‘I knew then it was time for me to move on with my own small business’
Story by Emily Sparacino
Photographs by Dawn Harrison
Montevallo resident Cynthia Bertolone has her hands full at her business, Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Originally from Hoboken, New Jersey, Bertolone is of first-generation Puerto Rican decent. She and her Italian husband of 13 years, Michael Bertolone, have two children, GianCarlo and Lucia. Giuseppe “Papa Joe” Bertolone, Michael’s late father and former owner of Joe’s Italian in Alabaster, retired in Alabama from Gilroy, California, and convinced the couple to move from Las Vegas to Montevallo to be closer to family. “It was the best move we ever made so far,” Cynthia said. Cynthia graduated with a computer drafting manufacturing engineer degree and stays involved in the community by donating custom cake designs for King’s Home and bringing hope to abused youth, women and children in Alabama. She also enjoys sketching and painting.
Shelby Living: What type of business is Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone?
Cynthia Bertolone: Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone specializes in Italian pastries such as tiramisu, cannolis, biscottis and numerous flavors of cakes, wedding cakes, grooms’ cakes and custom cake designs. Yet, “We are More Then Just Cake” (that’s our motto). We offer Italian cuisine such as Meals-2-Go (Take-N-Bake), Family 4 Package Meal, and we serve lunch all day with hot pasta dishes, calzones, subs and sandwiches. In addition, we offer catering for all occasions including private parties.
SL: How did you know you were ready to run your own business?
CB: I was ready to operate my own business when the family restaurant “Joe’s Italian” in Alabaster was sold to a corporation. When the transition took place and they began to change the family recipes, I knew then it was time for me to move on with my own small business and opened Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone.
SL: What was the biggest challenge in founding Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone?
CB: My biggest challenge is creating delicious custom cakes without using fondant.
SL: What do you consider your greatest business success to date?
CB: The greatest business success is incorporating fresh homemade authentic Italian cuisine, Meals-2-Go, fresh bread, sauces alongside scrumptious desserts for busy lifestyle customers. It’s a one-stop shopping without the hassle. Just take and bake. Serving lunch to the surrounding businesses is also a huge success due to limited Italian restaurants in the Pelham area.
SL: What do you love most about your job?
CB: What I love most about my job is customer’s complete satisfaction with everything that we have to offer in our little shop.
SL: Could you tell me about your Italian pastries? What types do you make?
CB: Cake Art offers Italian pastries such as tiramisu, lemoncello tiramisu, gluten-free tiramisu, cannoli, cookies and biscotti. Also, Sfogliatelles, where we require 48 hours advance notice. Including Cuccidati only offer during the holidays.
SL: You also make custom cakes and wedding cakes. Could you describe some of your favorite cakes you’ve made over the years?
CB: My first and still my favorite custom cake design was a Goldendoodle dog cake. It was made with white cake and salted caramel mousse icing where I texturized the long strands of dog hair. In the past, I’ve made elaborate detailed wedding cakes but the best to date is the simplest, natural yet elegant called the Naked Cake. It exposed layers and layers of cake with minimal amount of frosting then garnish with fruit or fresh flowers.
SL: What was your first job?
CB: I’ve always worked since I was a young girl learning different trades until I found my passion in art. I worked for a company called Abbott Laboratories in San Diego, California, where I develop technical illustrations and documentation. It taught me to be creative with my designs and document step-by-step instructions.
SL: Who is your role model?
CB: God is my role model. He has given me the ability to be self-taught and independent. He has geared me to the right path when I made mistakes. He has given me the strength and faith to overcome the struggles that I have faced. He has given me the wisdom to set and achieve goals for the future of my life and the life of my family. Without God, I am nothing.
SL: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
CB: My advice to my 18-year-old self is don’t take things for granted, make the most of every opportunity, work hard and know the meaning of a dollar, save money, invest, retire early and live life to its fullest.
SL: Who are three people, living or dead, you would like to meet?
CB: I’ve had many deaths in my family, my mother Santia, my sister Dianne and my father Roberto. I wish I can meet with them again and be reunited so that we may be a family again.
SL: What other services do you offer at Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone?
CB: We offer catering service and full service private parties for all occasions. At Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone we make over 30 different flavors of cakes and icing. We are constantly creating new and exotic flavors.