It’s a good thing Jenna Illchuk left dentistry, because she loves working with sugar.
Illchuk just opened the Jenna Rae Cakes bakery (580 Academy Rd.) on Sat. March 29. Illchuk, 25, admitted leaving pre-dentistry courses at the University of Manitoba three years ago was risky.
"It was scary, but I realized in school that wasn’t what I wanted to do," Illchuk said. "I still love (baking) after countless all-nighters, so that’s a good sign."
Before opening a physical location, Illchuk baked up orders for online clients and those who discovered her through word-of-mouth. She has grown the venture rapidly, creating upwards of 600 cakes — and it all came from a popular TLC television show.
"I was watching Cake Boss and thought ‘I can do this,’ so I went out and bought all of the supplies," Illchuk, originally from Lockport, said. "I just started making cakes for friends, put them on Facebook, and then people started ordering.
"Then I figured I could probably turn this into a career, so I did."
Illchuk specializes in custom orders of cakes and cupcakes. Follow her Facebook and Instagram pages and you’ll see some of the interesting designs, from a stack of law books, to transformers, to sports paraphernalia. Illchuk said her favourite cakes to bake and design are wedding cakes with metallic features and elegant flowers so realistic you wouldn’t know they were sugar.
From Jets-themed requests to flowers, the oddest cake she created came from a dedicated girlfriend.
"A girl had shown me a picture of her boyfriend’s (samurai) tattoo, and she wanted the head of the tattoo," Illchuk said. "So turning a 2D picture into 3D was pretty challenging."
Illchuk didn’t open the chic bakery on a whim; she did plenty of research before taking the plunge.
"It’s been about three years I’ve been dreaming about this," Illchuk said. "I looked at the market and all of my competitors, and what other people were charging in the city and I feel that I offer something a bit different esthetic-wise than everybody else. We all have our own kind of niche, so it works out well."
Illchuk said her niche is towards the upscale brides.
"The bride who really wants the cake to be a centerpiece, not just something to cut," Illchuk said. "But I like to make all kinds of cakes. I also specialize in custom birthday cakes as well."
For the first few months, Illchuk will be the only one working the bakery. She said she knows she’ll probably be living at the bakery, but her whole family is behind her.
"I have sisters and friends who are going to help me out for the first little bit watching the front," Illchuk said. "They also helped me a lot with the construction part of the bakery… my dad did the floors and we all painted, and did the ceiling, we did the majority of it by ourselves."
To order a custom cake, clients must schedule a consultation with Illchuk, but the new boutique-style location will have a walk-in bakery and coffee for those looking for a treat.
For more information about Jenna Rae Cakes or to contact Illchuk for a consult, drop by her new location on Academy Road or visit jennaraecakes.com