Deanne Sehr could be described as an artist who likes to bake or a baker who likes to create art.
Her recent masterpieces include cookies shaped like Easter eggs with colorful, hand-painted designs.
"I enjoy the challenge of making something that looks amazing and tastes as good as it looks," said Deanne, 54, of rural Belleville. "I only use the best ingredients."
Deanne has considered turning the hobby into a business. But for now, her main focus is cookies, cakes and desserts for family and friends.
Deanne made elaborate cakes for niece Jane Bauer Routh's engagement party, bridal shower and baby shower. She went with an underwater scene for the latter, which followed a mermaid theme.
"It was tiffany blue with red (gum paste) to look like coral," said Jane, 32, of New Orleans. "And then rising up from the depths were hand-blown, blue iridescent sugar bubbles. It was gorgeous."
Deanne also has donated many baked items to charities, such as Belleville Area Humane Society, to be auctioned at fundraisers.
She occasionally whips up desserts for meals served to patients of Family Hospice of Belleville and their loved ones.
"Around Christmas, she made a (French Yule log), and it was just beautiful," said Volunteer Coordinator Caryn Meder. "We even took a picture of it, although it didn't do it justice."
Deanne thinks the baking of attractive, tasty desserts for others can be a gesture of love. She made her dying father a simple custard with peaches for his last meal.
"I found it symbolic," she said. "I was helping him at the end of his life."
Deanne has two daughters, Kearsten, 16, and Jaclyn, 14. She's also hosting a foreign-exchange student, Darina Doszhanova, 17, from Kazakhstan this year.
Deanne fell in love with baking as a girl, helping her grandmother in the kitchen. She still has her 100-year-old cookie cutter shaped like an Easter bunny.
"It was a wonderful way to spend time together," Deanne said. "(Grandma) moved very fast. She would work like she was killing snakes. She was very efficient."
Deanne continued to bake while studying art at Belleville Area College, Kansas City Art Institute and Syracuse University and earning a master's in creative writing at Columbia University.
Then she operated a small bookstore in New York City for two years.
"It was like the movie, 'You've Got Mail,'" she said, noting the store went out of business after large chains moved into the area.
Deanne returned to Belleville in the late '80s to work at Empire Comfort Systems, a family business. She sold her share several years ago, prompting her to think more about starting a baking business.
"I've always loved to bake," Deanne said. "It's always been a comfort. It's like art therapy. I can create very simply, and it tastes good, and it's pleasing (to the eye)."