"I'm always laughing with my dad about how when I used to paint and mix paint colors as a kid, he would say, 'Petra, you don't know when to stop. You always make mud.'"
She sometimes sends her dad photos of works in progress and asks, "Should I stop? Am I making mud?"
When she graduated from culinary school in 2002, Newkirk moved to Lexington, where she held jobs as pastry chef at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and at Idle Hour County Club.
"I had the time of my life," Newkirk said. Her chef at the country club, John Schweder, challenged her in every way.
"We did buffets for hundreds and dinners with plated desserts," she said. "He knew I would do whatever he asked. I love to be challenged."
Still, Newkirk knew she wanted to return to Charleston. And when her husband, Joe, a Lexington native, found an engineering job here four years ago, they knew it was time.
The couple now has a 4-year-old daughter and until Newkirk set up her business, she worked for Ellen Beal at Ellen's Ice Cream on Capitol Street, preparing the lunch menu and helping to manage the store.
"I had a really great four-year run with Ellen," Newkirk said. The partnership isn't over - after all, ice cream is a great accompaniment to cake.
While Newkirk has the skills for a full-service restaurant, she knew that's not what she wanted.
"I decided my passion was in the cake," she said.
She loves parties, too, and that's one reason the Quarrier Street space appealed to Newkirk. It has space for a party room that she envisions will be perfect for birthday celebrations and other small gatherings such as wedding or baby showers.
"I can have up to 40 people there. It's not for the huge functions, because I'm just one person," she said.
Kids' parties might feature a decorate-your-own-cupcake component, she said.
Newkirk credits family and friends for helping her in the decision and process of setting up her own business.
"The family support I have is ridiculous," she said. In every way possible, she sought out local businesses for supplies and materials. Local artist Sharon Harms, a longtime friend of her dad's, designed her logo and helped with her signage, telling Newkirk that when she was new in business, she had mentors help her.
"I told her to pay it forward someday," Harms said.
Cakes by Appointment is located at 1030 Quarrier St. For information on cakes and parties, call Newkirk at 304-550-5055 or visit her website at www.cakesbyappointment.com.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.