Noelle DeSantis, Owner and Founder of Ella Vanilla
Ella Vanilla is the perfect fusion of my life’s passions—art and cake. Having studied painting and art history in college and graduate school, I worked as a director of an art gallery in New York City for more than eleven years. I loved the art world, but after taking a few cake decorating classes, I really enjoyed working with my hands again, so I decided to make a career change. I picked up and moved to Chicago so I could study at The French Pastry School and learn from the best—Chefs Nicholas Lodge, Sebastien Canonne M.O.F., Jacquy Pfeiffer and Mark Seaman. After graduating, I returned to New York City where I worked for world-renowned cake designer Colette Peters of Colette’s Cakes, best known for her whimsical and artistic cakes for celebrities.
Over the years I’ve learned that the key to creating amazing cakes is knowing some tricks-of-the-trade and having the right tools and supplies on hand. So in 2012 I launched Ella Vanilla Cake Decorating Kits, a line of do-it-yourself cake decorating kits that include everything needed to decorate a fancy cake in one handy box delivered to your front door. It’s been so rewarding to see photo after photo of Ella Vanilla cakes that customers have made over the years. Not only do the cakes look great but, better yet, the look of pride on everyone’s face is simply priceless.
In 2015 I returned to my hometown roots in Philadelphia to open Ella Vanilla’s first retail cake decorating supply shop, where we offer all sorts of inspiring cake decorating supplies, tools and hands-on cake decorating classes. I’m excited for Ella Vanilla’s next phase and I hope that you will join our cake community either in person or via social media!
Here’s a few of my favorite cakes that I’ve made…
Lara Kalin, Cake Artist
After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Art in Theatre design from Virginia Commonwealth University, I started my career as a scenic artist by painting for theatre productions and creating window displays. While working in New York City, my passion for cake and sugar led me to a creative assistant position at Magnolia Bakery, where I spent several years decorating their storefronts, designing cupcakes and teaching staff. I realized then that I could combine my art background with my love of sweets and shift my career focus to include both, so I attended Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Canada to gain the tools and skills I needed to master pastry production. I now happily decorate custom cakes here in Philadelphia for my own brides and clients through my business LaraLada.
Here are a few examples of some cakes that I’ve made…
After graduating from The International Culinary Center in 2007, I seized an opportunity to move to London, where I expanded my decorating abilities under the direction of the UK’s most celebrated cake designer, Peggy Porschen. Moving back stateside, I honed my pastry techniques at the Sagamore Hotel and The Chocolate Mill in Upstate New York, and later as Executive Pastry Chef at The Merion, in Merion, Pennsylvania for eight years.
I’m pleased to have had my work featured in magazines such as The Knot, New Jersey Brides, and Cake Central, and American Cake Decorating. My cakes have appeared on TLC’s “Four Weddings” television program and in 2013, I made my Food Network debut as the cake designer of the winning team Tre Artista on an episode of “Sugar Dome”. I’ve also competed as a contestant on The Food Network’s Halloween Wars Season 5.
Currently, I split my time creating pastries for my own clients through my business Diane Michelle Cakes and running after two adorable little daughters. I’m thrilled to be part of the Ella Vanilla Instructor Team and to share my pastry skills with everyone!
Nala Holloman, Cake Artist & Sugar Sculptor
I started cake decorating as a hobby, creating cakes for family birthdays, but it quickly became one of my biggest passions in life. I graduated from MCC’s Culinary Arts Management and Baking & Pastry Arts programs, and now have over nine years of cake decorating experience and several years working in commercial bakeries. I honed my cake decorating skills under my mentor, Chef Sonam Sondhi of Chocal8kiss in Manalapan, NJ from 2014-2016, and currently work for Night Kitchen Bakery as well as creates cakes and fine art for my own clients through my business Bhumiart.
Olive, Mascot, Muse and Official Greeter
Anyone who visits our shop will likely be greeted by me, Olive. I started life on a farm in Kentucky where my human momma adopted me, brought me home and turned me into a city slicker. I was raised in New York City, lived in Chicago and now I am happy to call Philadelphia my home. But don’t let my urban savvy fool you, I am one super friendly and sassy French Bulldog. I enjoy lots of attention and naptime in a spot of sunshine. Although I’m not officially on the payroll, I will work for kibble, scratches behind the ears and lovin.