Located in the vibrant Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Cake Life Bake Shop is co-owned by Lily Fischer and Nima Etemadi, best friends from Sarah Lawrence College who quit other careers to become pastry chefs. After appearing on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” three times (and winning!), they founded Cake Life Bake Shop in the Globe Dye Works building in 2013 before moving to Cake Life’s current home on Frankford Avenue.
Drawing on American baking traditions and European techniques, as well as Nima’s Persian heritage and Lily’s generations-deep Philadelphia roots, Cake Life offers handcrafted, high-quality cakes and pastries that are at once unique and familiar, comfortable and exciting.
They find their inspirations from sources both local and global. “It’s incredible to see what types of cakes people are developing around the world,” Fischer says. “On Instagram, we will follow Russian bakers or what’s cool in Spain right now. It’s our job to still be the dreamers.”
Adds Etemadi: “Where do we go for something better? That’s the question we want to answer for our customers.”
Since opening their first retail storefront in November 2016, Cake Life has emerged as one of the most notable cake shops in Philadelphia, attracting the attention of superstars like Beyoncé, who ordered a $3,500 geode-design cake from Cake Life for her 36th birthday last year.
The two owners have been best friends for 15 years (“I call Nima my work husband,” Fischer says with a smile), and they balance out each other’s strengths like a great mix.
Etemadi has a keen talent for creating mouthwatering pastries (the bakery sells kouign-amann, croissants, scones and others in addition to cakes).
Fischer has a flair for cakes and a strong business sense. “I’m a collaborator in general,” she says. “Even when we argue, we know what’s best for the business. We keep growing and now we have about 20 people on staff. We’re trying to build our 20-year dream.”
As such, they bought the space where their 1,500-square-foot retail store is located on a quaint street in Fishtown, surrounded by boutique shops and gourmet food operations.
They installed new water, electric and gas lines and invested in bakery equipment, including a customized sliding door cooler.
They freeze cookie dough and fruit compotes, but never cakes. Etemadi says you can taste the difference between those bakeries that freeze cakes and those that don’t, and he wants to always strive for the top. “People want to know where they can get a great cake,” he says. “That’s our dream.”