The living room in Sue Liss’s home has become a cake room, the basement is full of cake boxes, and the dining room table is always covered with cooling cookies. “The last year, it has taken over our entire home,” says Liss, a Hinsdale resident and mother of three who started making cakes and other desserts for friends and family as a hobby for birthday parties and events. “In seven years, with no advertising or even trying to drum up business, I had a business,” she says.
Now she’s turned her homebased hobby into a full-time business with the opening of a new storefront in Clarendon Hills on Prospect Avenue in April. “We got to a point where either I have to quit because it couldn’t be done out of my home anymore or we should look for a space,” she says. Plus, the timing is good in terms of her home life. Liss has been a stay-at home mom for a number of years, raising her three kids, who now range in age from 18 to 23. Her youngest daughter will be leaving for college in the fall, so she and her husband, who have been married for 24 years, will have some extra time on their hands.
“I kept my eye open for a space the last two years,” she says. This space came open late last year after Vintage Confections moved its commercial kitchen, which occupied the space, to a new location in Darien. Now, Sue’s Cakery has moved in.
At the time of our interview, Liss was still working with an architect and design team to reinvent the space. She describes it as “cute and comfortable,” and it will have a bit of whimsy.
(Hanging whisks, for examples, are being turned into light fixtures.) A small retail section will offer 4-, 6-, and 8-inch cakes as well as cupcakes and cookies. Many of the offerings will relate to the time of year, especially around holidays. That means egg-shaped and bunny cookies at Easter, snowflake cookies during the winter, and all kinds of holiday-themed treats around Christmas.
She’ll also be serving coffee and easy breakfast items like scones and muffins— “something you can grab that’s hearty and you can run to the train with,” she says. The cakery will serve Aspire Coffee, a coffee company based in Chicago that gives adults with disabilities jobs. “I’m proud to think I’m helping another group of people succeed with jobs,” Liss says. “And it’s really good coffee.”
Of course, Liss will continue to do what she has built her business on: gorgeous and creative custom cakes. But you’ll also see camps, parties, and cake and cookie decorating classes offered at Sue’s Cakery. She won’t be doing it alone, either. She’s hired a French pastry chef and another woman who will help run the business affairs.
A quick look at the Sue’s Cakery Facebook page reveals why her cakes and cookies and so popular.
They are intricate, detailed, complex, and customized. She can do almost anything asked of her. What you can’t tell by looking at the pictures, though, is how good they taste, and Liss thinks the ingredients she uses take her products to another level.
“I use really wholesome ingredients,” she says. Her buttercream frosting is made with 100 percent butter, and she uses organic, cage-free eggs, for example. “That’s the way I feed my family, so when I started baking I didn’t go out and buy cheap eggs and flour for baking. I used what I had in the house,” she says. “It may cost a little more but I think the end product is worth it.
While cakes and cookies aren’t looked at as a healthy treat, at least you know you’re getting something wholesome. You can pronounce every ingredient.”
Sue’s Cakery is located at 29 S. Prospect Avenue in Clarendon Hills.