"Girls and guys love cupcakes, and mine are just one bite," said Baked by Melissa founder Melissa Ben-Ishay, whose mini cupcakes have struck a cord with fashion insiders and celebrities (for instance, her creations were featured at HBO's Girls premiere party last night; see image below). "Just like fashion design, I can create a cupcake to resemble or feel like anything," Ben-Ishay remarked. "I worked with Betsey Johnson to create an original cupcake for Fashion Week, and I also created a cupcake to match Marc Jacobs's Oh Lola fragrance."
But why has the sartorial scene become so enamored with her treats (aside from their addictive nature)? "They're cute to look at which people in the fashion world love, and they're the perfect treat for those who are health conscious," Ben-Ishay explained. She began her business back in 2008 by setting up shop at NYC's pop-up holiday markets, and since, her brand has gone from small stands to nine brick-and-mortar locations. Plus, there are more bakeries to come as Ben-Ishay revealed exclusively to ELLE.com. In 2013, the brand is opening locations in the Jet Blue terminal at JFK Airport as well as in the Garden State Plaza in New Jersey. While she can't confirm the exact opening dates yet, she noted, "2013 is the year!" Here, she takes a break from spreading sugar highs to answer our favorite 10 questions.
1. What is your favorite smell? "I love the smell of nature and fresh air. I love the smell of the Catskills. It's my childhood. I grew up going there, so every time I go, it reminds me of something that is very pure and clean."
2. What do you consider the epitome of happiness? "To me it's good health, peace, and love. Also, when I'm out to dinner, and I eat great food with my greatest loves-which are my family and my husband."
'Girls' cupcakes3. How do you define luxury? "To me, luxury is anything that makes me happy and makes me feel comfortable. Literally, it's all about comfort-from the most comfortable blanket to the best foods that makes me feel amazing. Luxury should not have anything to do with what it costs."
4. What is the last dream you remember? "My dreams are always about work in some way. Sometimes I'm just sitting in the office having a normal day, and sometimes I'm with my hiring and training managers on a space shuttle in outer space. Work is always in there somehow-whether it's realistic or not."
5. What is your favorite childhood memory? "I feel very fortunate to say I have many wonderful childhood memories, but my best ones are when I was following my brother around. All I wanted to do was be included and hang out with him and his friends. And now I am-totally."
6. What's the last book you read and loved? "I'm in the middle of reading the Mick Jagger's biography, Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue. I read Keith Richards's Life, which is his biography. To hear the same stories from different perspectives is brilliant. The Rolling Stones were a business of their own, and I'm in mine. So I've learned a lot about my business through them."
7. Describe your home's aesthetic. "Comfortable, welcoming, loving, and warm. I mean it-it's actually warm, temperature wise."
8. What are your vices? "Baking (wink)."
9. Describe yourself in five words or less. "Curious, imaginative, honest, and loving."
10. What possession will you never throw away? "My Baked by Melissa scrapbook. It's the magical story of how we started this unbelievable thing. It's so much more than any word can say."