Imagine decadent moist yellow cake, layers of peanut butter filling all held together with a layer of rich indulgent chocolate ganache. If you’re local to the Philadelphia area you’ll know that combination of flavors as a Tasty Kake….if you’re local to Delaware you’ll know it as a Peanut Butter Tasty Cake from Sweet Somethings Dessert Shoppe; and to be completely honest…Sweet Somethings’ version of the Tasty Cake blows the Philadelphia staple out of the water!
The Peanut Butter Tasty Cake is just one of the mouth-watering delicacies Sweet Somethings Dessert Shoppe offers. Located in a little Nook on North Union Street in Wilmington, Delaware, Sweet Somethings churns out surgary goodness for a long list of local restaurants and somehow still manages to stock their dessert case with dozens of varieties of delectable cupcakes and specialty cakes. Lee Slaninko is the culinary genius behind Sweet Somethings. Not only does he work on the day-to-day operations and baking but he is able to carve out time with current and new clients, delivers cakes to restaurants and tries out new recipes! Somehow Lee and his talented employees can keep up with this dizzying pace of production and they do it with a smile and with great love of their work.
Sweet Somethings is truly a labor of love for Lee and I am grateful he took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for the eYw blog.
How long have you been in the restaurant/food industry? 22 Years
What was your first job in the industry? Bay Street Restaurant
Where did you cultivate your baking skills? Culinary Institute of America
How many cakes/cupcakes/desserts does Sweet Something’s produce in a week?
15 Dozen Cupcakes / 60 Cakes / 15 Dozen Individual items
Q: If you had to describe the Sweet Somethings’ philosophy in three words what would they be?
Best ingredients and talent in – Best product out. (That’s the shortest I could make it.)
Q: How was the idea for Sweet Somethings conceived?
Sweet Somethings started out of my home in Kennett Square in 1996 with the introduction to a new brewery restaurant concept that was opening in Newark Delaware; Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant.
Q: How did you grow your network of restaurants that stock your delicious desserts?
We started doing desserts for Iron Hill shortly after they opened in November of 96’ and then quickly added Half Moon Saloon in Kennett Square. We continued to add restaurants from that point on.
Q: What was your inspiration behind opening Sweet Somethings?
As far as the inspiration, we knew we had a special product. When we would travel around from bakery to bakery and saw very little that impressed us. Mostly we were seeing very simple, dry cakes that lacked the explosion of flavor we were looking for. We knew we could provide a product that not only looked good, but also tasted like what you thought it would taste like when you looked at it. We always found that to be the most frustrating part of this industry. Also, I don’t want to NEED a glass of milk to get my dessert down. So having moist product was also essential to our success and still is one of the most important questions we ask ourselves when creating new desserts.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a small business owner? What do you find the most challenging?
It’s my baby. To watch it grow and evolve though all the challenges it has faced over the years, really excites me.
Challenges are a common place in any business. If I had to pick one, I think it has to be the ability to deal with the vast diversity of personalities I find in the kitchens we do desserts for. Chefs definitely have their own way of dealing with work each day. It’s important for me to be able to read them as soon as I walk through the door. If I can make their day just a bit easier or better, I am adding a small but valuable service and I know they appreciate it.
Q: Think back to the inception of Sweet Somethings and your opening day. What were you feeling?
That was 18 years ago. I can’t remember what I was thinking last week! I’m sure I was a little nervous, and excited.
Q: It’s seems like people are really into cupcakes, fondant creations that wow! and gluten free desserts and organic/green desserts. What do you find to be the most “fashionable” dessert requests right now?
Cupcakes never cease to amaze me. People trip over one another to get them, but when I stop to think about it, its like the perfect bite. You get the satisfaction of eating a slice of cake, but it’s conveniently packed in a nice little wrapper, and cake will never go out of style.
Fondant, I’m not a fan at all. It may look good in pictures, but its like eating sweet Playdough.
Q: Tell me about the process involved in creating new recipes?
Recipe creations come in many different forms. The most common is when one of us has an epiphany. It just hits you in the head like a baseball with the inevitable “Why have we not already thought of that?”. We also get a lot of inspiration from the chefs we deal with. They love to have us create desserts specific to their restaurants, and that is really exciting for us. Lastly, there is the browsing/ stealing ideas in trade magazines. We almost always give those ideas our own twist though.
Q: Do you ever feel a recipe is “perfected” or are you always trying to improve it?
We create a dessert and decide its done when we think it hits all the benchmarks. However, we continually revisit old desserts to see if they are still what we thought they were when we created them.
Q: Who is your test audience?
My 9 year old daughter is a BIG fan of taste testing!
Q: Describe the most memorable dessert you have ever tasted.
When I was in my early teens, my parents took me to an amazing 3 star NY times rated restaurant in North Jersey called the Ryland Inn. I ordered the bread and butter pudding. At that point I had never had anything even remotely close to that gastronomic Shangri-La. It was also as simple as it was delicious. Ultimately it was just a crème brulee with a slice of challah bread soaked and baked in the middle. The custard was perfectly smooth and screamed of vanilla. The bread lent a slight doughy texture but more importantly when it was bruleed, it lent the creamy dessert the touch of crunch it needed. By the way, I ended up working for that restaurant for almost 2 years about a decade later.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I think I would like to start entering into new markets, maybe Philly.
Q: What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? What have you learned along the way that you wish you had known before opening?
When you are all done planning out the amount of money you think you need to run your business day to day, double that amount. There are more hidden expenses then you could possibly account for. The stress of not having enough money to give your idea the time it needs to catch on can be very hard to bear.
Is your sweet tooth buzzing yet? If so….get yourself over to Sweet Somethings Dessert Shoppe!!
1006 North Union Street
Wilmington, DE 19805
(302) 655 – 7211