Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now

Carolyn’s Cakes breaks the mold on decorating

Carolyn Nichols has been helping parents indulge their kids for 25 years. 
 (Rajah Bose / The Spokesman-Review)

Few people have watched cake trends as closely as Carolyn Nichols, who owns Carolyn’s Cake Decorating Supplies, at 1705 N. Hamilton St. She has been selling cake-making paraphernalia and teaching cake-decorating classes to Spokanites for 25 years, when she left her job as a secretary to follow her passion.

“I always had cakes all over my house, cakes I was making for friends and family,” Nichols said.

Her husband saw an advertisement in the Nickel Nik for a cake-supply store for sale and asked her, “Why don’t you turn in your typewriter for a mixer?” Coincidentally, the store was already named Carolyn’s Cakes – spelled just like Nichols spells her first name.

For a time, Nichols made and sold cakes through her business, but doing so became too time consuming so she focused on supplies and education.

At first, Nichols held the classes in her living room. Her late husband, Don Largent, would listen to her instruction from the basement and offer a critique of her class to help her improve. What he mostly saw, though, were women leaving the house with beautifully decorated cakes and big smiles on their faces, Nichols says.

Early on, Nichols also was invited to teach cake-decorating classes to the mothers of elementary school-aged children in the neighborhood where her shop is located. There’s a fair amount of poverty in the area, so she said it gave her a lot of pleasure to help those mothers make their children’s birthdays brighter.

Carolyn’s Cakes is jam-packed with cake and cookie-making tools. The shop doesn’t just sell rainbow-colored sprinkles and chocolate jimmies – it sells sprinkles shaped like palm trees and ducks.

It doesn’t just offer green food coloring. It sells leaf green, moss green, mint green, avocado green and lime green food coloring.

Need a cookie cutter shaped like Abraham Lincoln’s head? Carolyn’s Cakes has it.

Despite 25 years of success under her belt now, Nichols was nervous about buying the shop back in 1983.

“I always worked, but I always did what someone told me to do,” she says.

During her first year, she made a mistake that almost tanked the business. She ordered about $1,500 worth of merchandise in December not realizing that January, when the bills were due, was the shop’s slowest month. Nichols refused to take out a loan to cover the costs, opting instead to pray and to pay the bills as she had the money to cover them through each sale she rang up.

By the end of that January, she whittled her invoices down and only owed $85. Then, a blizzard hit, dashing Nichols’ hopes. She says she prayed harder, and at the last minute, a customer came through the door and bought enough products to cover her final bill – and then some.

“I said, ‘Oh, thank you, Lord. Maybe I should stay in this business after all,’ ” she recalls.

Nichols is 72 now, though, and ready to retire. She has been talking with two prospective buyers about taking over the shop.

Twenty-five years and thousands of cake pans later, Nichols only has one regret.

“I was over 45 when I got the shop. I just wish I’d done it 20 years before,” she says.