by Natasha Khairullah
Saundra R. Polletta loves cake.
She doesn’t like to eat it, though. Instead, she enjoys shaping it, lathering it up with icing and creating pieces of art out of it.
Polletta is the co-owner of Edgewood Bakery and its head cake sculptor. Aside from handling many administrative duties at the bakery and managing a staff of nearly 20 employees and running a separate on-site banquet hall, she’s also in charge of creating cakes that replicate wildlife settings and the animals that inhabit those settings.
“I use everything from fondant, which is basically a sort of edible play-doh, to sponge cake and colored icing,” said Polletta, who, along with her husband Gary, purchased the Murray Hill bakery in 1991. “And I love doing it, too.”
Edgewood Bakery was established in 1947. In 1991, the bakery was purchased by the Pollettas. It produces a wide variety of edibles, from light doughnuts and cookies to elaborate wedding cakes, and now they serve “stove-top” breakfast and lunch items.
From the time the shop opens at 6:50 a.m., she’s moving and ready to go. A typical day for her begins with checking both the front and the back of the house for the first several hours she’s there making sure that all ovens are operating, orders are filled, delivery requests are being delivered and – most importantly – that the cupcakes aren’t being burned.
“I generally don’t get involved with much of the baking,” she said, “but I do step in every now and then just to make sure things are running smoothly.”
Aside from producing the best baked goods this side of the railroad tracks, Polletta said it’s the bakery’s staff and warmth that keeps many customers coming back.
“We get to know people by what they come in to get every morning,” she said. “He’s the ‘cheese danish and cinnamon latte’ guy. She’s the ‘carrot cake and tea’ woman.”
Polletta is a Michigan native – though she said that after 21 years in Florida, she doesn’t feel like a “Yankee” anymore – and moved to South Florida in the 1980s while working as a costume designer for theatrical productions. She later worked in the hospitality industry where she met her husband. The two settled in Jacksonville and were approached by the bakery’s previous owners about purchasing the shop.
“They were retiring just as we were thinking about opening a business of our own, so it kind of worked out perfectly,” she said. “The rest is history from there.”