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Georgia Museum of Art security guard Cristina Figueroa makes unique edibles. She has created pastries ranging from movie-themed cakes to turkey cupcakes. Photo by Paul Efland

To protect and serve: GMOA security guard creates edible masterpieces

Matt Chambers

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By Matt Chambers |
August 26, 2013
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During the day, Cristina Figueroa helps watch and protect art, but at night she's hard at work creating her own masterpieces-cakes.

The security guard for the Georgia Museum of Art found her passion for baking pastries and realistic-looking cakes shortly after her grandmother, Barbara Ann Jackson, passed away in September 2011.

To protect and serve: GMOA security guard creates edible masterpieces

"Right before Thanksgiving the family wanted to know who would make granny's famous yellow vanilla cake with chocolate icing, so I was like ‘I'll do it because she used to make them for me,' " Figueroa said. "I ended up making these cupcakes that looked like turkeys on top with candy corn, and I noticed that I really enjoyed just baking stuff like that."

After her first foray into the kitchen, Figueroa was asked to make some birthday cakes for her co-workers. She also has made three or four birthday cakes as well as a going-away cake that looked like a rib sandwich.

"Any time someone needs a cake now, they come to me," Figueroa said. "It's just something I realized I had a knack for, and I really enjoy doing it."

Figueroa uses a variety of edible materials to make her cakes. In the past, she has used marshmallow cereal treats to help form and shape movie characters or animals on top of the cakes.

"Something I pride myself on now is that everything on the cake is edible," she said. "In the beginning, I had to kind of cheat, but now if somebody asks me to make something, it has to be edible."

Figueroa said her cakes take about 12 hours to create, but more complex ones can take a full 24 hours of work.

To protect and serve: GMOA security guard creates edible masterpieces

Figueroa started at the art museum as a freshman work-study student in 2007. She always had an interest in art, and originally had planned to get a degree in art therapy. Her passion played a role in her accepting the position even though she didn't think she was best suited for being a security guard.

"I got a call from my now-boss and he said he wanted me to come in for an interview," Figueroa said. "I was like ‘OK, but I'm like 5 foot 4 inches and really wimpy just so you know. I can't like tackle anyone.' "

After the art museum's expansion, Figueroa was offered a full-time job as a security guard.

"I basically stand out in the galleries and keep an eye on things. I also have to work the front desk or watch the security cameras," Figueroa said. "We're like the forefront for visitors, so if they have questions, they come to us."

Figueroa is one of six guards who are in the museum during the day. She also helps out when there are tours or field trips from elementary schools. Figueroa said field trips can bring more than 100 students to the art museum at a time.

"We have our hands full sometimes," she said. "It can get pretty hectic, but it keeps us busy."

To protect and serve: GMOA security guard creates edible masterpieces

While she will complete requirements in December for her bachelor's degree in English, Figueroa said her passion for art still runs deep.

"I really enjoy having a job that has me standing out there with art," she said.

Figueroa isn't sure what her future will hold, and said she might get into the publishing business. There's also a delicious idea for a business.

"Our family name is Baker, so we kind of joked about having our own bakery and my mom really wants to help and my sisters want to be involved," Figueroa said. "They're all like ‘We could call it the Baker Ladies, and it would be funny.'

"But for now, baking is just a little hobby I do just for people's birthdays and such in between the museum and school," she said.

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