In the RBA Member Spotlight series, we'll be profiling valued members of the Retail Bakers of America community.
This week, we're looking at Ruth Drennan Cakes in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Ruth Drennan has been designing wedding cakes for almost twenty years. After taking a break from the industry to raise her daughter in North Carolina, she reopened her cake business in 2023.
In addition to starring in the first season of WE TV’s Amazing Wedding Cakes, her Cameo Rose cake was named one of Brides Magazine’s “Most Beautiful Cakes in America,” and her work has been featured in major bridal magazines and websites.
Get to know Ruth Drennan and Ruth Drennan Cakes more below.
How many years have you been in business?
Ruth Drennan Cakes: I reopened my cake business earlier this year.
What made you want to get into the baking industry/why are you passionate about baking?
I have always enjoyed baking and was good with my hands, but it really started for me when I was in college and I saw a photo of a wedding cake decorated with hand-made gum paste flowers in a bridal magazine. I had never seen anything like it in my life. I wanted to be able to do that. It took me a few years to decide to make the break from the corporate life to go into wedding cakes, but it is so much more gratifying than any other kind of work I’ve ever done. To take something from an idea all the way through to the finished product is a challenge that I don't get tired of!
What are your top-selling products/what product do you consider to be your specialty?
I am a custom cake baker/wedding cake designer so cakes are pretty much all I do. I specialize in creating cakes from scratch with hand-made sugar (gum paste) flowers.
What do you see trending in the industry?
I took a break away from the industry to raise my daughter and moved to North Carolina. Things are pretty different from when I was last selling cakes up in New York City! Naked cakes continue to be trendy and everyone around here seems to want a “rustic elegant” cake. Lambeth piped cakes seem to be popular, but not many clients ask me for that.
How has your RBA membership made a difference in your business?
Well, I just joined the RBA so this is tough to answer, but I appreciate all of the learning and networking opportunities now available to me.
What have you learned from customers over the years?
Customers are looking for a good looking and good tasting cake for sure, but what they really appreciate is having a real connection with me. They don’t want to be treated like just another customer, but rather as if they are my only customer. While this amount of personal attention isn’t always practical, it helps keep me enthusiastic about and fulfilled by the work.
What are your plans for the bakery in the coming years (expansion, digital, new offerings, etc.)?
I am just a one-woman operation at the moment, but I would love to run a larger operation with a few decorators and bakers working for me so that I could take on additional clients, and become a preferred vendor with more hotels and businesses.
What do you look for when hiring staff?
In the past iteration of my business, I was always looking for people with perseverance, reliability and respect for me, for the work and for themselves. Anyone who has those qualities can be trained to do anything I need them to. In my reopened business, as I grow, I am planning to pursue a policy of second-chance hiring. There are many people in our society who have made mistakes, but that doesn't mean that they should be shut out.
What would you have done differently in starting your business/what do you wish you could tell your past self when starting your business?
Focus on the bottom line. Know your worth. Get help – you can’t do it all alone.
Interested in learning more about becoming a member of the Retail Bakers of America? Click here.
Current RBA members, email Marlene O’ Connell (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn how you can be featured in an upcoming member spotlight.