Perfect Sprinkles

Cake Life

Nima Etemadi '04 and Lily Fisher '04 can spend hours analyzing the drift of sprinkles on a frosted cupcake. "This is my craft!" Fisher insists when her fiancé suggests that she might be obsessed. At Cake Life Bake Shop in Philadelphia, Etemadi and Fischer put their zeal to good use, making cupcakes and other treats entirely from scratch. It’s one way they set themselves apart from other bakers—“Most businesses are opening a bucket and filling a piping bag,” says Etemadi. “We’re both really neurotic about being the best.”

Fischer started out teaching preschool by day and running her cupcake business at night. In 2011 she won Cupcakes Wars, a show on the Food Network, with a Bollywood-themed, mango-coriander cupcake. When she was invited to compete again last year, she needed to find a partner fast, so she called Etemadi who had recently left a desk job to attend pastry school. The pair took second place on the show despite having barely shared a kitchen before.

And so a business was born. Originally called A Cupcake Wonderland, they made custom cupcakes and wedding cakes out of a commercial kitchen, sharing baking and business duties and becoming known for they fresh fruit filling and Italian buttercream frosting. They’ e been so successful that this fall, they’ve changed their name (to better reflect the diversity of their offerings) and opened a storefront in downtown Philadelphia.

The rapid growth has meant many a sleepless night as the business owners wrestle with everything from marketing to securing building permits to finding the right kind of high-fat European-style butter. But collaborating on Cake Life has only strengthened their friendship. They recently hired two staff members and have plans for several more, which helps. And at the end of a busy day, there’s always something delicious for dessert.