A two-tiered pink birthday cake with a birdcage on top was the starting point for Julia Inzhirov’s path in baking.
A 26-year-old native of Moldova (a small country between Ukraine and Romania), Inzhirov admits she didn’t bake much before or after her family moved to Chicago in 2005.
“The only cake I really baked is my dad’s favorite, which is a Napoleon cake (puff pastry filled with a custard cream),” she says. “I did see my mom bake a lot, but I wasn’t very interested in it at the time.”
That changed after Inzhirov moved to Evansville, where her sister lived. With her niece’s first birthday approaching, Inzhirov was asked if she could bake and decorate a cake for the occasion.
“And that’s where my love for baking actually began,” she says.
Soon after, Inzhirov began baking up other tasty creations, from beautiful Eastern European desserts to the popular French macaron cookie. It was her first batch of macarons that spurred her to venture into the baking business in 2017. Two years later, her macarons still are favorites — her batches at River Kitty Cat Café have increased in size to keep up with demand, and Planters Café now sells her six most popular flavors.
But it’s her cakes and decorating that bring Inzhirov the most joy.
“I love to decorate and customize a cake for a customer,” she says. “There was a cake I
did recently — a lady’s daughter liked galaxy things. So I included chocolate spheres on the cake. It was something new and kind of challenging, but I loved doing it.”
Trying new things has allowed Inzhirov to also branch out to teaching classes at Thyme in the Kitchen, helping people learn baking tips. Her first class — covering cream horns — sold out. She will return to teach the dessert again along with Russian tarts on July 20.
Though her venture is only a part-time job (she rents kitchen space once a week), Inzhirov hopes to keep building on her early successes. Not only does a love of baking and decorating keep her motivated, but her customers do as well.
“It’s so rewarding to see people’s faces when they see their cake or whenever they try something new,” she says. “It’s a learning process. That’s what I like about it a lot. You’re going to learn something new every day.”