Baked By Melissa Founder Melissa Ben-Ishay Reveals The ONE Ingredient She Can't Live Without — And It's Probably In Your Kitchen

ByMelissa Ben-Ishay

Her company is known for its adorable bite-sized cupcakes that come in every flavor you could possibly imagine, but Baked By Melissa founder Melissa Ben-Ishay says it was a different sweet treat altogether that inspired her to start baking in the first place. You will always find this simple ingredient (and family staple) in her kitchen — and she's passing that love down to her daughter now, too. Her favorite food? Dark chocolate.

Growing up, my mom would always have this huge bar of dark chocolate in the cabinet above the pantry and after dinner, I would just break off a little square. And that would make me feel good. Right now I'm loving Eating Evolved Coconut Cups. It's so good; the ratio of banana and coconut is perfect, and I get inspiration for Baked By Melissa from everywhere, and this is a perfect example of that.

But, there are a few different types of dark chocolate that are always in my apartment. Guittard dark chocolate chips are literally always there to just pop a few in my mouth after dinner. I just need a bite of something sweet, and it's usually dark chocolate. I actually think dark chocolate is brain food.

My First Memory Of Dark Chocolate

Ashley Batz/Bustle
Ashley Batz/Bustle

My mom was a bargain shopper, and Trader Joe's has those big dark chocolate bars wrapped in red paper. It was a good value, and we all loved dark chocolate. I think that one bite of something sweet after dinner is part of what built Baked By Melissa. You know, we sell one-bite treats that make people happy, and this is kind of the same premise. Because that was me: I just always needed a bite of something sweet after every meal.

It's Inspired My Business, Baked By Melissa

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I think food in general is very social. I started baking because I loved sharing it with people I love — and I love a lot of people, so I was always baking for others. And that's how I honed my skill. My product too, the tie-dyed cupcakes that started Baked By Melissa — I was baking them for everyone and anyone when I was working in advertising. So when I [started my business], it was the perfect opportunity to try and do what I loved every day.

Baking is very special, and I think it's a very nostalgic act. I baked with both of my parents growing up, and my grandmother — she was an amazing baker. Part of what I do when I develop every new product and flavor at Baked By Melissa is, I think back to my own childhood and what made me happy during that specific time of year, or the flavor combinations that I loved more than anything, and that's how I create. That, paired with baked goods just being nostalgic already — it just makes you feel good.

The Love Runs In My Family

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My two-year-old daughter also loves dark chocolate — whenever I'm eating the Eating Evolved, she always grabs my hand and takes a bite. If I put Baked By Melissa cupcakes in front of her, she always goes for the Triple Chocolate Fudge.

I'd like to pass my love of baking to my daughter. I think it all came full circle for me when I became a mom. Every morning growing up, my dad would drive me to school and he would give me a speech: "You're smart, you're capable, the world is your oyster, and you can do anything you set your mind to." Literally, word for word the same exact speech — I used to mouth it back in front of him. Now, when I walk my daughter to daycare in the morning, I give her the same speech I got. I made pancakes last weekend and she mixed the batter standing on a chair, and she was great at it. And she's not even two! So there's a lot of baking and arts and crafts in our future. And whatever her passions are, I will encourage her to follow that.

As told to Associate Lifestyle Editor Tanya Ghahremani.

Bustle's series My Favorite Meal asks famous chefs, bloggers, and tastemakers to describe the one dish, recipe, or ingredient they can't live without — and why.