Judy Reyna-O’Neil started baking custom cakes because she enjoyed the challenge. Now, Yudy Cakes is her full-time job.
Reyna-O’Neil said she applied for a job at a bakery on a whim five years ago. After watching as others baked and decorated cakes, she decided to practice on her own at home.
One year later, after making numerous treats for friends and family, word of her cakes had spread, and strangers were contacting Reyna-O’Neil to place orders.
Since 2009, making custom cakes has been Reyna-O’Neil’s full-time job. She said she makes between seven and 13 cakes each weekend.
Reyna-O’Neil said 90 percent of her cakes are buttercream, and she prefers using that instead of fondant. She also explained that using buttercream saves on the cost, which she passes on to customers.
Reyna-O’Neil usually requests two weeks’ notice when ordering, but said she tries to accommodate everyone.
“A bride called me the day before her wedding. Her cake decorator had disappeared and she was hysterical,” Reyna-O’Neil explained. “I made it work. I hate saying no. She was really happy with her cake too.”
Making custom cakes is a long process, because everything is made from scratch, Reyna-O’Neil said. “I usually take Monday and Tuesday off and start baking on Wednesday for the weekend. I probably work 60-70 hours each week,” she said.
“It’s the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life," she said. "People want their cakes to look awesome and I want to make them look and taste awesome. Once the cake is done, I think, all right, this is all worth it. I love it.”
Adriana Chavoya reconnected with Reyna-O’Neil on Facebook a few years ago and was amazed by her talent.
“Judy has made all my cakes for the past three years and each cake has made my occasions even more special,” Chavoya said.
Chavoya has placed orders for her daughter’s birthday, dance recitals, baby showers, the Fourth of July, baptisms, her wedding cake, and friends' and relatives' birthday cakes. She has ordered cakes, sugar cookies and cupcakes.
“I always apologize to her because I am a pain when I order…She could say no, but that’s not her style, she is always up for the challenge,” Chavoya said.
“She even went to the party store to see the colors just so she could match them to the cake. She has always exceeded my expectations,” Chavoya said.
Each month, Reyna-O’Neil seeks out someone she can help by donating one of her cakes. Last month, she donated to a young girl to help raise money for a breast cancer walk.
Reyna-O’Neil said she’s self-taught and has never taken any baking or cake decorating courses. She learned and continues to learn through trial and error.
Currently, Reyna-O’Neil rents retail space after hours to utilize their kitchen.
“I’m happy with how things are right now,” she said. “One day I’d like to own my own bakery, but so many have been opening recently and I want to finance it on my own.”
“I have seen Judy’s business grow in these last few years and I truly believe she is just getting started," Chavoya said. "She has talent and loves what she does and her cakes show it."
Reyna-O’Neil has lived in Oswego since age 15, and graduated from Oswego High School. “I love it here and wouldn’t live anywhere else,” she said.