By Caroline Shively Sucher
Photos by Arden Haley
Ruby Vanags’s specialty is saying “Yes.”
Want a wedding cake that looks like a peacock with dozens of cupcakes that look like beautiful, shimmery feathers?
A superhero cake with a cape?
Or what about a five-layer, scrumptious, one-of-a-kind wedding cake with a spray of fresh roses?
“You got it.”
How about sharing one of her cake recipes?
That’s the one thing that Ruby won’t do. When you taste how good her cakes are and hear how much time and research she puts into each recipe, you’ll probably understand why. She is co-owner of Ruby’s Cake Shoppe in Easton, Maryland, along with her husband Peteris, and if a bride can dream up a cake, she and her team can make it.
“If somebody asks me, ‘Do you make this kind of cake?’ even though I don’t have a recipe, I will say ‘yes’ because it’s a challenge for me,” she says.
When coming up with a new recipe, Ruby first finds inspiration online.
“Then I need to tweak,” she says. “Sometimes there are some flavors that I combine: I omit this thing, replace it with this or that. I have to create my own thing.”
Peteris describes it this way: “She’s the Tiger Woods of baking because she makes it look so easy. She can separate a hundred eggs practically in the blink of an eye while I try to do one and I’ve got shells everywhere… She tried her best to teach me, but I was useless, so she fired me from the back.”
That’s why Peteris is probably the person you’ll see in the front of the store while Ruby works her magic in the back with her team. While she’s the only baker in the shop, she has two designers, Deggy and Belle, plus Tatianna, who pitches in where she’s needed.
While Ruby’s cakes are remarkable, so is her story. She’s originally from the city of Iloilo, in the Philippines. She moved to Hong Kong to work as a nanny, then moved to America and married her husband in 2005 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010.
The only thing she hadn’t done along the way was bake a cake. Her baking career began almost by accident six years ago. Ruby was craving a cake that she’d tried at a shop in Ocean City, but she decided the drive was too long, so she bought a box of cake mix.
“I didn’t like the cake mix, so I went online to Google different flavors, then came across some recipes that I tried… If there was a flavor that I wanted to try, I would pull three to five recipes and I try them to find out which one was better,” she recalls.
That’s when she started experimenting with her own flavors and sharing what she’d made with relatives and close friends.
“I thought it was just for family consumption, but when I started bringing cakes to potluck parties, everybody was crazy about it. They’d never had that type of cake before. They kept begging to order from me.”
At first, Ruby made the cakes part-time when she got home from her full-time job at a hotel, but it made for some impossibly long days.
“She was working out of our townhouse in Cambridge. We had three refrigerators in there. She would get home from working at the Hyatt at 10 or 11 at night, then work on her cakes until three or four in the morning, and then start it all over again the next day,” Peteris says.
As she slowly built up a following and a list of secret recipes, Ruby began dreaming of her own shop.
“I said, ‘I think this will be my future.’ That’s why I started creating more and more flavors.”
But it took a few more years of dreaming before that future could happen. Peteris remembers, “The stars just weren’t aligned.” Then, in 2020, the pair took the leap and opened the cake shop. Today, the team makes custom cakes for birthdays, parties, and other occasions, but Ruby has a special place in her heart for wedding cakes.
“I always try my best, because a wedding cake is very important for me. My motto is: I want the bride to be happy and have a cake that they love on their wedding day,” she says.
Ruby recently made a cake for a pastry chef who works at a top hotel in Washington, DC, who was marrying another chef. While she strives for perfection with every wedding cake, cooking for two experts in the field was intense.
“The cake that she ordered from me is very special, something I had not done before, so it really made me nervous,” Ruby recalls. “But she loved it.”
Peteris shares her passion, if not her baking skills. Before they opened the shop, they wondered how they could work together. “It’s interesting. A couple of close friends said husband-and-wife teams never really work out well,” he says.
But they’ve figured out a division of labor that works. She bakes, of course, while he works the register, explains the process to customers, maintains the books, and analyzes sales to see what cakes and recipes they should focus on.
If Ruby is the Tiger Woods of baking, he says, “I’m Ruby’s caddy!”
Ruby's Cake Shoppe - Easton, MD