Megan Hamer’s sweet treats are finely detailed works of art, through which she can “bless others.”
Some of Megan Hamer’s customers tell her that watching for her decorated sugar cookie offerings to be posted online is like waiting for Black Friday shopping.
“Cookie sellouts happen,” she shares happily. “My sweet clients tell me they set alarms and have their fingers ready to checkout once the items become available on my website.”
Hamer, who started her Be Still Bakery in 2020, says cookies are her specialty, but she also makes cakes and offers decorating classes.
“Some of my regulars will order their cakes through me, too,” she notes, “which is always nice to keep color palettes and overall style matching.”
Hamer’s early background in art is evident in her detailed edible creations, which can range from elegant cookies for a wedding to cartoon character cookies to the smash cakes that are popular for toddler birthday parties.
“You could find me doodling and filling out coloring books in my elementary years,” she notes, “and then attending AP art classes throughout my high school years. I also took a couple of art history classes at the University of Florida.”
Hamer’s family moved to Ocala from Illinois when she was 4 years old. She attended local schools and graduated from Forest High in 2004. She was on the school swim team and involved in competitive cheerleading and still enjoys being active.
“I’m a mama to two beautiful kids, one girl, one boy,” she enthuses. “My hubby and I met on a golf course when I was in college, and it didn’t take long for us to fall in love and decide we were meant to be. We’re going on 14 years of marriage. In our downtime we love going to church, swimming, fishing, boating, going to the beach, biking and just being outdoors.”
As for how she started baking, she says it “sort of happened by accident.”
“Back up about 30 years and I remember loving to help my parents bake, especially during the holidays. My dad would let me help roll out gingerbread dough, squeeze the spritz cookie gun and eat occasional scraps when mom wasn’t looking. My mom taught me all the ins and outs of making our favorite family recipes,” she recalls.
“Fast forward 30 years and I found myself with less-than-stellar party planning skills for my own kids’ birthday parties and could never secure a cake in time. I see now why it requires months of advanced notice. But back then I was always late to the planning game, so I was forced to teach myself how to make my kids something cute and delicious for their special celebrations. I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed the process and went on to make more for close friends and family. Word caught on that flavor matched appearance and the rest is history.”
Hamer describes her kitchen, in which she follows Florida Cottage Food Laws, as a little science lab, where she experiments constantly.
“There are multiple reasons why a cake could sink in the middle: Wrong size pan, oven temps too hot or too cold, too much baking powder, baking powder that’s been opened for too long, undermixing, underbaking, etc. When you finally find something that works well for you, stick with it,” she explains. “Weather plays a huge role in how some projects will turn out. My air is always cranked down to super cold to keep decorating in my favor. Cakes, cookies and humidity do not get along.”
She is a firm believer that if you’re not practicing, you’re not making progress.
“The same idea holds true for anything in life you want to improve,” she suggests. “Invest the time into something you want and you’ll see the rewards. I am always reminding my kids the same notion applies to their competitive swimming, schoolwork and relationships. If they nurture those things and put the time in practicing now, they will reach their desired goals down the road. No short cuts or taking the easy way. Dig deep and be committed to the process—mistakes and all.”
Hamer had been running an online Etsy shop for eight years when she decided she needed a creative change.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am a lover of all things art, but it became monotonous painting the same things over and over and it slowly sucked all the joy out of painting. I couldn’t let that happen,” she offers. “Making the switch to baking art was just the refreshing change I needed. It came with its learning curves, but the desire to learn was there, and I’ve always loved a good challenge. So now I get to channel my artistic side, create my own unique designs and teach others how to decorate.
“I don’t come with any prestigious culinary training,’’ she adds. “I haven’t traveled to Europe or attended any elite pastry courses. But what I do have is a passion for art and a belief that it comes in all forms, including the sweet ones. I have a master’s degree in special education and started fresh out of college with a classroom full of tiny students. Years later, I found myself back in the classroom, but this time I’m teaching other (grown-up) sugar artists how to decorate, both in person and online. Some students are as far away as Germany, Canada and France. It’s amazing where passion can take you when you least expect it.”
The name of her bakery comes from her favorite Bible verse: “Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10.
“The name serves as a constant reminder to surrender my anxieties, fears and basically anything out of my control and trust that God will be present in my time of need and always,” she says. “Those words have helped me in many of life’s circumstances and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into the business somehow. I praise our almighty Creator daily for giving me the talent and opportunity to bless others with sweet treats.” OS
Megan’s Tips and Tricks for Cake Making
To get a nice bright white buttercream, put the tiniest drop of violet food gel coloring in your batch. It will tone down the natural warm creamy color and help make it more of a bright white. Hair pros do this trick when it comes to toning blondes. I also add white food gel coloring to give it an extra pop of brightness.
Let wet ingredients come to room temp before cranking up that mixer. Your batter will come together so much better if you take the time to do this step. Your cake will also rise better and be nice and fluffy.
Sift that flour. Don’t skip this step, no matter how tempted you are. Measuring sifted flour vs. packed-in flour can throw off your entire recipe. Invest in a good sifter and take the time to do it. I like the big basket style sifters you can set on top of a bowl. Gets the job done quickly.
Use a kitchen scale to measure each of your pans once you get the batter in. You want all of your cake layers to be the same thickness and the best way to ensure this is to use a digital kitchen scale.
Crumb coat first (apply a thin layer of frosting), then put the cake in the freezer for a few minutes before adding your main layer of frosting. Crumb coating catches all of those pesky loose crumbs and prevents them from making their way onto your final layer of frosting.
Make your own sprinkles. This is one of the coolest tricks I pass down to students. Pipe thin lines of royal icing on a sheet of wax or parchment paper, let it dry completely and then break it up into small bits. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is.
To learn more or sign up for classes, go to bestillbakery.com or find it on Instagram and Facebook.