Park Hill artist Angel Figueroa paints, sculpts, and builds. With exquisite attention to detail and bright explosions of color, she creates whimsical fairy gardens, smiling Minions, jovial cows, and gleaming race cars. And she has received national recognition for pulling this off with cake batter, buttercream, and a tall stack of fondant.
Figueroa launched her custom cake business, 3 Cherries on Top, out of her kitchen five years ago. “We started by word of mouth, and it’s never stopped,” she says. “For some of my clients, I made the cake for their baby shower, and then I’m making the cake for their child’s sixth birthday.” 3 Cherries on Top is named in honor of Figueroa’s three children. “I am proud to be a working mom who can do what I love and be present for my family,” she notes.
Figueroa grew up in Chile, where she trailed her grandmother in the kitchen and “wanted to go to culinary school from day one,” she recalls. At age 16, Figueroa moved in with extended family in Park Hill and attended East High School, but she soon returned to Chile to pursue her epicurean dream. Three years in culinary school led to an internship in Thailand, where Figueroa baked, frosted, and molded her way from kitchen intern to pastry chef. “For me, it was always the artistic part of pastries,” she says.
It wasn’t until her sister asked Figueroa to live with her back in Denver that Figueroa considered a dream grander than culinary school: a dream of channeling her creativity in the kitchen into her own business. “This was important to me as an immigrant—to make this happen and show others they can too,” she says. Meanwhile, Figueroa married, and she and her husband, Carlos, began looking for their first home. “It was always going to be in Park Hill,” she says. “That’s where we have friends, family, and a place we know and love.” In 2018, she and Carlos expanded their new home with a modernized kitchen featuring four refrigerators (one for the family and three for custom cakes), a huge island, and three spice racks bursting with sprinkles. 3 Cherries on Top was born.
“Each cake I make for 3 Cherries on Top is unique; a work of art and a little piece of myself,” she says. “This is not my job but my passion.” Figueroa especially enjoys preparing cakes for kids. “I love fairy cakes,” she says. “I can spend hours on the mushrooms, houses, and flowers. It’s almost like I’m playing.” She frequently adorns her cakes with sculpting from fondant or rice crispy treats. “Sometimes I even use a hammer and PVC pipes,” she adds, explaining, “The pipes provide the structure that allow me to make a standing character cake.”
Figueroa’s custom cakes start with a conversation. “Clients can request a quote from my website and send pictures of what inspires them and then I give them ideas,” she says. The number of cake tiers is dictated by how many people the client wishes to serve, and the client selects flavors for the cake batter, buttercream frosting, and cake filling; options include strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, and dulce de leche. Figueroa spends one to four days creating her confectionary wonders. “Sometimes I just can’t stop,” she says with a laugh. She has crafted desserts as varied as a five-foot Cinderella cake topped by a shimmering golden carriage and, for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, a cake embellished with edible miniatures of museum acquisitions. She also bakes and decorates sugar cookies frosted in intricate patterns and comical characters. “I love to turn into reality what the client can imagine,” she says.
Figueroa overhauled 3 Cherries on Top two years ago after her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. “We had to change absolutely everything as a family, and it’s made our business a venture for more awareness for gluten disease,” she says. Figueroa experimented with recipes and techniques until her gluten-free cakes tasted and looked as fabulous as her standard creations.
Figueroa’s talent has been appreciated nationally, with invitations from Food Network and bridal magazines. In 2022, she was selected to compete on Amazon Prime’s reality baking show, Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge. Figueroa advanced to the semifinals, thanks to her captivating cake depicting the Cat in the Hat popping out of a mail shipment box and a three-dimensional Yertle the Turtle in buttercream and fondant.
“I was thinking, ‘If I make it to the second episode, I’m happy,’” she says. “When I was there, I found I could put everything out there and give 100 percent.” Figueroa continues, “It gave me the opportunity to see what I could do. I love the challenge and the artistry of each and every cake.”
To view more of Figueroa’s creations, visit www.3cherriesontop.com.