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Cupcake Guru

Zilly Rosen (photos by Jill Greenberg)

Long before the sugar explosion on the various food-themed cable channels, Buffalo was noshing on miniature cake creations. While many Western New York bakeries can boast of their delectable cakes and sweets, Zilly Rosen, artist and owner of Zillycakes, can lay claim to opening one of the area’s first cupcakeries.

Zillycakes (1008 Elmwood Avenue) opened its oven doors back in early May 2009, and Rosen has been tossing sprinkles over her shoulder ever since.

In lieu of formal pastry training, Rosen has spent the better part of the last three decades buried in flour and spattered with buttercream. She started as a cookie girl at a gourmet bakery in Chicago, where she iced her way through 10 holiday seasons. Her next job allowed her to expand into tarts and pies, but it wasn’t until she came to Buffalo that she got her big break in cakes. “I took a job at Dolcim where they finally let me graduate from cookie girl to cake lady,” she says.

She found her niche in the folds of fondant and began to make a name for herself with her whimsical cakes. Fancying herself more of an artist than baker, Rosen does not identify her shop as a bakery. She considers her cupcakery to be a studio where she and her team happen to work in the media of cake and sugar.

“For us, the design and the flavor are equally important factors in our art,” she says. “Lots of bakeries can make delicious things that don’t look artistic, or beautiful things that don’t taste delicious. We strive for excellence on both fronts.”

Her unique approach to cake art is evident as soon as one opens the doors to her slice of sugar heaven. Rosen explains that most cupcakeries bake, frost, and decorate their tiny cakes well before they touch the taste buds of their customers. At Zillycakes, the customized cupcakes are iced before your eyes. Seven flavors of moist cake are offered up with a slew of velvety icings and plethora of fun and funky toppings. “You could literally get a different flavor every week of the year,” says Rosen. She also offers her sweet treats in both vegan and gluten-free varieties.

Rosen doesn’t stop at cupcakes. “Our business has three parts, and each one revolves around the idea of creative interaction with our customers and customized service,” she says. “We have our cupcake bar, we have our customized work in cake, and we have our cake design classes.”

Rosen has a master’s degree in art education and is thrilled to offer and teach a variety of cake classes to those Buffaloians possessing a sweet tooth. “ My cake design classes are taught like an art class in a new and edible medium,” she says. The classes range from cake basics to gumpaste sculptures and are open to anyone willing to get down and dirty with a mixer.

The classes fill up fast and run in sessions through out the year. Scheduling and registration information can be found at her website

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