Alyssa Grunza thinks life is sweet — and since 2018, she’s shared that philosophy through her business, Sweets by Alyssa. From her Jessup home, she bakes up hand-decorated custom cakes, sugar cookies, cupcakes and other treats. Read on to find out more about how she started her business.
Q: How did you get into baking?
A: I started baking at the beginning of 2018, shortly after my dog tragically passed away due to an accident. My veterinarian and staff were so amazing to me during that tough time, and I wanted to show my appreciation! I decided to make and decorate cupcakes to look like different dog breeds. I had so much fun doing it, and I knew that I had finally found something I truly enjoyed doing. I learned so much through YouTube, blogs and experimentation: how to torte, fill and frost cakes, cover cakes in fondant, make buttercream flowers, and much more! I am 100% self taught in my craft. I have not had any schooling, taken any classes or had any experience working in a bakery setting. I had such a strong desire to keep improving my skills, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to push myself to try more challenging things.
Q: Why did you decide to go into business?
A: People started seeing my work on my personal Facebook page, and began asking me to make things for them, so that’s when I decided to start a Facebook page for my creations! I was overwhelmed with how many people shared, liked and recommended my page to others. I’ve truly learned so much from running a small business — time management, customer service, advertising and marketing, etc. It is incredible how much I have grown, and how much I’ve learned about business these past three years. My goal is to ultimately open up my own shop!
I would definitely say my most popular items are decorated sugar cookies. I get so many requests for different themes and characters, and they are so fun to decorate. Very time consuming, but they add such a nice personalized touch on any event. I honestly cannot say what my favorite thing to make is, because I enjoy making everything!
Q: How do you come up with your imaginative cakes and sweets?
A: Many people who order from me normally provide me with specific details that they would like, colors to incorporate, and more often than not, some photo references. I like to get as much information as I can about what they are looking for, because I want to provide every single one of my customers with exactly what they want. I spend way too much time brainstorming ideas in my head, even when I’m not working. It’s become second nature at this point, ha! Some of my favorite requests have been an Amazon box (yes, a cake that looks like a cardboard box!), a Craftsman toolbox and a Louis Vuitton handbag! You’d be amazed how many strange requests I’ve gotten! For instance, a monster truck “Gravedigger,” a shrimp boil pot, a corgi butt (so adorable!) and too many more to even mention. I tackle these ideas head on, and decide the best way to represent their vision. I work with fondant a lot, in fact it’s my favorite to work with to get either a smooth finish, a textured look or to create figures or objects. Shaped cakes that have been hand carved are tricky at times, so I’ll either use a ruler, or I will print and cut out the shape I’m looking for and use it as a guide.
Q: It seems like custom cakes are having a moment these days. Why do you think they’ve become so popular?
A: Custom cakes really have gained popularity, and it’s because people want the personalized experience at their parties or events. It’s the feeling of something being made specially for you, with your name, favorite colors, things that you love, etc. In my profession, it’s the customized cakes that give me the most satisfaction because of that very reason. We all deserve to feel special, and we all deserve delicious cake! Things to keep in mind about custom cakes, is that they are VERY time consuming! Baking the cake, making fondant decorations, all the little details that go into the design. It takes extreme patience and focus! I try to inform my customers the reason pricing is so high on custom cake orders; I put a lot of time and effort into each and every cake I decorate, and it is always specifically designed for YOU!
Q: When you’re not baking, what do you like to do?
A: Well, I can honestly say that I don’t get too much free time these days with my busy schedule, but I love getting to spend time outside with my boyfriend and my dog, Luna. She is a 6-year-old Labrador/pittie mix, and she is the craziest, happiest dog ever! With the energy of a puppy, and her constant need for snuggles, I am one busy girl. We all enjoy going for hikes and exploring new places. My boyfriend, CJ, is my number one fan, and essentially my design partner. He helps me so much with decorating, such as making figures, cake toppers and other details that often go unnoticed. We make a great team!