LAKEVIEW — Emily Wheeler's soft blonde curls and slight Kentucky twang will probably tip you off first —she has Southern flair.
A traditional look that could be considered classically Southern shows up in Wheeler's new custom cake design business, too, she said.
The Lakeview resident ditched corporate life to pursue a career in cake design this year. After graduating from the cake program at The French Pastry School, she founded Emily Wheeler Custom Cakes.
Though she's not afraid of crazier designs, most of the cakes that clients ask for — and that she likes to make — are wedding cakes with classic looks: grand, white tiered cakes with flowers.
"It's just my personality," Wheeler said. "Even my home is decorated in the same way. I like the traditional wedding aspect of it."
Wheeler, 28, moved to Chicago from Kentucky on a whim four years ago and started off as a nanny before taking a job in human resources.
The desk job, as great as it was, wasn't for her. She started thinking about what else she could do.
When a mutual friend mentioned the pastry school, Wheeler started looking into it. She'd spent her childhood cooking with her parents, whether it be adding sprinkles to her mom's Christmas cookies or baking biscuits on Sunday with her dad.
Switching to cake designing seemed like a natural fit, she said.
"I knew I always loved it, and I knew I always had a knack for it," Wheeler said.
Wheeler makes her cakes at a shared kitchen on the Near West Side called Kitchen Chicago.
Though classic wedding cakes are her bread-and-butter, edgier designs have made their way into her repertoire, too, she said. For one bachelor party, she created a cake shaped like a Mustang, and for a bachelorette party, she created a cake shaped like a corset.
"It's fun to take other people's ideas and put it all together to make something really grand and fun for them and their day," she said.
People interested in ordering a custom cake can email Emily for a quote at firstname.lastname@example.org.