From Vogue to baking cakes: An interview with ‘Le Smart Cake’ founder

By now, if you are not leaving under a rock in Lausanne, you’ve probably heard about Le Smart Cake… But maybe you haven’t tried it yet and this is a shame. Le Smart Cake has recently celebrated one year and it is expanding quickly. Available in 35 selling points in Swiss Romande, it is the perfect treat for your afternoon cravings… But it’s not just another cake without gluten or lactose, it is much more than that. First of all, it is the first product on the line of healthy gluten-free and lactose-free that really taste like mom-made. It is fluffy and moist and really delicious that you feel like indulging yourself – did we say that it is a 45% reduced in sugar product? To top all that, Le Smart Cake is really healthy, it contains super aliments and is packed with ingredients we should be eating every day like: chia, quinoa, flaxseeds and much more…

When we had the chance to meet the creative mind behind this business, we didn’t think twice. Luciana Esteves is a Brazilian force, a radiant person, always smiling, talking and never misses the opportunity to offer you a piece of cake. She is proud of her product and with good reason! In this interview, we got to know more about Le Smart Cake, how it came to life, its homemade process and how was Luciana’s transition from working at Vogue, to baking cakes in Switzerland.

Les Toiles: How long did it take you to develop the “Le Smart Cake” recipe to its current form? Tell us about your trials.

Luciana: I would say that it took many, many years, if we take into account that every batch of cake is always a new experience… In fact, I remember my first cake recipe I learned from a friend of my mother’s. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. It was delicious and very simple. We just had to combine all the ingredients in the blender! Since then, my lifestyle has been changing, nutrition and functional foods have become part of my daily life, and trying new combinations of ingredients has become something natural to me. Whenever I decided to prepare a recipe, I would change the quantities, exchange the wheat flour for other cereals and grains, taking into account the benefits of each, hoping for it to work (laughs). I’ve even made sweet potato cake! On one of those culinary alchemy afternoons the Smart Cake was born, a cake that is nutritious, low in sugar, a source of omega-3, fibers and proteins, and is still gluten-free and dairy-free. So, I do not know how long it took to get the recipe, but it was the result of many afternoons of experimentation in the kitchen!

Les Toiles: When did you realize that your love for baking healthy cakes could be a business idea?

Luciana: In fact, it was not I who realized it … it was my husband! He’s the one to blame(laughs)!! I was still enjoying my sabbatical year, enjoying one of my afternoons doing what I did not have time for before – such as cooking. The equation of free time + winter days resulted in many and many cakes that perfumed the house and ended up in my husband’s backpack, he used to have them as a snack at work. In a short time, the fame of healthy cakes spread at his workplace and people started asking if they could order some. That was the click. We created the name, the concept, we sketched the brand … and there began a great change in my life.

LT: We heard you had a really different life in Brazil where you used to work as a marketing manager for Vogue. How has this transition from one life to another happened?

Luciana: Yes, really different indeed! I’m an advertising executive, and before moving to Switzerland, I worked for Conde Nast for a few years as Digital Manager for Vogue, GQ, Glamor, until I became Business Development Director for Casa Vogue. The transition was radical: I traded high heels for sneakers, my party dresses for aprons, and my arsenal of make-up for cereal and flour!! But I’m very happy! Today all my energy is dedicated to a product that is good and does well. And I take great pride in offering people a healthy alternative that is also delicious and practical, that is, everything I have always wanted when I did not have time to prepare anything myself at home!

LT: How is it to be a women entrepreneur and what is your advice to those starting their business adventures?

Luciana: Regardless of the genre, I think that having a business is something very fulfilling. I do not have children, but I imagine it should be a similar feeling. To see something that you created from scratch growing, transforming, impacting and being part of people’s lives … is an indescribable sensation. My advice is: if you do something that you truly believe in, whatever it is, it will work. Obstacles will appear, you will think about giving up countless times, but seek motivation in your daily achievements, and GO ON. It is the simplest and most effective advice I can give. My world sometimes is upside-down, my to-do list seems endless, but every time I walk into one of my sales points and I hear someone asking for a “smart cake”, it’s like someone recharging my battery in fractions of seconds. And I keep on going.

LT: What do you miss the most from Brazil?

Luciana: The sun that exists within each Brazilian. What does that mean? That there is a vibration and a state of joy that is difficult to explain and that is born with us. A permanent party mood, as if there was always something to celebrate. It’s natural to see someone humming or dancing in the middle of the street, always with a smile on their faces. The good energy of receiving a hug from someone we just met. I miss the unpredictable, the musicality, the light, the eternal summer and all the tropical fruits we can eat all year long!

LT: Your Smart Cakes are all over these days! Available in many spots across the city. We bet you really know Lausanne all the way through! What would be your itinerary if you have to show the city in one day to show someone who just arrived in Lausanne? Share with us your favorite spots, cafes, places.

Luciana: My favorite coffee place here is the Sleepy Bear, near the train station, which serves the coffee beans of the of The Goodlife Coffee team, which I’m a fan of! I also like to start my day with a juice at Yummy K on Rue Enning! They have super creative and tasty blends, which reminds me of Brazil’s juice stores! Whenever I get friends here I have to take them to Brasserie du Montbenon, as well. I find the food there great and it is a perfect starting point for a city tour, starting with the gardens there. On a daily basis, I recommend Café Mood for lunch, beautifully done by the talented Natalia. The atmosphere is cozy and an excellent place for a coffee too. On a summer’s day (my favorites!!) I’d rather get a salad at the Confisserie de L’Etoile Blanche or one of the delicious Smoothies of the Bad Hunter at Flon, and head for Lutry (it’s not Lausanne, but it’s close, right?). It is my favorite corner during summer, whether to swim in the lake or simply to admire the beautiful landscape that we have the privilege to enjoy.

LT: How does “Le Smart Cake” delivery process look like?

Luciana: It’s always crazy! The cakes are produced in the bakery every day in the morning, manually packed (yes, manually !!) right after, and then delivered at the selling points. Since I’m the one who takes care of deliveries, sometimes I feel like an Uber driver crossing the city – and the whole canton of Vaud – up and down the road. But I love being with customers, and it’s where I also have the chance to meet my final consumer. It is always very gratifying to know who chooses a Smart Cake daily, the ones that make the business a reality.

LT: Tell us about your junk food cravings… The one with gluten and everything?  

Luciana: I love pizza, even with all the gluten and lactose it has (laughs). I just cannot resist.

LT: How would you compare peoples’ relationship with food in Switzerland and in Brazil? Is it different, and if so how?

Luciana: I think there is a great deal of awareness here about the consumption of local products, while in Brazil this is not so widespread. On the other hand, the aesthetic issue, the concern with physical form is very strong – at least in Rio, where I was born – and this makes people seek lighter and healthier alternatives. Temperature also has a strong influence on habits: we eat lots of fruits, salads, fish, while the food here is heavier.

LT: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Luciana: I’ve never been one to make many plans, but I’m a very dedicated person, persistent and obstinate in everything I do. Hard to say where I will be in 5 years, but I would like to launch at least another two or three product lines by then and to expand the Smart Cake brand through franchises in Europe – where we have also registered the brand. We went from 5 to 35 selling points in a year, I think that for now, the only plan is to celebrate!

Thanks to Luciana Esteves and Le Smart Cake

 Styling, Art Direction: Bruno Corrêa

Photos by: Jagoda

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About the Author : Magda

Magda is a dreamer & an enthusiastic writer, in love with turquoise and traveling. She dislikes artichokes, is an avid worker and goals achiever, a proud Romanian and a vintage enthusiast. Magda brings her love for retro and vintage pieces into a modern, creative and funny context both on Les Toiles and her own blog Magda Oltean

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