- Editor's note: This article originally published Monday, March 14.
The baked goods served up at in New Lenox are idolized on television, with shows such as Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss. But don't be fooled; there's a lot of work that goes into making the 3D designer cakes that don't always show up on screen.
“People think they can get a cake like that in half an hour and pay minimal dollars for it," co-owner Holly Ashley said.
Ashley opened the Cakebox, 13917 W. Illinois Hwy, along with Tia Willis about 4 1/2 years ago. The two met studying culinary arts at Joliet Junior College, and continued working together at the college's Renaissance Center for several years. They even collaborated on their own time, baking cakes and other goodies.
They realized this aspiration through hard work, which they say can be left out of those shows. The reality is that with everything customized and made to order, they require a minimum of 72 hours notice to create a cake. The cost? Ashley says that $40 is the average cost, but that because of the time, talent and materials involved, 3-D cakes start in the $100 range.
“It's taken years and years of practice to get here," Ashley said. "And there's trade secrets that you learn.”
The Cakebox is a bakery like no other in the area, specializing in 3D designer cakes. In addition to assorted tiered cakes with striking colors and elaborate designs, they also make 3D cakes of items such as motorcycles and martini glasses. The cakes come in all sizes, typically determined by the number of people it's expecting to feed; among the largest was a car cake they recently made that measured 3x5 feet.
They offer more than just cakes, though, including cookies, donuts, cupcakes and brownies.. There's a variety of those baked goods kept on hand and on display for carryout without pre-order and everything but the donuts are made from scratch on-site by the two owners.
It's the cakes, though, that are the bulk of their business. As the only two employees, they're limited to delivering eight cakes on a given Saturday but will make up to 50 cakes a week during their busy season, which is now late summer through the fall for weddings. Birthdays are strong throughout the year but especially in the summer time when there are bigger parties outdoors and people seem to want a bigger, better cake to go along with that.
“The walk-in business has slowed down—the donuts and that kind of stuff—but the cakes are still (doing) good," Ashley said. "People are still having birthdays and getting married.” According to Ashley, that has been without a great deal of advertising.
Eventually, the women would like to move their business to the ever-growing Route 30. But those plans are on hold until the economy stabilizes.
“No need moving and then closing," Ashley said. "(We) would rather stay here and stay open.”