, you’re tasting how much I love it. I think that translates because I’ve seen people come to tears eating these desserts… so anytime I can facilitate that experience, it’s really special,” says Casey.
Confections’ dessert menus offer dozens of cookies, cupcakes, and truffles that Casey bakes in small batches with high-quality ingredients. For celebrations big and small, clients can order Confections’ seasonal cake specials, which last for a limited time before Casey whips up other new and exciting creations. This winter (January through March 2021), Confections’ menu is decked out with tiramisu, chocolate berry tuxedo, and vegan banana chocolate coconut cakes, as well as orange cream cheese brownie cups, Linzer tarts, and carrot cake truffles. Clients can always choose their own cake, icing, and filling flavors too. All orders can be placed through Confections’ online store, which Casey relaunched in 2020.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Casey was designing wedding cakes nearly every week. In the spring of 2020, as her clients canceled their weddings, individuals and families began reaching out to Confections for small cake orders. Casey realized that while the world was turning upside down, she could provide people with creative desserts for little moments of joy. The demand inspired her to create two more cake specials per season for customers to choose from.
“Throughout the pandemic, customers have said, ‘This cake has been the best thing that I’ve eaten since quarantine started. It made me forget about everything that’s going on just for one minute…’I think from the beginning I’ve been able to connect with people that way, but right now it’s a small way for people to celebrate and feel like they’re doing something fun for themselves,” says Casey.
Renovating and moving into her own bakery space also became a primary focus for Casey during the pandemic. For a year and a half, she had been a nomadic baker; in December 2020, her new space provided a permanent home and allowed Casey to meet the increased demand for custom cakes.
In her typical, creative fashion, Casey utilized every inch of her bakery. With a small cove in the front, Casey designed Safe-Tea, a private tea party experience. She launched Safe-Tea in February 2021, nearly a year into the pandemic, so that couples and small groups could enjoy their birthdays, anniversaries, and dates safely. Customers have the whole space (including a private bathroom) to themselves, so they don’t have to fear other patrons or servers moving around them. Casey created new pastries for the experience; customers can also add snacks and tea for additional charges.
Casey founded Confections in 2019 after accumulating years of technical training and management experience. While she was ready to step into her own vision and trust herself, there were still elements of being a business owner that caused doubt. The slower winter months were a big source of anxiety for Casey, who didn’t know that cashflow fluctuations in certain parts of the year were normal. And, after reevaluating her budget, she knew that she needed to make some changes. When she joined her Entrepreneurs Forever peer group in November 2019, she got confirmation from other business owners that she wasn’t alone. And, by sharing her quarterly goals with her peers, she got the accountability to follow through with the budgeting changes that would improve her business.
“I was at a whole turning point with my business. I thought that I was going to have to get a second job and was trying to figure out if this was going to work. Because of the discussions with my peer group, I realized that everybody goes through these things. I’m not a failure; this is just part of being an entrepreneur.”
Pittsburgh residents can also find Confections by Casey Renee pastries popped up around Pittsburgh. Follow @confectionsbycaseyrenee on social media to see where you can find them and for seasonal menu updates.