Baking used to be just another side hustle for Jennifer Keys.
In 2013, the Phoenix native was living in Natchez, Mississippi, where she worked as a senior decontamination technician at a power plant. In her spare time, she did some hairstyling, some design work, crafts projects. She'd taken a two-day baking class years before, in her early 20s, and occasionally baked for friends and family, which spread by word of mouth and on social media. She called herself Sugar Queen.
Eventually, a power-plant assignment sent her back to Arizona, and her childhood memories came rushing back. She moved to Phoenix and in 2019 began rebuilding her cake business from scratch, posting her creations in Facebook groups and slipping flyers under car windshield wipers.
The Sultry Confectioner. It's an online bakery offering gourmet cakes and cookies along with baking classes. If you stopped by the Chic Chef Marketplace's recent grand opening, you might have spied the elegant multi-tiered cake Keys made for the occasion. The outcome was much improved from a different grand opening she baked for, shortly after she arrived back in Arizona, when she still went by Sugar Queen.
"The cake started to melt during delivery and even more when I started to stack it," Keys recalls. "I was so embarrassed that I left crying."
That harrowing experience actually ended up proving fortuitous. The event's chef noticed her talent for developing flavor and contacted her for future collaborations. Orders started rolling in.
“Baking helped me build character and get rid of my bad habit [of procrastination],” says Keys. “In this field, you have to give yourself time for things that may and will go wrong. Early in my career, I would do last-minute work and end up with some unhappy customers whose money I had to refund.”
Sugar Queen could bake, but she was a last-minute cake artist with no business savvy, Keys says. The Sultry Confectioner gets things done. She's about luxury cakes and gourmet products.
She's even picked up some high-profile clients: comedian Jessica Moore, aka Jess Hilarious; hip hop musician and rapper Roxanne Shanté; and Supa Cent, CEO of the cosmetic brand The Crayon Case.
Currently, Keys bakes at her home kitchen. You can see her beautiful multi-tiered cakes on her Instagram page.
In addition to large cakes, the website offers other items: cakes in a jar, cake mixes, cookies, baking classes, and business branding and marketing. She recommends trying the Sun Kissed Turtle Milk Chocolate cookie, made with caramel, pecan, milk chocolate chips, and sautéed butter. Except for the large cakes, she ships everything nationwide.
Cake tastings are available locally. Those who don't live in Arizona but have their wedding here will receive cake jars for an at-home tasting. The cakes are made to order. A two to three-week advance notice is required. Visit the website to place your order.
Just before saying goodbye, Keys also let us in on an exciting secret. A brick-and-mortar bakery is in the works. Follow her Instagram page for updates.