Wilton Enterprises, Inc. is a leading innovator in cake decorating and candy making designs, products and publications. The company had its beginnings in 1929 when Dewey McKinley Wilton opened a cake decorating and candy making school for caterers and chefs in a single room of his Chicago, Illinois, home. He grew up working in a candy factory possibly at the age of 14 or 15 years old where he learned to perfect his craft of pulled sugar candy making. He eventually learned about cake decorating from German and French pastry chefs and in return he would teach them about pulled sugar. His first classes charged $25 per lesson, which was considered quite a lot of money in those days. In addition to teaching, Dewey created specialty cakes for fancy caterers all around the Chicago area and worked in various hotel bakeries.
Certain sweets were banned when the Great Depression hit. In order to accommodate, new cake decorating techniques were developed, both for practical and practicing purposes, and new recipes were created. When sugar was rationed, for example, cake decorators used mashed potatoes to practice piping skills, and when the British Ministry of Food put a ban on icing for wedding cakes, bakers covered the cakes with cardboard and decorated the exterior with ornaments such as flowers and paper. Even with such obstacles as these, by 1939 Mr. Wilton began traveling and teaching candy work and pulled sugar to various towns. He would teach approximately five students a day who were mostly bakers or chefs.
The first ad for the school was placed in 1946 in Bakers Helper magazine. The first ad was a full-page black and white ad and drew seven students at $150 for two weeks! At this point classes were still in the Wilton home, but they couldn´t continue to work in such cramped quarters. They decided to move the school to an old lodge hall and the first class at this location accommodated 16 students. By 1948 Wilton´s school had moved twice to accommodate the rapidly growing number of students interested in cake decorating. The new building was about 6,000 square feet and was able to hold more than 18 students! This was just about the time the Wilton family began teaching bakers cake decorating under the GI Bill of Rights. The classes expanded to 40 to 50 students per class and included cake decorating, candy making, and various recipes they could make in a shop to make money. Every other week classes were held in one of the major baker supply houses around the country.
By 1950, the classes in cake decorating started to dwindle, so they moved once again and opened up a Bridal Cake Shop. During this time the Wilton family began work on their first book. At first, no publishers would take a book on cake decorating because they believed it wouldn´t sell, however in 1954, the Wilton´s Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating sold more than 10,000 copies in its first printing. The idea was to be able to take the book to any foreign country and people unfamiliar with the English language would understand cake decorating, so the book contained very little writing and was mostly pictures. Consumers loved the book, and eventually wanted to buy decorating supplies to practice what they were reading about; however, there were no vendors specializing in these items for the public. So in 1959, Norman Wilton started a mail order business. This business made decorating ideas, lists of tubes, paste colors, decorating bags, couplers, parchment paper and metal turntables available to the consumer. They didn´t have enough room to fill out the mail orders in the office, so they were compiled in the basement of the Wilton home.
At that time, they needed to find larger quarters in order to accommodate the increased volume of orders. When they moved into their new 12,000 square foot facility, they started to make their first product, the Tuk-N-Ruffle. Tuk-N-Ruffle was a ruffling that you put around the cake and make the cake appear decorated even before the decoration was on it. In 1964, the first Wilton cake decorating book was published to support the annual cake business and retailed for a mere dollar. The book contained 129 black and white plus some colored pages. In 1970 the first Wilton Yearbook came out in its current form and was published every two years. It became very popular and in 1976 began being published annually. Wilton now has dozens of publications on cake decorating, wedding, baking, cookie and candy making.
As the business grew, Wilton moved to 115th and Halsted St. in Chicago´s Roseland neighborhood where it settled until 1977. Vince Naccarato was announced President of Wilton Enterprises in March 1977 and moved the business to its present location in Woodridge, Illinois.