I started my first business when I was 14 without having ANY idea what I was getting myself into.
It really all started when I was in 3rd grade, and I really REALLY wanted the book "A Smart Girl's Guide to Money" from the Scholastic Book Fair (best day of the year). I think this might've been the only time I ever once in my life heard the word 'no' from either of my parents (I am extremely lucky and I know it). It was the best no I could've ever gotten. My mom's reasoning was that she always bought me these books that I never read, and that if I really cared that much about this book I could take it out from the library and take notes on it.
I ended up doing exactly that, filling out an entire spiral bound notebook that I titled, "I Wanna be an Entrepreneur" and that was it for me. I wrote business plans for everything from a birthday party business, to a craft summer camp that would be held in my backyard (I was planning on being the head counselor at eight years old), to babysitting services (again- I was 8).
I am so grateful for that no, because without it I would not have read that book nearly as thoroughly as I had to when I was copying it down into my notebook.
Fast forward to the end of 9th grade. I had been decorating cakes with my mom for a few years for various cousin's birthdays, communions and every holiday under the sun. I decided that I had gotten good enough at my craft that people were going to pay me for it! It can't be that hard, right? At the time it felt so simple, all I had to do was say, "hi, this is a thing I do and you can pay me for it". So I did what anyone would do in 2009 when they want to get paid for something, I created a blogspot website complete with prices and a few photos of my creations and Plays With Food went live.
I had the lemonade stand effect at first after handing out my first batch of business cards (actually business magnets) to everyone within a 1/2 mile radius of Wantagh High School. People ordered cupcakes and cakes from me because I was undeniably sweet as pie and it was cute that I started a business. Looking back at my work, it wasn't all that great and to be honest most of it was made from a box with canned frosting. It might've been full of processed sugar and strange stabilizing substances, but it was also full of passion and drive and effervescent love that only a kid can create when they are excited about something.
I remember the first time someone told me I wasn't charging enough for what I was doing- I was handing Mrs. Harclerode her daughter's communion cake for 100 guests that I had charged her $60 for, which I felt pretty good about at the time! Holding three $20's feels like a lot when you're 16 and you seemingly made this money appear out of thin air by doing something you love! She took the cake from me and with the most genuine shock looked at me and said, 'you should be charing $200 for this cake!'. That's when I started taking myself seriously. I switched to scratch-baking almost immediately and realized that this was more than a fun thing I did for the heck of it.
Here I am, nine years, thousands of cupcakes, countless wedding cakes, dozens of baby showers and first birthdays and Christmas pear tarts later- diving back into the catering world. I took a bit of time off to explore being a young twenty something, traveling alone and staying up until the sun came up and moving across the country. I took time off and realized that I miss it. I miss being part of everyone's celebrations. The happy days- the ones where people that love each other gather and eat and drink and be merry.
Here I am in Denver, starting where I started almost a decade ago- a little less naive, a little more serious and a LOT more stoked to join your party.
Let's have some cake about it, shall we?
Meyer Lemon Blackberry Cake (Gluten Free)
makes one 8" cake (enough for 8-10 guests)
3 c gluten-free flour
1.5 tsp xanthin gum
1/3 c cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (16 TBSP) butter, softened
zest of 2 meyer lemons (or regular lemons)
2 1/3 c sugar
6 egg whites + 1 whole egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 c buttermilk (or 2 c almond milk + 1 tsp white vinegar)
2 c fresh blackberries
juice of two meyer lemons (or regular lemons) ((use the lemons that you zested for the cake!))
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans, preheat the oven to 350.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the gf flour, xanthin gum, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Rub together between your fingertips until the zest is evenly distributed and the sugar is fragrant. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg whites, egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating until everything is totally combined (about 1-2 minutes more).
Slowly stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture juuuuuust until combined. Now slowly add 1/2 of the buttermilk (or almond milk mixture) and stir just until combined. Repeat with 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the milk, finishing with the last of the flour mixture.
Distribute evenly between the three greased baking pans and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed into with a finger. Let cool in pans for no more than five minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, make the blackberry filling!
In a small saucepan, combine the blackberries, lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer over a medium flame then lower the heat to low and keep bubbling for about ten minutes, until the berries start to break down (you can push a few of them against the edge of the pan with a fork to help them along but don't break them all up!). Whisk in the teaspoon of cornstarch then remove from the heat and allow to thicken. Let this cool allllllll the way down before assembling the cake or you will be a very sad baker.
Make the buttercream!
In the bowl of your stand mixer, slowly mix the softened butter and confectioner's sugar until it's all cohesive. Once there are no more bits of sugar flying around your kitchen, crank up the speed on the mixer to high and add the vanilla. Let that go- scraping the sides of the bowl once in a blue for about five minutes. I mean it, five minutes. You want this buttercream to be hella fluffy.
To assemble the cake:
Level any layers that need leveling. What I mean by that is, get eye level with your cakes on their cooling racks and if they have a huge dome you're gonna want to cut across the top to make them all even.
Place a little dollop of buttercream on the center of the platter you are assembling the cake on, center the first cake on the platter. Using a piping bag, pipe about a 1/2 border of frosting around the top edge of the cake (almost like you're making a fence to hold the filling in, which you are). Pipe a small amount of frosting inside the fence you just made and spread it out evenly so the entire topside of the cake is frosted. Spoon about half of the blackberry mixture on top and spread that out evenly as well. Top with the next cake and repeat this whole process.
Now you should have a three-layer, unfrosted cake. Dollop about 3/4 c of frosting on top of the cake and start spreading out until you get to the edges, then spread along the edges to kind've seal the filling in. Here's where you get to have some fun with it. I kept the top of my cake extra frosted and took a spoon to add bits of the leftover filling to the cake as I was frosting it to create that streaky thing that you see.
You are the artist. This is the cake that you get to be the boss of. Go ahead! Tag me on instagram if you make this one @audreygebhardt, I'd love to see what you come up with!