Her customers provide Atlas with a few basic ingredients: a favorite floral arrangement, a scrap of wallpaper, or in one case, a piece of Moroccan tile. "For the Moroccan-themed party, we used an orange-and-turquoise palette, modeled the cake decoration on the tile, and served kaab el ghzal, a North African almond cookie." For a Bat Mitzvah inspired by an old-fashioned sweet shop, the buffet included ribbon candy, saltwater taffy, and vibrant pinwheels.
"Watching a client's face light up is the best feeling," says Atlas—but she enjoys the process almost as much as the delicious result. "My job is such a creative outlet. I love playing with color—getting out the Pantone book to find the perfect shades." In December she often eschews the usual red-and-green look for, say, red and lavender or shimmering gold and Wedgwood blue.
Recently she began working with Icing Smiles, a nonprofit that makes birthday cakes and treats for critically ill children. "Birthdays are big milestones for kids who are sick," says Atlas, the mother of two boys, ages 5 and 6. "People don't think of dessert as fanfare, but it creates this great moment—a delight that lasts much longer than it takes to eat it."
For a poker party, Atlas served up Rice Krispie treats decked out as playing cards with matching chocolate bar wrappers (at right).
Photo: Gemma Comas