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I Used to Make Jewelry. Now I Bake Cakes

Longtime retailer and award-winning jeweler John Buzogany has turned his creativity to confection.

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SO, WHAT DO YOU do when you close your store after 30 great years? Pack up all your tools and donate them to some worthy students just starting along the road you’ve become weary of? Do you sit back and contemplate both your navel and the meaning of life. Raise poodles? Spend too much time looking in the mirror, wondering where the face you knew so well went? I did all of that except the dogs.

These are some of the things that went through my mind when I finally and reluctantly realized that I was at last retired. It’s been a while since I actually closed my brick-and-mortar jewelry store, Goldsmith Jewelers in Key West, FL. Since that time, I moved my workshop/studio into what was once my pool house and continued to do special order work for some of my best clients. During that time, I watched many of those patrons either move on or die off and began to realize that the fire that fueled my jewelry passion was now just a fading ember. But what now? I was 70, too old for rock climbing and too young to take to the recliner and binge-watch GAME OF THRONES … again. In trying to figure out what made me happy and where I could find the satisfaction that came with the creation of fine jewelry, I realized it had been there for years already, right alongside the jewelry making: I’m a baker.

Not just a baker, though; I lavish the same amount of creative energy into making a spectacular cake as I did a magnificent brooch or necklace. The only difference is that one may last forever, while the other lasts only a few minutes. During my career, I garnered a number of awards for my jewelry work and added porcelain and bronze sculpture to my repertoire. This allowed me to use everything I’d learned through my years at the bench and approach a whole new audience. But that’s over … now I make cakes. Really involved and decorative cakes! My home is redolent with the smells of sugar, butter and vanilla.

My new medium isn’t a whole lot different from the old one … just a lot less expensive. Gold has jumped in price massively; sugar just a bit. It was getting hard to be really creative when the price of gold soared to such heights, but now I can go crazy … and I do. Hearing the words, “But it’s too pretty to eat!” warms my heart, and I reply, “It’s cake! It’s meant to be eaten.”

I’m often called upon to make the first cut for those too timid to destroy my creations. I’m amazed how easy it is to slice through something that might have taken me as long to finish as a piece of jewelry. I’m also amazed how well my artistic sensibilities translate from jewelry to cake. I find that I’m using a similar style, and it’s easy to see how much alike they actually are.

I use similar colors and find there are many alternate, edible items that replicate gem material quite nicely. Rock candy can look remarkably like amethyst, and sugar pearls do, in fact, look like actual pearls. I haven’t found anything quite as brilliant as a diamond, but I continue to search. There are ways of making frosting appear very much like a variety of different gemstones, and the internet is a wealth of information on the subject.

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No longer locked into the financial constraints of material costs, I can really have fun. I do judiciously use gold leaf; still a very costly item. “Is this real gold?” I’m often asked. “Yes, and it’s good for you.”

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John Buzogany owned Goldsmith Jewelers in Key West, FL, and has been a jeweler for 48 years. He has a fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University and jewelry-making apprenticeship in Florence, Italy to his credit, as well as multiple national and international jewelry design awards.

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