Following your passion is something that many dream of, but bringing it to fruition is another story. For one local resident, mom, and pastry chef, Tennille Ortiz, this passion was dessert. Tennile is a self-taught cake designer who specializes in custom fondant cakes, cupcakes, and confections. Coming from a background of business management and administration, Tennille assumed that her delicious treats would only be for the family. However, after hours of perfecting her techniques, she realized her talent for it, and she enrolled in professional pastry chef courses with top New York City designers to study sugar sculpting, blown sugar art, and 3D sculpting among other skills, working with famous wedding and specialty cake designers to hone her craft.
The Ellinnet Cake Collection was born out of this experience, which is Tennille’s custom cake boutique that creates high-end custom fondant cakes and confections for special occasions and corporate events.
Her newest venture within the company is called “The Cupcake Carriage,” which was originally a cupcake decorating birthday party service for kids, but in light of COVID-19, Tennille switched gears and transformed the truck into a mobile bakery that can be found on Sinatra Drive throughout the week.
“My core values for the business are to empower children by creating workshops that have the message of leadership and entrepreneurship. From a philanthropic standpoint, my goal in the future is to create a workshop that teaches the core values of entrepreneurship for underprivileged inner-city children,” Tennille told Hoboken Girl.
Here’s a Q+A with Tennille about her new business on wheels, and how she followed passion to create a cupcake empire for her family.
How long have you lived and worked in Hoboken?
^Local medical staff enjoying The Cupcake Carriage’s donations
Tennille: I was born and raised in Spanish Harlem and came to New Jersey in high school. My husband Brian was born and raised in Hoboken. We are living in North Arlington now. The Cupcake Carriage gets a great deal of support because of this. I have to say the love Brian gets from his childhood friends is often overwhelming. The Cupcake Carriage has been operating in Hoboken for two months now. However, we deliver custom cakes here all the time and have been servicing Hoboken for over eight years. We have a special love and loyalty to Hoboken because of it.
That is why I make it a point to support fundraisers or any events when needed. During the pandemic, we donated cupcakes and coffee along with coffee machines to Hoboken University Medical Center, Hackensack Hospital, and Bayonne Hospital. We also raised money and provided families who were struggling with gift cards to supermarkets so they could help feed their families (most were undocumented immigrants). I am still doing that from time to time when I can.
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
TO: The designs of my cakes, and concepts for The Cupcake Carriage and The Ellinnet Cake Collection are inspired by the latest fashion, trends, art, and everything around me.
Tell us about the Cupcake Carriage.
TO: The Cupcake Carriage is my new baby and we’ve worked very hard on the concept. Our goal was to create a unique experience and not have a typical food truck-feel. We wanted children to be excited about visiting our mobile bakery and empowered by its message.
In general, we offer quality desserts such as assorted cupcakes, French macaroons, gluten-free cupcakes in a jar, and even preordered cookie decorating kits. Because of the limitations with COVID-19 regulations and our inability to do cupcake decorating workshops at this time, we decided to open up for retail on Sinatra Drive in Hoboken four days a week. It’s been amazing and has kept us afloat, thanks to the locals who have become regulars. I’m very grateful for that.
Have you baked treats for celebrities?
^DJ Khaled’s family enjoying Tennille’s cake
TO: I have had the honor of creating elaborate cakes for celebrities including DJ Khaled, his wife Nicole Tuck, and his son Asahd Khaled. I’ve also been hired to bake cakes for Alicia Keys, Mashonda Tifrere, Swizz Beatz, and Miley Cyrus for her birthday celebration. There are many more but I am unable to disclose their names.
What has been the highlight in your career life so far?
TO: Building and fully bootstrapping a successful business from the ground up. Fighting through extremely tough obstacles without ever giving up and most of all, teaching my children what hard work looks like, and proving that it pays off.
Tell us about any promotions you have going on?
TO: The Sprinkle Package is a package we offer to distribute cupcakes at private events displayed on our beautiful mobile bakery. We like to say we are “bringing all things sweet & pretty to life’s most precious events.”
We designed this package for different types of events but find that parents love it when used for birthday parties because it provides an interactive experience for the kids. This concept allows the birthday child to enter the mobile bakery, dress up in our branded chef hat and apron, and distribute the cupcakes to their guests. It provides the experience of working in a real boutique bakery while having fun. It’s the perfect way to add something special to the intimate parties hosted throughout the COVID-19 season. We have favor options such as apron sets, scented vanilla cupcake necklaces, cookie decorating kits, and so much more. We call these our “additional toppings”.
What are your goals for this year?
TO: My goals are to get more exposure for The Cupcake Carriage and build our client base that will allow me to create another Carriage to service the NYC area. We are hoping to build a lifestyle brand that will be known across the United States and eventually franchise the business in the future.
What’s a typical day look like for you?
TO: My days are crazy, insanity! I am a wife and mother of three amazing boys, who are my motivation and drive. I am in between games, client calls, and production on a daily basis. I’m hoping to create a team that will help me build the business and allow me to create a better work/life balance. The Cupcake Carriage is slowly exiting the start-up phase and I look forward to celebrating that milestone soon!
And now, for the local fun:
Tell us about another business in the area you admire.
I admire “Trim” Barber Shop. I know that sounds unusual being that its a male-based business, but I admire businesses that take branding seriously and put their customers first.
What is your favorite restaurant in Hoboken?
Dino & Harrys is my go-to restaurant in Hoboken. I love the salmon and my husband loves the steak.
What do you love most about Hoboken/Jersey City?
The diversity, the city feel, the different shops and places to eat.
What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County?
Bike ride with my family on the waterfront and enjoy the downtown Jersey City area on date nights.
What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Hoboken/Jersey City?
Sinatra Drive has a beautiful view we love to enjoy during the day with the kids.
What is your favorite place to work out in Hudson County?
Outdoors is always my favorite place to workout.
Where do you go out with friends in the area?
Washington Street, Sinatra Drive, and Downtown Jersey City when I actually have time to hang out.
What is something you think needs to come to Hoboken or Jersey City?
Hoboken is pretty much covered, but Jersey city needs The Cupcake Carriage!
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