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Vernon Hills family launches Cakes Under the Influence

The Drunken Monkey is one most popular liqueur-infused cupcakes recipe app launched by VernHills-based startup. | Courtesy Cakes Under Influence

The Drunken Monkey is one of the most popular liqueur-infused cupcakes in a recipe app launched by a Vernon Hills-based startup. | Courtesy of Cakes Under the Influence

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Updated: October 6, 2013 2:36AM

The real buzz from Ken Treske’s liqueur-infused cupcakes comes from their impressive look, not the flavorings.

The Vernon Hills man and his family are equipping bakers with tools to whip up elaborate desserts in their home kitchen through their startup, Cakes Under the Influence.

Molds shaped like martini, margarita and champagne stemware push the limits of the standard cupcake.

“It feels a little naughty, and that’s kind of a fun thing too,” Treske, 51, said.

As for the taste, bakers only have to add their desired cocktail to prepared cupcake mixes.

“We want to sort of empower people to celebrate,” said Treske, whose kits are geared toward couples, parties or family get-togethers.

Treske is no pastry chef. He’s a marketing advisor for Internet companies.

“For me, this is the best gig I’ve ever had, no doubt about it. I work with great people,” said Treske, gesturing toward his family. “We’re learning something new every day, and that’s great.”

So how does a guy with a background in software land on cupcakes made with alcohol?

His son Aaron Treske, a Vernon Hills High School alum, graduated from Purdue University and couldn’t find a job in his field, 3D animation.

“So I decided to make one,” the 24-year-old said.

The father-son team launched TRAK Marketing to create new products. Turns out the Harvey Wallbanger would inspire their first brand.

Or rather, the Harvey Wallbanger cake.

Treske’s mom, Rita, gave him the recipe for a cake steeped in the 1970’s-era drink mixing vodka, orange juice and Galliano liqueur.

“Every time we went somewhere, people would say, ‘Hey can you bring the Harvey Wallbanger?’” Treske said. “I swear we got invited to some parties where we never would have been invited before because you know, ‘Oh the Harvey Wallbanger.’”

With that reception, the Treskes began experimenting. They poured over cooking blogs and shows. In the last 10 months, they have cultivated more than 40 recipes that appear on a smartphone app developed by Aaron, who also handles the Cakes Under the Influence website.

The pair have crafted an insulating blanket that surrounds a large martini mold to ensure cupcakes properly cook in the oven. Silicone shapes prop up individual molds in bakers’ existing cupcake trays. Manufacturers make the baking equipment designed by father and son.

“We don’t always see eye to eye,” Treske said. “We’re opinionated people. We have our different points of view. At the end, I think its’ a great balance. He sees things through a generational eye that I don’t.”

The one recipe gaining the most traction is the Drunken Monkey, blending Irish cream, hazelnut and banana liqueurs.

Treske favors the Boilermaker.

“Beer and cake shouldn’t mix, but they do,” he said.

The business targets adults of drinking age. Eventually, they may reach out to commercial bakers or even market baked cupcakes.

“It’s really that adult sweet,” Treske said. “You don’t have to be 8 years old looking at the clown cake.”

And Treske’s mom approves.

“I think she gets a little bit of a kick out of it,” he said.

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