Extravagant Athlete Cakes
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Not too long ago there was a flurry of press about LeBron James' extravagant cake after he posted a photo of it on Twitter. The five-tiered cake was made by Divine Delicacies, a family-owned, Miami-based bakery that has handled quite a few cakes for celebrities — including several rappers and performers. Read on for an interview with Iliana Lombardero of Divine Delicacies about use of Swarovski crystals, celebrity clients, and the origin of their signature cake flavor, vanilla rum.
How has the Miami cake scene changed since your move from Cuba in '96?
The main change is that now there is a scene. It's amazing how far this industry has come in only 14 years. Back then the most custom cake you could get was at a local bakery where they would stick a Barbie on a typical meringue cake and change the colors for you. Now you can make almost anything come to life in cake and actually make cakes come to life. You can make them talk, move, shoot fireworks, you name it. Miami has become a major trendsetter on the scene. We are proud to say that we started many of those trends. Especially with our use of Swarovski crystals and our artist-inspired cakes. We noticed that people wanted more than just the plain old cake, so we gave them more. People have always traveled to Miami for the fun and sun, now luckily for us, they travel for our cakes.
How did you come up with your signature cake flavor?
It's actually a family recipe that had been handed down for a few generations in our family. We brought it with us from Cuba and even though it has since been spiced up with different flavors and combinations, it still remains a time-honored tradition in our family that is made with only the finest ingredients and specialty Caribbean rums.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
When did athletes start approaching you for cakes? What is your favorite part about doing celebrity cakes?
Well, the recognition is always great, but we have also been really lucky to be able to make some of the biggest and best cakes for them. They really allow us to unleash our imaginations and creativity because they usually have no limitations with what they want us to create. Plus, it's surprising to see how excited they get about their cakes. They have all of these other luxuries and things we could only dream of having but they just light up at the sight of our cakes. That's always fascinating.
Any stories you can tell?
Our most interesting story is also the one that led us down the path of creating cakes for celebrities. We happened to be working late one day when there was a phone call from someone needing a cake for that same night. It was 9 p.m. and we had closed at 7 p.m. It happened to be Lil Wayne's manager and he needed a birthday cake, and he had requested one from us because Lil Wayne personally asked for one of our cakes. Even though there was a catch, he had the diamond bands that were to go on it, we happily obliged and worked a little later that night. After awaiting the special delivery of the diamond bands, we were on our way to his recording studio, at midnight.
The cake was a hit with him and all of his crew and then the rest was history. He was the first to open the door to our vast celebrity portfolio which now includes names like: Carmen Electra, Gloria Estefan, Brandy, Pitbull, Dwyane Wade, P. Diddy, Rihanna, Trina, Jason Taylor, Romero Britto, Akon, David Guetta, Amerie, Kelly Rowland, director John Singleton, T-Pain, Jamie Foxx, Nikki Reed, race car driver Ken Block, Nicki Minaj, and the most talked about for a cake last year, LeBron James!
Any of these thousands of cakes stand out?
Our logo cake, which appears on all of our advertising, is the first cake that we made when the business started, and has since become our trademark. My wedding cake measured at over nine-feet tall and featured over 1,000 sugar flowers. We also created a birthday cake for Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade that contained over 5,000 Swarovski crystals (left) and of course LeBron James' king-themed birthday cake! it was the king of all cakes!
What key factors have contributed to your success?
We constantly strive to create the best products day in and day out. Plus, we really do have the best staff. We're a family in our own right. We are all able to bounce around ideas and share our passion for cakes. Keeping things fresh and up to date are so important in this ever-changing industry.
Talk a little about the family in the family business.
We have all the right people that let us keep growing and evolving. My daughter Laura, who is the director of sales, has really helped us grow as well. She has had such a great dedicative vision that has brought us to where we are today. She has carried on the legacy of her father's cake skills. In conjunction with my other daughter Leysi, who handles our finances, both of them have really been a back bone for this business and have taken Divine Delicacies to a whole new level. It is not just a business, but now a family heirloom.
Are there disadvantages of being family-owned?
You know, everyone thinks that working with your family would drive you crazy, but it really has more advantages than not. When we are at work we are co-workers, we don't let family business interfere with cake business. Though it does help in the way that we are all so in-sync. We each know what the other is good at. it really helps us to flow and function smoothly. The main disadvantage is just disconnecting from it all and spending time together. The hours are long and there always has to be someone at the shop, so we have to set aside special times to be together. It can be hard being your own boss and sharing those responsibilities with family, but the satisfaction we get from creating these wonderful pieces of art that people get to enjoy makes it all worth it.
Your links to athletes don't end with cakes — you're also a community parter of the Jason Taylor Foundation?
Jason and Katina Taylor are amazing; the work they do is so wonderful for the community. When we met them we just knew it was a great fit and something that we needed to be a part of. Everyone there really lives their mission. We are so honored to do what we can to lend a helping hand. Our aim is to add that extra little bit of "sweetness" that everyone deserves in their life and we get to do that with our cakes through the foundation.
Any advice for new entrepreneurs?
As cliché as it sounds, never give up, always follow your dreams. Nothing is impossible if you have the will to acheive it. We didn't arrive with much from Cuba, but within five years we had already opened the doors to our own business. From being featured in just one article to finding our names weekly in the newspapers and in different magazines, it shows that hard work and dedication can bring you a long way.
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