Imerman Cake Company
Interviewed by Keri Guten Cohen
Photography by Scott Stewart
Something always seems to be cooking in Jane Imerman’s cozy kitchen in her home in Bloomfield Township.
“I love cooking and baking,” she says. “It’s a form of relaxation, like a movie is for some people.”
But she never expected to co-found Imerman Cake Company, which offers organic, ultra-healthy cakes that align with the health-consciousness she grew up with in Saginaw. Her mother and grandmother loved to cook; her father enjoyed being healthy.
“My father, a dentist, was into health and exercise,” she says, “so I grew up thinking it’s very important. He was ahead of his time in that area.”
She passed those ideals to her sons, Jeffrey and Jonny. Together, they pursued tennis, skiing, swimming and golf — and still do. And Jane walks nearly four miles daily with her two Italian water dogs, Bella (short for Portabella) and Mac (short for Macaroni).
Her zeal for healthy eating was elevated when Jonny was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 26.
“He had three surgeries and chemo,” she says. “Everything that could go wrong went wrong. He moved in with me. Jeffrey, who had decided to go to law school, stayed home and helped for a year.
“Jonny’s cancer was a wake-up call,” she says. “We became even more careful about what we eat and try to be as super-healthy as possible.”
Jonny, who lives in Chicago, is in remission. During his cancer fight, he found no one his age with similar experience he could talk to. So he founded the nonprofit Imerman Angels to provide that one-on-one cancer support.
His cancer got Jeffrey thinking of a life change.
“I probably never thought of cooking as a business,” Jane says. “Jeffrey called one day from New York, where he was a lawyer, and said he wants to market the chocolate chip coffee cake I made for them as children.
“He said, ‘What if I move back home and we try to market the cake?’ I said if he’d move back, I’d do anything. It’s a mom’s dream having a child come back.”
Organic, lower-fat, lower-sugar, nut-free versions of her chocolate chip and cinnamon cakes took a year to develop. In her kitchen, she modified ingredients to achieve the final versions using organic foods without preservatives, pesticides or genetic engineering.
Because her cakes have organic certification, Jane’s kitchen no longer would suffice. Now Imerman Cake Company produces its cakes in a separate room at Achatz Handmade Pie Company in Chesterfield Township, another family-owned company. Achatz professionals hand-mix the cakes and do the baking.
The company is environmentally conscious as well; even its cake boxes are eco-friendly. And each bears the logo of Jonny’s Imerman Angels, which receives a percentage of each sale.
Each week Jane offers samples in stores and listens to feedback. “I never thought at this age, I’d be doing all this,” she says. “My dream for the business is to offer as many people as possible a healthy choice, an indulgence people can feel good about.”
Proudest career accomplishment: The cakes!
How was it experimenting in your kitchen? It takes longer than you think to perfect a recipe. If my appliances could talk, they’d say, “How did we end up in this kitchen; we’re overworked.”
How is it working with your son? We’ve gotten to really know each other — not just as parent and son, but on an adult level and as business associates.
What’s new for Imerman Cakes? A 1-pound size in between our 2-pound cake and our half-pound mini.
Favorite hang out: My house. Because I walk my dogs twice a day, I’ve gotten to know so many neighbors. I love having people over. We let the dogs off their leashes in my backyard and have some wine. It’s so pleasant.
Passion for: Healthy living. I also love getting together with my family, who are almost all long distance. I just love it when I can be with them.
What most don’t know about me: I grow a ton of orchids in my living room. My orchid hospital is behind the couch near good sun. I must have 100 orchids. There’s always something blooming. NS
Find Imerman Cakes at Plum Market, Holiday Market, Vince & Joe’s Gourmet Market, Better Health Stores, Fresh Farms Market, Market Square and Cantoro’s Italian Market. For details, go to imermancake.com.