By Sonu Purhar
Cakes n’ Sweets is packed. Situated at Creekside Village, two blocks west of Coquitlam Centre Mall, the cozy café is rife with the intoxicating scent of vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. Each customer is seated in front of a mouthwatering dessert: strawberry and lemon macarons, salted caramel cupcakes, mango mousse… and cake. Oh, the cakes!
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Owner Shiela De Villa works the counter, chatting easily with customers ordering custom cakes–-her specialty. Weddings, birthday parties, retirement celebrations, every occasion under the sun deserves a showstopping dessert, and Shiela is determined to send each client away with the cake of their dreams.
Cakes ‘n Sweets is a popular place, but it wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Shiela’s kids. You see, she spent nearly two decades baking in hotel and restaurant kitchens before deciding to try her hand at a home-based business. The motivation was compelling: she had just given birth to her second child, and maternity leave offered a tantalizing opportunity to follow her entrepreneurial dreams.
“Baking has always been my passion, and I thought making cakes from home while taking care of my son at the same time was a perfect plan,” says Shiela, “going back to work was an option, but the cost of full-time daycare would have taken a huge fraction of my paycheck.”
She began by setting a goal for herself: bake one fabulous cake each month until her son turned one. Her friends adored the cakes, and encouraged Shiela to create a Facebook page to promote her stunning creations. In 2010, Shiela launched Cakes ‘n Sweets online and, purely through social media and word-of-mouth, quickly grew a loyal clientele.
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In addition to tasting utterly magical, Shiela’s cakes are so Instagram-friendly they practically market themselves. Made with rich flavour combinations like mocha chiffon and buttercream, vanilla and strawberry swiss meringue, and a Filipino-inspired taro/ube chiffon and macapuno buttercream, the cakes are crafted with painstaking detail.
Pretty pink carousels, characters from The Lego Movie perched amid a Lego-strewn landscape, Disney princesses dancing atop an underwater scene… Shiela’s cakes are as fanciful as her clients’ imaginations. In fact, many people share their own designs with Shiela so she can bring them to life. Despite the zany ideas she has seen in her many years of cake decorating, her favourite cake remains the one she created for her son’s first birthday: five tiers decorated with a Mickey Mouse and Cars theme. The proverbial icing on the cake? The top tier was spinning.
Cakes ‘n Sweets regularly buzzes with customers taking a time-out from their busy lives to treat themselves to a cup of coffee and a sweet treat. In addition to crème brulée, éclairs, cake pops, cookies and many more sinfully delicious desserts, visitors can indulge in an impressive high tea. The display features three-cheese quiche, cucumber and lemon aioli sandwiches, macarons and other desserts and buttermilk scones with raspberry jam and Devonshire cream, all for $24.95 per person (there is also gluten-aware high tea, as well as a kid-friendly version complete with bubblegum tea or hot chocolate).
As evidenced by the bustling atmosphere and staggering sales (each week the café sells between 300 and 400 scones!), Shiela puts her heart and soul into Cakes ‘n Sweets. “There are obviously challenges to being a businessowner. For example, I have to available at all times,” says Shiela. (She works in the café most days of the week and, when she returns home, there are emails, Facebook and Instagram queries awaiting reply.) But the rewards far outweigh the trials. “Seeing the business growing and receiving positive feedback from clients definitely lifts my spirits after a long day,” she says. “Throughout the years I’ve made so many new friends through the café, and I keep making new ones!”
Shiela has lived in the Tri-city area for six years and, when she isn’t baking, she enjoys exploring local restaurants and cafes. Her favourites are Hakone Sushi, Woking Dragon and Papa Roti. To browse Shiela’s cake creations, or visit her shop, visit www.cakesnsweets.ca.