With the holidays here, I thought that a feature blog post on Cake Opera Co. would be an amazing way to share the pleasure of cakes and goodies for office parties, potlucks and family dinners. Cake Opera has made incredible strides and is taking their expertise on the road! Head over there while they’re still around in 2013! http://www.cakeoperaco.com/
It was something like September or October 2011,I was walking along Eglinton West Village. There was some sort of customer appreciation weekend where all establishments pull their wares outdoors and give samples or sell items and services at discount. Fairly standard in Toronto. I strolled along the area and stumbled on a gem of a shop and I was offered a mini cupcake. There are so many notable pastry and cupcake shops in Toronto but this one was quite unique……
I walked in-looked around, asked for the owner. I spoke to the owner’s mother-asked if I can interview her about this ‘Victorian Era Opera-styled’ boutique cake shop and returned a few days later!
I went in and had a more in depth look at the place-the cakes on the shelves were pieces of art! I had tons of questions about where and how this was all created…..I might add that Cake Opera made the cake for Nicole Ritchie’s wedding and that a gorgeous ‘ hobby’ cake model project featured on the Spring/Summer 2006 cover edition of a very well-known wedding magazine!
When did this all click for her?
She was an OCAD art major with a concentration on painting and drawing. She also enjoyed horror films.Her love of art was more selfish in nature. She wanted to make things she didn’t have. Her drawings often reflected things she coveted more than what she actually had. She also loved cooking. Alexandria says ‘I played around with fondant and bread….I made installations and incorporated string and shapes….I love making sickening pretty things’
Looking at you cake models on display in the shop, you’ve got a style or theme-please explain:
I’m very comfortable cooking, I love the Parisienne esthetic, I wanted a strong background in cake making so I attended Le Cordon Bleu…..I moved to Italy for 8 months, they take pastries and baking seriously there’
Her journey to Cake Opera wasn’t an easy one-true pastry and baking artistry takes many years of training and experience in Europe.
At Cordon Bleu she met Jessica. Jessica and Alexandria became co-owners in 2010 after working from an industrial kitchen created by her parents at home! Business picked up where they were constructing 1 cake a week with maximum time spent at 150 hours per cake!
At one point I ask her about the in between time-the time she returned from schooling in Italy to the time span she started actually building a career she recalls, ‘There was a gap of time where NOTHING was happening…I would be at home making cake models and sketching….not finding a job’. She smiles and says ‘I have massive balls, I’m highly confident, I feel strongly about my aesthetic…these cakes aren’t for everybody…the people who want these kinds of caked found me-their desire for what I make; made me do it’
Who are her clients?
- Word-of-mouth clients
- People who trust her expertise
- People who want food to imitate art
How does she create the work?
She daydreams for inspiration, she used to watch Fashion Television to tap into subtle trends on the runway, the feeling of a movie or song…..
How has the economy affected business?
The decorative cake and pastry industry is a very particular one. We are not a cake business for regular people with regular cake/dessert tastes. People budget for cakes-business hasn’t slowed down at all. We now make 5-6 cakes a week!
Alexandria’s advice for entrepreneurs trying to break into the market:
- Just do it!
- It’s a business not a hobby; it isn’t play time!
- Take it (what you choose to do) seriously
- Believe in yourself
- Treat it like a job
- The initial trade-off will not always be rewarding
- Start small and slow, feel out the direction you’d like to take it….you’ll grow from that
- Push yourself while being patient, it’s the only way you’ll grow
And yes, I ate two cupcakes out of the box! They were pretty tasty!
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