by Stephanie Malench
ST. JACOB — Cathy Gilomen, the baker/owner of It’s a Piece of Cake in St. Jacob, has been nominated to be The Greatest Baker in a competition sponsored by Buddy Valastro “The Cake Boss”. Gilomen was nominated by Jaclyn Mowe who has worked with her for 10 of the 11 years the bakery has been open.
Gilomen was shocked when she heard Mowe nominated her for the contest because she is shy and does not like to be interviewed. However, this is not the first time Gilomen and her work has been nominated for a baking contest. Several years ago, It’s a Piece of Cake made it to the Top 10 Bakeries in the United States in another contest by Bake magazine.
The winner of the contest will win $10,000, a two-page spread in Bake from Scratch magazine, and an exclusive workshop and Q&A with Valastro. Readers can vote once every 24 hours for free by verifying their identity using their Facebook account or a credit card number that will not be charged. Fans of Gilomen can also pay for votes by making a donation to the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation to support families dealing with pediatric cancer.
The contest is in its fourth year and the 2021 Greatest Baker, Malia Jusczyk, died this year after her own battle with childhood cancer which she fought throughout the competition.
The first round of voting will end at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7. The top 20 from each group of 48 advanced to the next round which will last two more weeks. The nominees were divided into approximately 20 groups and contain both professional and hobby bakers.
Gilomen was raised by artistic parents, but it was flowers and not baking that they expressed themselves in. It was actually her babysitter that taught her how to bake. She then continued honing her craft by creating special cakes for her children’s birthdays. After working in the food industry for several years, Gilomen decided to It’s a Piece of Cake in St. Jacob in February of 2012, living upstairs from the bakery.
After COVID, Gilomen was having difficulty finding employees to work and was down to just a handful of customers each morning, so she made the decision to close the bakery for dine-in service in February of 2022. Gilomen does not regret making the decision to go to porch pick-up and curbside delivery only. “Because of the Illinois Cottage Food Law [that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012], I was able to just keep my food handler’s license, cancel my business license and restaurant license and only has to pay the residential rate for property taxes, not the business rate.”
Gilomen said she also gets to focus more on the baking for individual clients without having to worry about the waste associated with not knowing how many people would come in for breakfast or lunch on any given day. When she had in-shop dining, she would not be able to begin baking her cake and pie special orders until after lunch had been made and would spend 12 hours baking to fulfill her orders. Gilomen enjoys the flexibility that comes with running a cottage industry bakery than the former brick and mortar bakery.
This flexibility has also allowed her to purchase a food truck so she can sell at various events in the area, such as the O’Fallon, Highland, and Maryville Farmer’s Markets as well as other festivals and events that want to feature her products on site.
With the $10,000, Gilomen plans to do advertising to recover over 10,000 followers she lost when her social media was hacked in October 2022. She also plans to modernize her equipment, as she is using much of the same equipment she has used since before she opened her business. Gilomen also hopes to purchase a sheeter to streamline fondant work and enhance cake and cookie decoration.
According to Gilomen, the best part of the job is making customers happy. She takes pride in clients coming back after she bakes them a cake and hearing all the compliments the guests had at the event where the cake was served. Gilomen’s favorite items to bake are pies because she likes to play with different combinations of fillings. Her favorite is the Fruits of the Forest pie which is a blend of apples, blueberries, pineapple, and peaches. Her favorite cake was a white on white wedding cake with white trees on a mountain with pinecones and greenery adorning each tier and displayed on a “log” base.
Gilomen sells not just cakes for any occasion, but cake pops, brownies, pastries, pies, cakes, and gooey butter cakes. Orders can be placed through the bakery’s Facebook or Instagram page (It’s a Piece of Cake #STJ) or by phone (618)644-3888.
The winner will be announced at the end of January and Gilomen needs votes in each round to advance. The link to vote is https://greatestbaker.com/2023/cathy-gilomen. I’m part of the community and families here. It would make me proud if they would vote for me.”