Who doesn’t love dessert? It’s easy to gobble up the sweet treats that end the meal, but whipping up the goodies that everyone looks forward to takes hard work, dedication, and talent. Just ask Rutgers University-Camden alumna Theresa Hrivnak, owner and head baker of Indulgence Cupcakery, located in Haddonfield, NJ. Theresa has enjoyed much success, such as being featured as a contestant on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and being named as having the “Best Cupcake in South Jersey” from South Jersey Magazine, but her accomplishments were earned through many years of hard work and sacrifice.
Prior to her start in the bakery business, Theresa had planned for a career in broadcasting and journalism. With that goal in mind, she earned her associate’s degree in communications from Camden County College in 2004 and her bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers-Camden in 2006. After graduation, Theresa landed a job with Clear Channel, selling air time for local radio station 104.5 FM. It was during this time that Theresa had what she calls a “20s life crisis.”
“I realized that an office job wasn’t for me, and that I really wanted to work for myself. I had a wonderful mentor, Steven Gonzalez, who gave me the push I needed to get out of that job and go to school for pastry,” Theresa says. A member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority while at Rutgers-Camden, Theresa had done a lot of baking for various fundraisers they held She enjoyed it so much that she decided to turn baking into a career. She applied to Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, MA, and was accepted. In January 2007, she began a six-month course that taught baking basics.
“From the minute I got to Cambridge, I knew I made the right decision,” Theresa says. “The experience was really exciting and I loved learning how to create amazing pastries and how to troubleshoot problems in the kitchen.”
After receiving her Culinary Certificate, Theresa spent time working in a dessert restaurant, Finale, also located in Cambridge, and a wholesale bakery, DK Pastry, back in her hometown of Cherry Hill. Theresa calls both experiences “enlightening.” With her ultimate goal to start her own bakery, working in these two different aspects of the dessert industry was a great way to prepare for her own business. “It was useful to get insight on management styles, how to effectively communicate with customers and employees, and how to time-manage making and delivering quality products,” she says.
While working in the industry, Theresa also spent hours – she estimates two full years – working in her own kitchen, developing and perfecting 130 recipes for cupcakes, tarts, whoopee pies, and cakes. In 2009, Theresa and her business partner Joseph Halloran founded Indulgence Cupcakery, and began to cater special events such as weddings, bridal and baby showers, and birthday parties. They opened the doors to their current storefront in 2010; their shop is located in Haddonfield’s commercial district, just behind the Hadrosaurus statue.
Theresa’s unique products make Indulgence Cupcakery stand out as a superior specialty bakery. She and her employees bake fresh every morning, and the bakery features flavors ranging from the classic chocolate and vanilla, to more unusual combinations such as blueberry cheesecake and raspberry champagne, to seasonal favorites like pumpkin spice and gingerbread. In addition to having traditional cupcakes, she offers custom packages, like cupcake towers, for special events.
In 2012, after many rounds of auditions, Indulgence Cupcakery was chosen to appear on Cupcake Wars, a TV competition on which four bakers face off in three elimination challenges, and are judged by international dessert chefs. Theresa and Joe performed admirably, making it to the final round, and leaving as runners-up. “Cupcake Wars was a great marketing opportunity. It was fun to challenge ourselves with crazy ingredients and be in a fast-paced, competitive atmosphere,” Theresa says.
Being a business-owner for the past five years, Theresa has acknowledged that the stakes are high. “Knowing that at the end of the day that everything in the space that surrounds you is yours and you can make or break your future is both rewarding and scary,” she says. Nevertheless, Theresa’s strong work ethic and dedication to her business have made it possible for her to open up a new location of Indulgence Cupcakery in the coming months. Details at this time are undisclosed, but we’ll be sure to check in for an update so you can know about a second spot to grab a cup of coffee and one of Indulgence Cupcakery’s delicious confections.
About Theresa Hrivnak
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ
Camden College of Arts and Sciences Graduation Date: 2006
Written By Julie Roncinske