The cake master

August 2021

Temi Ologbenla decorates a two-tier cake with golden accents.

Photo: Alex MacAulay

Temi Ologbenla, BS ’10, is an award-winning baker whose menu includes mouth-watering cake flavors like cinnamon swirl, red velvet and pink champagne.

Portrait of Temi Ologbenla.

Photo: Dandelion Digital

But her love of baking is less about these decadent treats—and more about the sweet memories she has with them. Like growing up in Nigeria, when her mother would fill the table with the best desserts from around town. Or, how one of her first friends at the University at Buffalo would often bake her treats in the dorm.

“Let’s be honest, they were from a box,” she says with a laugh. “But it was just the love she poured into them that made them special.”

Today, as the owner of Temi Bakes, a dessert studio in Halifax, Canada, Ologbenla gets to create those special memories for her clients with custom wedding and birthday cakes and an array of baked goods for parties and corporate retreats.

“It’s so cool to be part of people's lives in this way,” she says. “I’m also very goal-oriented, and because I have my own business, I can push the envelope and set my own targets, both for profits and whatever crazy things I want to do this year.”

Ologbenla was an entrepreneur before she even knew the term. As a child, she recalls buying pencils and notebooks on vacation, and reselling them to kids at school.

Later, at UB, she started off in computer science, but quickly discovered that pursuing business administration, with a concentration in management information systems, was a better fit for her extroverted personality and career goals. Through her courses and her role as a student assistant in then-Provost Satish K. Tripathi’s office, Ologbenla gained skills in presentation, strategy and project management—and saw how those skills could translate into the workforce.

“The School of Management opened my eyes to different possibilities,” she says. “I’ve always been a planner, but I didn’t know there was a career I could use that skill for. My professors enlightened me on possibilities for different things I could use my gifts for.”

After commencement, Ologbenla earned her certification as a Project Management Professional and advanced through a series of roles in operations and procurement at Xerox Canada. Along the way, she took up baking as a hobby, often bringing treats in for her co-workers after the weekend.

Soon, her hobby turned into a passion—and a new career. She took a leave of absence to attend the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts and, in 2014, started a side hustle as a custom cake baker. Finally, in 2019, she left corporate life to take her cake business full time, while still helping small businesses with process improvement and project management as a consultant.

Since then, her client list has continued to grow, and in one of her proudest accomplishments, the UK’s Cake Masters magazine featured one of her creations: a pastel blue, three-tiered wedding cake adorned with bold white flowers. In addition, Ologbenla is developing a line of housewares, as well as a mentorship program for independent, women-run businesses in her area.

“It’s definitely been an interesting journey, with lots of twists and turns,” she says of her career so far. “Never a dull moment.”

Written by Matthew Biddle