By STEPHANIE BERNABA Editor's note: This is the first installment in an occasional series focused on the stories of female entrepreneurs in the Cranston area. Sitting across from Bianca Christofaro - the mastermind behind the bake shop Queen B's Cakery -
Editor’s note: This is the first installment in an occasional series focused on the stories of female entrepreneurs in the Cranston area.
Sitting across from Bianca Christofaro – the mastermind behind the bake shop Queen B’s Cakery – is, in a word, humbling.
Serving successfully as a custom cake conceptualizer, baker and artist for the past nine years does not appear at all to have gone to her head. Dressed in a simple short-sleeved T-shirt and black apron, her hair in a headband with a black bow, she relaxes in her executive chair.
Now 39, Christofaro – a lifelong Cranston resident and 1998 Cranston High School West graduate – says she never saw herself as a baker or business owner.
Her first experience in baking came while helping her grandmother as a child. Later, she would rely on hands-on experience and studying pictures and videos to develop her skills.
She began her cake business in 2010, albeit accidentally. After being inspired by the TLC series “Cake Boss,” she was determined to build her mother a custom cake resembling a Mini Cooper. With little training – and no experience whatsoever with specialty toppings such as fondant – she managed to do just that.
“It came out decent enough,” she said with a laugh. “Looking back at it now, it was not great. But they thought it was awesome.”
After her initial success, Christofaro began making more cakes for her family and friends and posting images of the finished products online. She worked from her apartment in Cranston while maintaining a full-time job at an auction company.
As her volume grew and the cakes increased in complexity, however, she had no choice but to “set up shop” at her parents’ house. That lasted only a short while before her mother, Vanessa Christofaro, firmly but gently urged her to rent a space of her own.
In 2011, Christofaro opened a very small shop in Cranston. By 2013, her business had expanded so rapidly that she outgrew that space and found her current location – measuring roughly 1,200 square feet – at 1227 Atwood Ave. in Johnston.
She worked in the shop four nights a week while continuing to hold a full-time job. Then, she began taking Fridays off to bake throughout the weekends. In 2013, she was finally ready to leave her job completely, and poured all her energy into Queen B’s, into which she now invests 60-100 hours per week.
“It’s hard on the body – I’m on my feet many hours a week, and often I work through the night finishing cakes,” she confessed.
As for her current location in Johnston, she said: “I love it here. It’s a great location, centrally located, and great for making deliveries.” After baking for years with a single-oven stove, she is now also the proud owner of commercial baking equipment.
“It was a learning curve,” she said. “I had ever only used a stove. I never used commercial appliances before I bought these.”
Queen B’s is the quintessential example of a one-woman powerhouse – Christofaro is the baker, businesswoman, decorator and, very often, the delivery person.
“My mom used to come in to help me. She used to make frosting,” she said. “And my dad, Steve, has made countless, countless deliveries.”
Overall, however – and particularly since her parents recently moved from Cranston to Narragansett – she handles the entire operation herself.
In addition to her long workweeks, she manages to volunteer her time baking for the nationwide nonprofit Icing Smiles, which provides celebration cakes for children and families affected by major illnesses. She said that to this day, her Icing Smiles cakes, and interactions with participating families, have been the most memorable aspect of her experience.
Christofaro takes orders via text, appointment or online. The simplicity with which she conducts her business appeals to busy clients, who can text over style ideas and pictures and peruse flavor menus on their smartphones. Flavors range from classics like chocolate and vanilla to more adventurous combinations such as piña colada, berry pink champagne and peanut butter and jelly.
In addition to cakes, she offers cake pops, cupcakes, chocolate covered pretzels, cookies and other treats.
Christofaro said she has surprised herself with the amount of variety and creativity involved in her work.
“I would have never have ever thought I’d be making cakes for people – stacking cakes on top of each other, or driving over the Newport bridge to someone’s wedding,” she said. “Art-wise, I never thought I was artistic. I never thought anything I would do was good enough. People are like, ‘Oh my God – you’re amazing!’ And I’m like, ‘Me? Really?’”
Asked about her favorite cakes to make, Christofaro said with a smile: “Girly. Super girly. Purses, lipstick, princesses, glitter.”
In her often-elusive free time, Christofaro enjoys traveling, the beach and relaxing with her boyfriend of four years, Ernie Ferretti, and brindle terrier, Olive.
Despite her culinary skillset, Christofaro said she believes her greatest accomplishment has been remaining in business – and being successful – for nearly a decade. She noted that she received a bachelor’s degree in finance.
“I just want to be the background person. I want the cake to be the front,” she said. “I just want to be the person that makes these beautiful cakes. That’s it.”
Find Queen B’s Cakery on Facebook and Instagram (@cakechic), via text at 524-4736 or at queenbcakery.com.