Ilona and Irina Znakharchuk
Mango passionfruit coconut. Raspberry chocolate. Berry vanilla. With all the amazing cakes, tarts, and more at Solodko Boston, it might be hard to choose just one. That’s because Ilona Znakharchuk and her sister, Irina, create desserts that exude elegance through timeless, classic aesthetics, and delicious ingredients. “We focus on creating things that are as delicious as they are pretty,” Ilona says. Welcome to Solodko’s world of edible art.
Solodko, “sweet” in Ukrainian, was founded during Ilona’s sophomore year at Boston College. After seeing the beautiful desserts in their native Ukraine, she and her sister saw a distinct lack of them in the Greater Boston area, so they set out to introduce Eastern European desserts to their local community. They sourced and adapted recipes from a Ukrainian pastry chef and developed their own unique menu through careful trial and experimentation. Today, at their new location in Brighton, Massachusetts, they create custom cakes for special events, and pay homage to their roots by offering Medovik, the classic Ukrainian honey cake. As they prepare for the grand opening of their storefront and cafe, Solodko has already been featured in Gusto Journal and provided desserts for the 2022 John F. Kennedy Library Foundation May Dinner, where Ukrainian president Zelenskyy was a 2022 Profile In Courage Award honoree. “It was truly a humbling experience to be able to represent Ukraine with our desserts,” Ilona says.
We sat down with Ilona to learn about her culinary journey, where her inspiration comes from, and just how sweetly business is going.
How long have you been in the culinary field?
I started in 2019, my sophomore year in college. I baked on the weekends and posted to Instagram, and orders came in from all over campus. They called me the “macaron angel.” I started to do more research on running a food business, but it was difficult to find information on permits and licensing. After reaching out to the director of Boston College Dining, and receiving some information from him, I thought, “How am I going to do all this?” But then a friend told me about the Boston College Shea Center’s Accelerator Program for student startups. I participated in the program in 2020, and in 2021 we obtained our first commercial kitchen. At the time, my sister and I both worked in finance, and that really helped us with the administrative and financial aspects of running a small business. As much as we’re artists at heart, we’re also entrepreneurs. Creativity and business become more satisfactory when they go hand in hand.
Where do your ideas come from?
They come from anywhere. I look at cake as edible art. An artist can make a painting inspired by a nature scene and it’s the same with cake. I was really into fashion growing up, so I sometimes see a beautiful dress in a store, and it inspires me to design a cake. The texture on a wall, a piece of architecture, anything. Cake as edible art is a fairly new idea; it’s uncommon to view something so temporary as “art,” but what goes into creating a cake is as involved as what goes into creating a painting or sculpture. There’s another layer of complexity too, because it has to taste amazing! Music has also been a big part of my life, and it’s similar to baking in that there are multiple moving parts. It takes timing and patience to assemble all these pieces into a cohesive whole. My sister constructs the individual parts while I usually assemble the final product.
Can you share one of your favorite cake designs?
We love gold. A lot of our cakes have edible gold accents. How often do you get to eat gold? We also work a lot with textures. Sometimes we use really unique tools. For example, to get our velour cake effect, we use a spray gun made for painting walls. Our kitchen often looks like we’re doing construction with all the tools!
What inspires you?
My sister and I are determined to be successful. Our parents came from Ukraine and sacrificed so much to give us this opportunity. Whatever we do here has to make them proud. Another motivating factor is helping and inspiring other people. When a soon-to-be mother beams at her baby shower cake, it’s so fulfilling, and we’re very thankful for the opportunity to brighten someone’s life. It makes all the hard work worth it. We also find joy in mentoring others. Recently, a friend wanted to open her own food business and was just as overwhelmed as I was three years ago. It was satisfying to share what I had learned throughout my journey in order to help her in her endeavors.
Ilona and Irina Znakharchuk
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