Celebrity Cake Studio’s two decades of growth and success

This women-owned cake studio launched from a familial passion for baking and is now a fixture in the Tacoma, Wash. community.

Tags: Best practices, Small Business
Published: June 16, 2021

Based in Tacoma, Wash., Celebrity Cake Studio isn’t your typical bakery. The family-run business opened in 1999, but has a baking history that goes back even further. The sister pair Odette D’Aniello and Mary Ann Quitugua, and their cousin Wallace Bolo, spent time in their family bakery in Guam during their youth, picking up a passion for making sweet treats. During the business’ 20-plus years, the team has been recognized with many awards and expanded far beyond their brick-and-mortar store. Here, CEO Odette D’Aniello shares insight about the business’ roots and growth over the past two decades.

 

How did you first become interested in baking?

“We’re from the Philippines, and my parents worked for my uncle who had a bakery on blocks — I grew up in Cebu, and I lived on top of a bakery. When I was 10 years old, my family emigrated to Guam and then we started working as a family for my uncle in that bakery. It was really hard work, because we basically did nothing but go to school and work in a bakery seven days a week. It wasn't fun, but I did develop a love for cake.”

 

What are some of the specialty products you provide?

“We offer wedding cakes and special occasion cakes in our retail store. We have a store in Tacoma and we have a showroom. We do beautiful work and we're one of the top cake designers in the Seattle area.

We acquired another brand called Dragon Fly Cakes out of Sausalito, Cali. in 2016. Their chocolate-covered petit fours are so delicious. They're all natural, with cage-free eggs, awesome ingredients and plant-based colors. We sell that to hundreds of stores nationwide, and that's what we specialize in. Dragon Fly Cakes is our national brand.”

 

What's your favorite type of cake to make?

“I like the styling of wedding cakes and custom cakes — it's our medium of art. My sister is now my partner and has been for the past the past 21 years. She and I are cake designers; that's what we love to do. I’m the CEO and my sister is the COO.”

 

How many hours go into the baking and the artistry of your cakes?

“It really depends on what we're making. Since we bake cakes into layers, there are many, many steps to it. It goes on for days, depending on what layer of cake we're doing. We bake the cake, we have to cool it, and then we make the fillings and build the cake. Then we ice the cake, decorate it (and then decorate it more) ­— then we freeze it. It takes hours. If we're doing a big wedding cake, it takes many days and many hands.

It’s all just a step towards creation — it’s a creative process. It's fun to see what you produce based on all those things. You don't really see it from the beginning, but at the end it's beautiful piece of art.”

 

Where do you find inspiration?

“At the end of the year, we research all the trends and see what's out there. Then we curate all the things that we love. It could be from anything — it could be from nature, current foods, experiences we've had traveling or from people bringing in photos. That's maybe 30 or 40% of what we do. The rest is inspiration from our customers, because they’ll bring in something and we riff from there.”

 

What have been the highlights of owning your own business?

“It’s an experience of discovery every day — there's always something new and it's something fun, but you can't control certain things. I've been within this business for over two decades, and now we just know that things work out. We have to wait and see what happens and get excited about what the next steps are.

Our customers have really inspired us, and it's been a wonderful experience to have a business that is run with our family and our employees, who we call a family. We're a very tight, really warm and hospitable culture. Going to work, loving the people you're around and loving what you do is a gift. That's what we love about running a business.”

 

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