From flight equipment to fanciful cakes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Morris
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Jean Lawrence's hair is tied back, nice and neat. Her makeup is flawless and her square framed glasses make her look very serious. Her attention is directed towards her mixing bowl. She doesn't talk much as she eyeballs how much confectioner's sugar she's adding to her icing mixture. She turns the mixer back on and it kicks up a cloud of sugar that covers her and her face. She laughs as she brushes herself off.

She is a professional on and off duty. On-duty for the Air Force she strives to make her customers happy. Off-duty is no different, but Lawrence has a more playful side to her. She is a cake maker and decorator.

Staff Sgt. Lawrence, now on terminal leave prior to being medically retired from the Air Force at the end of this year, was an Aircrew Flight Equipment technician for the majority of her career. Most recently she was the 436th Operations Group unit deployment manager. After sustaining an injury in 2005 that left her with herniated discs in her back, Lawrence's condition kept getting worse. She will have served nearly ten and a half years by the time her retirement date arrives. Amidst all this change, one thing that hasn't changed is her love of cake making and decorating.

Lawrence recently completed work on three orders she had due. One three-tiered wedding cake with white fondant icing and purple damask details with three-dozen cupcakes to match, a ninja turtle cake for a 5-year-old with pizza and manhole cover details, and a Thomas the Train cake outfitted with a working train for her son's birthday party.

Lawrence said she began making cakes leisurely in 2011 for family and friends.
"I was pretty good at it and was asked to start doing it for other people and I did it for free for a while," said Lawrence. "Then I realized I was more talented than I made myself out to be. I thought if I was going to start selling cakes, I needed a name. I decided 'I dream of Jeanie's cakes' was going to be it."

Cake making has been a positive outlet for Lawrence while she has weathered her worsening injury and uncertainty in her career.

"For some people their idea of relaxing is a trip to the beach with a book or sitting on the couch and watching TV, but for me it is making cakes," said Lawrence. "It's artsy and I love art. It's just a neat way for me to be myself and relax and take my mind off of everyday stresses."

Lawrence said that some of the lessons she's learned from the Air Force that help her with making cakes are to be able to hold herself accountable and managing her time wisely so she can meet the demand for the customers.

"Jeanie was very thorough," said Master Sgt. Bryan McCoy, 436th Operations Support Squadron and Lawrence's previous supervisor. "Whenever dealing with her on a professional basis she very rarely left you having any questions. If you did have questions, she always had the answer."

Lawrence's cake customers appreciate her attention to detail and professionalism.

"I was extremely happy with the cake that Jeanie made for my son. She really puts a lot of heart and love into her cakes," said Crystal Hemric, a repeat customer of Lawrence's. "She really tries to make sure that each and every cake that she creates is the best and exactly what the customer had in mind. She's a wonderful person and aims to create an unforgettable experience with every cake she delivers."

"I enjoy it way too much to do cake making full time after the Air Force," said Lawrence. "I think that I would lose that spark if I had to do it every day."

At the end of the day, she may be covered in powdered sugar, but her professionalism and the lessons she learned from her time in the Air Force translate well for any new path she decides to head down.

"It's not just a hobby, it's a passion," said Lawrence.