DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A Dayton cake artist–training with some of the biggest names in the business–is making a name for herself right here in the Miami Valley.
Ileen Finley’s interest in the kitchen started when she was three years old, learning from her mom.
“She’d give me a bowl and give me some of the batter and that way I could kind of play in that and not have my fingers in what everyone’s going to actually eat,” recalls Ileen. “That was my first memory. She would do cakes and cookies and things like that. And it was so much fun. I just loved it.”
The cake and pastry artist is making Dayton a little sweeter. “I have a secret ingredient–It’s me. My skill,” says Ileen. “I meet people and they say, ‘oh my God you need to be in New York,’ and I would say, ‘no I need to be in Dayton.’ Dayton needs me.”
In business professionally for a few years now, Dream Cakes by Ileen was always a dream of hers. Before she was in high school, she made candy for the cornerstone store. “I would do caramel popcorn balls and candy apples. I would put them in a laundry basket. I do 50 at a time,” says Ileen.
Eventually enrolling and graduating from Sinclair’s Pastry Arts Program, the icing on the cake was her training that followed. “After that, I went to New York and I was able to get into Toba Garrett’s wedding cake workshop. She only had ten seats open nationwide that year,” beams Ileen.
Garrett is a celebrity chef and is head of the Department of Cake Decorating and Design at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Ileen’s training doesn’t stop there. “From Bronwen Weber, who won the Cake Challenge on Food Network eight times. I took her class in Vegas. I’ve taken classes from Marina Sousa. She did a cake for Oprah,” lists Ileen. “I didn’t just wake up one day and ‘oh I’m good.’ I had to learn it.”
Learning from the best, she also uses the best, never cutting corners. “My ingredients are top-shelf. My vanilla is $500 a gallon,” admits Ileen.
While success is sweet, she says there’s one thing even sweeter– a satisfied customer. “Like one guy said the other day, ‘Ileen, I haven’t had anything bad.’ So that was a really big compliment,” states Ileen.