Cliffs Living: Let Them Eat Cake

‘Cake Ninja’ sprinkles personality into everything she bakes.

Judi Wojciechowski has been busy, as the five cakes covering an entire kitchen island can attest.

Purple flowers festoon a sweet-potato cake with maple cinnamon buttercream, and pastel candies wreathe a vegan lemon cake. An overturned wine glass is embedded in the top of a red velvet with burgundy hued chocolate ganache spilling over the sides, while in another trompe l’oeil effect, Reese’s Pieces pour out over the peanut-butter buttercream atop a chocolate cake. The pièce de résistance, however, is a four-layer white almond sour cream cake that reveals a multicolored checkerboard when sliced.

And in case you’re wondering: Yes, they all taste as good as they look.

To see these showpieces in Wojciechowski’s kitchen in The Cliffs at Mountain Park, you’d swear she must be a pastry chef when, in fact, she has no formal culinary training. In her former life, this self-taught baker negotiated advertising contracts for TV stations in New York, commuting three hours a day to work and raising two sons – a schedule that left little time for cooking.

It wasn’t until December 2018, after she retired and moved to The Cliffs at Mountain Park with Michael Custardo, her partner of 13 years, that she attempted to bake her first cake.

a member at the cliffs that is a cake baker

“We were having neighbors over and I decided to make a red velvet cake covered in white fondant,” recalls Wojciechowski, who decorated her creation with an edible green bow and put Christmas Hershey’s Kisses around it. “When our guests walked in, they were overjoyed. I just couldn’t believe how grateful they were and how much fun they had with it.”

Their joy sparked her interest in making more cakes. Wojciechowski started reading recipes, watching YouTube tutorials, and practicing on more and more elaborate confections until baking rose from a hobby to a passion – perfectly complementing the couple’s love of entertaining.

Now when Wojciechowski serves dessert at the end of a dinner party, her health-conscious guests from The Cliffs all start off saying, “Oh, just give me a sliver!” After that disappears, they often sheepishly ask, “Judi, would you mind just another sliver?”

“And if the cake isn’t gone by the end of the dinner, they’re packing it up and taking it home,” the gracious host says with a smile.

Wojciechowski takes her inspiration from the person for whom she’s baking. “I always try to do something different for everybody,” says the Massachusetts native, describing the Year of the Rat Lunar New Year cake she made for a Chinese friend, complete with an edible Ratatouille-like rat on top.

Against her better judgment, she even agreed to make a wedding cake for a dear friend’s daughter last summer. The three-tiered masterpiece took a week to complete, but the real challenge was transporting it to Hotel Domestique.

“I crawled into the back of a friend’s SUV and held onto the cake for dear life,” she says. Her efforts were rewarded when the bride saw the cake, garnished with blooms that matched her bouquet, and tears came to her eyes.

“I love how special my cakes make people feel,” reflects Wojciechowski. “I get such a kick out of it.”

Friends and neighbors frequently request her creations for birthdays and other special occasions, but the “Cake Ninja,” as one friend calls her, refuses to accept payment. If they insist, she asks them to donate to her favorite charity, the Augustine Literacy Project, where she tutors children in reading twice a week.

Time-intensive Italian meringue buttercream is her go-to frosting. “It’s so good, but there’s a pound of butter in every batch of it,” she confides. That’s where her exercise regimen comes in.

Michael calls her “The Breeze,” as she’s always breezing in and out, from one activity to another. Golfing, kayaking, walking, cycling, and Pilates all figure in the mix.

Living at The Cliffs, she counts herself lucky to have convenient access to all these activities. You could say it’s just icing on the cake.

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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