Honestly, nothing makes me happier than homemade baked goods, creative touches, and a hard working and inspiring mother. And Ilana, the founder and creator of Upper SweetsideNYC is all that. Ilana has created her own business of custom cakes, cupcakes & cookies for kids bdays and special occasions. Not only are the baked goods beautiful, but they are delicious too. Ilana is a fellow mother at my kids’ preschool, and through our morning chit chats and social media, I discovered her incredible talent. Ilana is a true example of a strong, empowered, and passionate woman who dreamed and created her own destiny! Here is an interview: — thank you!
You make so many cookies and cakes and cupcakes and everyone hears about you through word of mouth? How does WORD spread so fast???? How else do people find out about you?
Social media and the mommy network have both been huge! Honestly it started with the most most supportive moms at both of my children’s schools and other dear mommy friends giving me a chance. Once I started posting on Instagram word really began to get out. The more parties I have done the more exposure I have gotten from party guests.
How and why did you start baking?
I always loved to bake with my Aunt Sara as a little girl. I would sleep at her house and after her 4 small children were asleep she would let me stay up super late and we would bake and bake into the night. The next day I could have apple pie, cookies, pumpkin bread or whatever else we made for breakfast. This would have never happened in my home with my very healthy and now vegan mom. It is one of my fondest childhood memories!
Fast forward. Decades later, when my son was diagnosed with dairy allergies at 9 mos old, I was beyond upset about his dessert prospects. Butter is desserts best friend. As a dessert lover, I was not going to let him have a childhood without sweets. I started changing and adapting recipes for him. I was so sad at his first birthday that he wasn’t going to have a cute cute cake! I took matters into my own hands and started to teach myself decorating techniques so at each holiday and birthday he could enjoy yummy AND beautiful treats!
Then, a few years ago, when my son was 4 and my daughter shy of 1, I went through a pretty awful/ stressful divorce. It was at that time that I began baking all the time and things started to go to the next level. Some people exercise….I bake! Baking relieved some of the stress and added happiness to our home and created excitement of a new beginning.
Do you have special recipes you follow — your own creations or boxes or recipes?
All of my recipes originated with a recipe either my aunt supplied or a recipe I found online. At this point they have all been tweaked a bit here and there!
Where do you buy all your baking supplies?
So many different places!!!!!!! Online for very special items, the cake store on 22nd street, sur la table, grocery stores (I get a lot of the dairy items at stew Leonard’s!)
You are a mother of two — when do you bake? When they are at school?
I try to bake when they are at school but I am usually most productive when they are asleep and the house is quiet! Midnight baking!!! 🙂 The kids love to wake up and admire my work. It is super cute!
Do your kids like to bake?
They lovvvve to bake….. and so do all of their friends. We have a lot of baking play dates. My son (who is 7) is very creative and artistic and actually is a pretty amazing decorator! I love to create with him.
How long does one cupcake take?
It really varies on the complexity of the design! The fondant topped cupcakes are pretty detailed and can take quite a bit of time. Decorative cakes, cookies and cupcakes are all very labor intensive and definitely take a lot of time and patience.
Where do you find your inspiration for the decorations and themes and colors?
A lot of times people will send me images of things they have seen online or at a party or I will send them images if they send me a theme. We use that as a starting point and then customize until we are both satisfied. Sometimes I even get feedback from a small birthday child– the cutest!! I have had conference calls with a mom and a birthday girl to make sure that we were all three on the same page.
What is next for you? Your company spread through word of mouth — so now what?
That’s the big question!!! I would love nothing more then to be able to really expand in the next year or two.
Do you make gluten free or healthy varieties of cakes?
Not at this point. One of my goals as I expand would be to be able to bake safely for children with allergies. This is a really big need.
Do you eat your own baked goods?
Of course! Often for breakfast!!! My favorite is the cookie cake.
Aside from your own baked goods, where do you go to buy cookies and cakes?
At this point there is always so much in my home that I rarely (if ever) buy a baked treat anymore.
Any favorite bakeries in the city?
The chocolate chip cookies at levains are out of this world.
Do you ship outside of NYC?
I am able to ship the decorative cookies anywhere.
Thank you so much, Ilana! What incredible talent and drive. To get in touch with Ilana email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her on instagram, go here.