When Jenny Pacaccio opened The Sweet Life Bakery (6268 Vicksburg St., 504-371-5153; www.nolasweetlife.com) in 2009, she and her family envisioned a different type of bakery.
"We started off saying we wanted a small bakery to host kids' birthday parties where they could come in and decorate their own cupcakes or cookies," Pacaccio says. "Well, we've done one birthday party and we've grown into custom cakes — [cakes] are really the heart of what we do."
Pacaccio got her start by attending culinary school and working in restaurant kitchens, but she found that work didn't suit her. At her mother's suggestion, she signed up for a pastry class at Delgado Community College and fell in love.
She opened The Sweet Life Bakery in Lakeview. "I love being in Lakeview," Pacaccio says. "It's a great community. I grew up out here."
Pacaccio takes pleasure in being involved with every custom cake her business bakes. After customers submit an online order form, answering some basic questions about the cake's flavor and appearance, they meet with Pacaccio, who brings her ideas to the table. Her website features about 1,500 photos of custom cakes for inspiration. The gallery's photos include everything from fanciful tiered wedding cakes to pastel-hued gender reveal cakes. Grooms' cakes come in shapes ranging from a simple round dartboard to a four-legged Star Wars walking robot. For specialty cakes, prices start at $25 and can rise into the thousands.
"It depends on your vision, how many people you want to feed and your budget." Pacaccio says.
During the busy wedding season, Pacaccio limits the number of cake orders. "Wedding cake-wise, we'll stick to about five to six for the course of a weekend, because I personally deliver everything," Pacaccio says. "I don't want to get to a place where I'm not the face of the company."
The Sweet Life is exploring sugar-free dessert options and developing a king cake made from croissant dough to ship nationwide. New Orleans Ice Cream Company's offerings were recently added to the bakery's menu and milkshakes will be available during the summer.
Pacaccio aspires to build a bigger space and hire more cake decorators to join her two assistants, but maintaining a personal touch is her priority. "In five years we can try to add a different location, but I don't want the business to get too big where I can't meet with all my customers," she says. "Regardless if you are ordering a two-person cake or a 500-person cake, you get the attention from me."