Name: Sylvia Weinstock

Occupation: Founder, Sylvia Weinstock Cakes in New York City, known for celebrity wedding cakes, including those for Catherine Zeta-Jones and Donald Trump. Her elaborate creations (some resemble vases filled with flowers; others, tiered French baskets filled with baby's breath) start at $350 and have been shipped as far as Saudi Arabia and Tokyo.

Founded: 1979. "I'm doing a wedding for a woman whose mother's wedding I also did."

Annual revenue and employees: Nearly $2 million; 16, including eight who are devoted solely to making "botanically correct" sugar flowers by hand.

Getting started: While the rest of her family skied, the former schoolteacher would bake the afternoons away at their house in Hunter, N.Y. "I baked more than anybody wanted to eat, so I started selling the pies and tarts and cakes to local restaurants," says the grandmother of six.

Learning on the job: Weinstock had no formal training but found mentors who told her nobody was making beautiful cakes that also tasted delicious, which she set out to remedy.

Secret sauce: Decorations are made in advance, so she can decorate cakes -- baked as close to delivery as possible -- in less than two hours. She also genuinely cares about her customers, who spread the word. "This is an obsessive business because of the intensity and personal value that everyone places on their occasion," she says. "And I honor that. I fret. I worry. And unless I heard that the cake arrived happy, I'm checking that phone all the time."

Things I Can't Live Without...

  • Nestelle's Cake Craft Food Coloring, $19.50 (16 ounces): "I like the consistency and intense color."
  • Hobart 90-quart mixer: "They are the standard in the industry. I still have the one I bought 15 years ago."
  • Antique Garland Stove: "It's a workhorse."
  • E. Dehillerin Copper Pots, $200 and up: "Nothing sticks to them. I like the old look."

...And What I Covet

  • Longchamp Tote Bags, $80 and up: "I want them in every color. They weigh nothing. When I go to Europe to deliver cakes, I can fold them up, pack them, and fill them with things I buy while I'm there."