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Sweet Ness cupcakes are works of art

VanessDavid DeLaPenSweetness Bakery will be serving miniature cupcakes during ArtWauk downtown Waukegan Saturday. | Special Sun-Times Media

Vanessa and David DeLaPena of Sweetness Bakery will be serving miniature cupcakes during the ArtWauk in downtown Waukegan on Saturday. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 17, 2013 6:06PM

WAUKEGAN — Some cupcakes are thrown together for your school’s bake sale, while others might look too nice to eat. The creations of Vanessa DeLaPena fall in the latter category, as visitors to this weekend’s ArtWauk will be able to see for themselves.

Two different varieties currently featured by DeLaPena’s business, Sweet Ness Bakery, will be offered in free-sample portions at two locations during the event, which runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, in and around the Genesee Street art district. Cupid’s Kiss and When Life Gives You Lemons, as they are called, will be in evidence at both Urban Edge Gallery, 220 W. Clayton St., and the new Water St. Gallery, 100 S. Genesee.

DeLaPena’s husband, David, who transports her products to more than a half-dozen eateries between Lake Forest and Kenosha, said the story of how a family delicacy turned into a business venture dates back to Valentine’s Day 2008, when she first put the cupcakes up for sale on a whim.

“She was making cupcakes just for us, and I said, ‘These are pretty cool, we should sell them,’” he recalled. “So five years ago on Valentine’s Day, she sold 225 in four hours.”

From there, the DeLaPenas started networking with area restaurants and now find themselves baking out of Fogcutter restaurant at Grand Avenue and Route 45. David DeLaPena referred to their approach as “kitchen gypsies — we basically go there before opening and after closing, then deliver them around the county.”

Current locations for Sweet Ness cupcakes include Chief’s Pub in Lake Forest, Kaisers Pizza & Pub in both Gurnee and Kenosha, and several locations in Waukegan, including 17 North, Green Town Tavern, Louie’s and Papa Marcos. Valentine’s week 2013 saw them moving more than 500 cupcakes over two days.

DeLePena said the plan for Saturday is to offer ArtWauk visitors a taste until the event ends “or however long the supply lasts. They go pretty quick.”

Food-as-art joins more traditional artistic endeavors for the monthly event that include a first-time exhibit at the new Karcher Artspace Lofts gallery, 405 Washington St., with featured artists Gary McKelvy, Les Scott and Yvonne Pitts. The Waukegan Public Library’s Gallery 128 Gallery 128 will feature landscape photographs from around the globe by Grayslake photographer John Wylie. Dandelion Gallery, 109 S. Genesee, will showcase “Shapeshifters and Images of Transformation” with featured artist Sandie Bacon.

Featured artists at Dinosaur Studio, 116 S. Genesee, include Mary Clare Jakes, Lenny Palmer, Richard (Duke) Kruse, Mark Hoffmann, Marshall Philyaw, Phillip Schildgen, Mary Haas, Phil Schildgen, Chris Orta, Robert Fries, Les Scott and Cara Dunning. Also, Clockwise Theatre at 120 N. Genesee will feature its final Saturday performance of “Cars and Quinceaneras” at 8 p.m. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page or

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