When Melissa Ben-Ishay was fired from her advertising job in 2009, she turned her love of baking into a business. From her apartment kitchen, she churned out her soon-to-become famous tie-dye mini creations —inspired by the Grateful Dead—for friends and family, and cold-calling catering companies. Now, her fledgling company has transformed into Baked by Melissa, a veritable pastry empire with 14 New York City outposts, a national e-commerce operation, a just-released cookbook, and, as of November, a new gluten-free line. We sat down with wife, mom, and founder Melissa of Baked by Melissa to talk all things micro.
For the uninitiated, what is Baked By Melissa?
Baked by Melissa handcrafts bite-size cupcakes and macarons in a variety of flavors that are always changing. We exist to make life sweeter and our product makes people happy, one small bite at a time!
Why do you think people enjoy mini snacks?
I think people love our bite-size treats because they are delicious and beautiful. They really bring you back to your childhood and make you happy. Plus, each one is under 50 calories, so you don’t even have to feel bad about it.
The cupcake fad, in many has, come and gone. Yet Baked by Melissa has stayed strong and is growing. What do you think made Baked by Melissa successful when other cupcakeries faded away when the trend disappeared?
Baked by Melissa is unlike any bakery that ever existed in that we focus bite-size treats. Just a bite, that’s it. You can literally try every flavor without feeling bad about it. Also, I’m Melissa, and I’m real! The product is my greatest passion. I can tell you who iced each cupcake just by looking at it. I create each new flavor and product, and I do it out of love. And it’s that love that shines through in everything we do and sets us apart from everyone else. Our team is unreal.
Do you have a favorite cupcake from the Baked by Melissa line? What is the best-selling flavor?
Our best-selling flavor is our signature cupcake, Tie-Dye, the one that started it all. My favorite, though, is Peanut Butter and Jelly. It’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but better because it’s a cupcake. I make it with Skippy peanut butter and Smucker’s grape jelly, just like the PBJ’s my mom used to make me when I was a kid.
Can you tell us more about your new cookbook, Cakes by Melissa? What inspired going full-size?
My goal for the book is to inspire the reader to bake outside the lines and create their own unique desserts. The book follows my creative process, starting with my vanilla cake recipe. Then it goes into more cakes, each stemming from that base vanilla cake recipe. By changing one or two ingredients, the possibilities are endless. Of course there are icing recipes, fillings and stuffings—all in that same format. I want the reader to mix and match recipes to come up with their own flavor combinations that they want their loved ones to eat. That’s what I’ve been doing at Baked by Melissa for the past nine years, so with this book I’m empowering readers to do the same.
Baked by Melissa’s treats are perfect any time of the day, but we love them as a dessert. Nothing like prepping for bed with a little goodnight snack! Here’s our #goodnightArlo Spotify playlist to get you ready for a relaxing evening.
Photos courtesy of Baked by Melissa.