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RitaGirls' Boutique Bakery grows from bakery cart to brick and mortar

Micki Ackerman and her niece Maria Tornga bake cupcakes and custom cakes in downtown's MoDiv shops at Monroe Center and Division. They'll even deliver or cater your sweet treats.
Micki Ackerman and Maria Tornga are the founders of RitaGirls' Boutique Bakery

Micki Ackerman and Maria Tornga are the founders of RitaGirls' Boutique Bakery /Sara Ransom

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Monday - Friday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Saturday: 12 - 5 p.m.

Pink champagne cucpcakes

Pink champagne cucpcakes /Sara Ransom

Chai cupcake

Chai cupcake /Sara Ransom

“I call our cupcakes the gateway drug,” says Micki Ackerman, co-founder of RitaGirls’ Boutique Bakery. She explains that many people discover their shop and come in for a cupcake or cookie and then become regular customers.

During a Christmas get together years ago, Micki Ackerman and niece Maria Tornga discussed starting their own bakery. Originally born and raised in Grand Rapids, Tornga had moved to Chicago and Ackerman moved to Grand Blanc. Tornga decided to quit her job and go to culinary school.

Without planning it together, Ackerman and Tornga had both decided they wanted to move back to Michigan. Tornga saw the need for a cupcake shop in Grand Rapids. After years of discussing and dreaming, Ackerman and Tornga started RitaGirls’ Bakery.

The name RitaGirls’ originated when Ackerman’s son was little and he could not say Maria and instead called her Rita. The name stuck for their business.

“We have a cupcake on the menu at the Grand Rapids Brewing Company and they’ve been really great about supporting us. You don’t always find that when you go to other cities,” Tornga says. She says they receive support from many local businesses in the area.

With an investment through Start Garden, a program that funds startups and new businesses, RitaGirls’ was able to begin their business with a bakery cart. The cart moved around downtown Grand Rapids. Now, they have a bakery shop in MoDiv.

“We want to do everything we can to stay down here. We really love downtown,” Tornga shares.

RitaGirls’ still has a bakery cart but does not have enough staff to use it as much as they would like. The unpredictability of the weather is another reason why it’s challenging to get the bakery cart out.

They plan to make sure that the bakery cart will be around downtown while ArtPrize events take place. Ackerman says to look for their bakery cart during ArtPrize. Their future goal is to get the cart out regularly Thursday through Saturday.

Both Ackerman and Tornga bake the cupcakes, cookies and cakes and decorate them. They have a team of four employees who help with baking and decorating. Tornga is a trained pastry chef.

“I’m the rebellious one and Maria is the rule follower,” says Ackerman about their different baking styles. Ackerman likes to add to ingredients as she sees fit, while Tornga measures them. Together, they balance each other out, she says.

Tornga enjoys creating a variety of cakes to sell by the slice. She likes to make cakes flavored with buttercream, jam or a fruit filling.

“Maria gets really creative. She’ll do a triple berry jam as a filling or blueberry lavender,” Ackerman says. A recent cake RitaGirls’ made, for example, was a Neapolitan cake with layers of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, that was covered in a chocolate and buttercream ganache.

Ackerman’s favorite item to bake are sugar cookies. Blue mitten cookies in the shape of Michigan with a heart in the Grand Rapids area are a popular item in their bakery.

Cupcakes are RitaGirls’ best-selling item. Their pink champagne cupcakes are a favorite. Baked with real champagne, the cupcakes are a popular catered choice for weddings, parties and baby showers.

RitaGirls’ has stayed busy with catering. Lately, they have catered many cupcakes and cakes for weddings. They enjoy making a large spread of four different kinds of cupcakes for celebrations. Ackerman and Tornga enjoy decorating fancy cupcakes for weddings. They also make a lot of miniature desserts for local businesses’ meetings.

RitaGirls’ offers gluten-free options.  Their chewy chocolates are gluten-free and available every day until they sell out. They offer French macaroons which are naturally gluten-free too. Customers can ensure that RitaGirls' has the gluten-free treat they wantby sending a message a couple days in advance.

Ackerman and Tornga’s cupcakes are inspired by seasonal ingredients. In the past, working with the Grand Rapids Brewing Company, they created a Summer Shandy cupcake with a pale ale and lemon. When the ice cream business Scoops moved in next to them, Ackerman and Tornga were inspired to make a blue moon cupcake.

Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe delivers ice cream. Since it has moved next to RitaGirls', Scoops also delivers RitaGirls' cupcakes and cookies. For delivery call 616-458-7777.

RitaGirls’ Boutique Bakery is located at 40 Monroe Center, in the shops of MoDiv. To see what treats RitaGirls' have available daily, check out their Facebook.

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