GROTON -- Thinking of a name for her residential bakery, Raffaella Tomaselli looked at her customers' reaction to what she created for them, and Dolce Sorpresa, which means sweet surprise in Italian, was perfect.
"I found many people are interested in home-baked fresh treats. Dolce is the cake and the surprise is the beautiful smile I get every time a customer sees the cake," said Tomaselli, of Groton.
To introduce her bakery to the local community, Dolce Sorpresa recently participated in the Taste of Nashoba, held at Lawrence Academy and last fall at the Groton Festival.
Tomaselli's biggest surprise came in March when she participated in the international Spring Baker Competition organized by Cake Decorating Hints & Tips, held in London. Entering a photo of edible teacups, Tomaselli was one of five finalists. She was delighted to win the competition.
"It was my first competition, so you can only imagine how I felt when I had won!" exclaimed Tomaselli.
Placed on top of cupcakes, the teacups filled with tiny roses are entirely sculpted from sugar paste, with tiny details painted using edible luster dust.
"Many people believed that the teacups were porcelain and that I just added tiny roses inside of them, but in reality, the entire teacups were edible," said Tomaselli. "It was such a memorable moment and I felt much love from around the world!"
Originally from Sicily, Tomaselli moved to Groton with her husband and daughters last year from the island of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean. She met her American husband, Stephen, in Sicily, and for nine years they lived in Cyprus until his job was transferred to the U.S.
While living in Cyprus, Tomaselli said she dedicated herself to baking custom cakes and cupcakes for family and friends. Self-taught, Raffaella learned to work with sugar paste and slowly started a business selling cupcakes to local coffee shops and then cakes for weddings, birthdays and family events.
According to Shazia Chaudry, of Groton, she is one of Raffa's biggest fans and customers. "I think her attention to detail for creating beautiful cakes and cupcakes is flawless," she said. The two women became friends when Tomaselli arrived to town, discovering they both have school-age children.
"I love sweets and that's the base for everything!" said Tomaselli, who meets with a customer to come up a theme for the design and color of the creation.
Tomaselli's unique creations originate from a small kitchen where she begins with the finest ingredients and uses the metric system she is comfortable with. "For me, the metric system is the most accurate for baking," she said.
The baker makes her own fondant and uses modeling chocolate for sculpting, giving attention to every detail, no matter how small.
Each morning after the girls have gone to school, Tomaselli sets to work sculpting dozens of yellow roses from sugar paste that will decorate a three-tier wedding cake. A second cake for the same customer will feature the Boston Harbor skyline with the couple sculpted in modeling chocolate.
Raffaella's dream is to have her own bake shop one day. But for now, she says keeping it small is perfect and allows her to spend time with her young daughters.
Chaudry noted how in a short time, Tomaselli has started a home bakery, won an international contest and increased clientele. "Raffa is great at what she does, we're lucky to have her," Chaudry said.
Raffaella Tomaselli can be reached at Dolce Sorpresa, 978-399-9547 or at dolcesorpresa.net.