BEVERLY — Those celebrating Día de los Muertos can make sugar skulls this month at Cakewalk Chicago.
Lori Parrett, a pastry chef and the owner of the shop at 1741 W. 99th St., is hosting a class teaching people how to design and decorate calaveras de azúcar, traditional sugar skulls that are displayed at ofrendas, or altars that honor people who have died.
The workshop will take place 6-8:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the shop. Tickets are $76 and can be bought online.
For each ticket, the shop will donate a birthday cake kit in the participant’s name to two area food pantries. The kit includes cake mix, a birthday card, candles and a personalized message.
“Pantries don’t have this kind of opportunity, typically, so we’re really excited about this,” Parrett said.
The workshop’s attendees will use molds — ordered from a Mexican company — to create the sugar skulls, while the decorations will be made with royal icing, a combination of powdered sugar and egg whites.
“The making of sugar skulls is not part of my tradition, but all cultures celebrate their loved ones who have passed from this life in some form,” Parrett said. “This expression resonates with me because the medium of sugar as the vehicle to bring comfort, celebration and joy is personal to me.”
Parrett has run the shop for about 20 years, selling supplies for decorating baked goods. The business became her main gig when the pandemic hit and she unexpectedly lost her other job.
“I had this kind of lightbulb moment,” Parrett said. “The universe was telling me to stop struggling and that the shop was where I was supposed to be and what I should be focusing on.”
Cakewalk Chicago’s sales went up as more people took up baking during the lockdown at the start of the crisis. She looked for ways to support other entrepreneurs.
“During the pandemic, whenever possible, I’ve worked with small independent family-owned companies,” Parrett said. “Companies that produce boxes, candy molds or cake toppers, and that got us through it.”
But COVID-19 also forced Parrett to stop offering monthly workshops, an activity that in the past attracted adults and children curious to learn baking and decorating techniques, especially around the holiday season.
The sugar skull workshop will be Cakewalk’s first in-person workshop in more than a year as those activities return.
For the upcoming holiday season, Cakewalk Chicago will offer other themed workshops, and Parrett is working on offering virtual classes with to-go kits. For updates, visit the website or follow Cakewalk Chicago on Instagram and Facebook.
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