One to Watch

At just 18 years old, Amanda Keeney has already begun to make a name for herself and her designs. She's only been decorating for three years and competing for one, but in her first competition, the 2010 NCACS, she swept the teen division. At this year's NCACS competition, she entered in the Beginner Division and won first place for her farm cake (pictured below) in the non-tiered category, and her blue tiered cake took third place in the tiered category. She also took home a first-place ribbon for her picnic-dinner-themed cupcakes.

Amanda never really knew much about decorating, even though her grandmother was a home decorator. But after her grandmother passed away, Amanda decided to take it up as a way to feel closer to her. After going through decorating books and taking some Wilton classes, she discovered she was natural, and she was hooked almost instantly.

Although she didn't get started with a lot of formal training, Amanda is set to graduate in December with associate's degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts. She's using her formal training to learn more about flavors and the baking aspect of cakes, which are things that she hadn't taught herself. 

She hopes to put the education and experience to work in becoming a successful wedding cake designer—and she's well on her way with her own business, Signature Sweets by Amanda, which she's had for about a year and a half. She's already building a solid customer base complete with referrals and repeat business. "Referrals are the best compliment!" she says.

Being mostly self-taught, she hasn't had many mentors...but Amanda sets her sights high on the decorators she looks up to. "I look up to women decorators—I hope I can be like them someday," she says. "Bronwen Weber, Courtney Clark and Anne Heap are women I'd like to learn techniques from or work with side-by-side." Perhaps one day soon, she'll get her chance.

To see more of Amanda Keeney's cake designs, visit her website, www.signaturesweetsbyamanda.com.