NOTES

1. The amount of sugar you use will affect the texture of the popsicle. The less sugar the more icy it will be, so don’t try to skimp too much (unless you don’t mind a nontraditional texture).

2. You don’t have to buy canned coconut milk. I’ve made coconut milk in my Vitamix with fresh and dried coconut. Just be sure to add less water for a creamier consistency.

Strawberry Coconut Crunch Popsicles - Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ½ cup fresh strawberries, diced
  • ¼ c gluten free oat flour
  • ⅓ c pecan flour (or hazelnut or almond)
  • Liquid sweetener of choice, to taste (honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.)
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, smash together diced strawberries and 1 tbsp sweetener to draw out juices. Set aside.
  2. In a separate medium sized bowl, mix together coconut milk and sweetener to taste. For reference, I used about 3-4 tbsp honey.
  3. Add strawberries, including liquid, to the coconut milk mixture and whisk until combined and tinted pink. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
  4. To make crunchy topping, toast pecan flour and oat flour together on a stove top and set aside. Alternately, you may use ready made granola (just take out any dried fruit), corn flake cereal, or rice crispy cereal. Pulse together in a food processor with whole nuts and transfer to a medium bowl.
  5. Once popsicles are frozen, remove from mold and roll in granola/nut mixture. Enjoy immediately or place back into freezer.

 

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A few weeks ago I was asked to make some cupcakes for an intimate wedding ceremony. They wanted something light and fresh, so we decided on half strawberry and half vegan lemon cupcakes. The bride and groom relayed that vegans and non vegans alike enjoyed the desserts, which is always a compliment! After a few requests on instagram I thought I’d share the recipe here.

Now, this is not a traditional lemon curd but instead a thickened, sweet and tart lemon spread, but delicious nonetheless. Everything is a breeze to whip up and the only specialty ingredient is a vegan butter. I used soy free Earth Balance.

NOTES

Vegan frosting: I don’t have a recipe but instead just go by flavor. I start off with how much frosting I might need, like, “2 sticks worth of earth balance sounds about right,” and then add powdered sugar until it’s sweet enough. For this batch I added a bit of the vegan lemon curd for some more lemony flavor. If you need a recipe, here’s one to start off with.

Making filled cupcakes: Just scoop a bit of the cupcake out in the middle and fill it with whatever you want. I use a small paring knife and cut a little wedge out. Just make sure you don’t cut too wide that the frosting doesn’t cover up the hole! Make sure your cupcakes and your filling are room temperature so the filling doesn’t melt into the cupcake.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
 
Prep time
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Makes 12 standard or 24 mini cupcakes.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup organic raw cane sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 c alternative milk (I used almond)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare baking tin by greasing or lining with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined and aerated.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, vinegar, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet mixture. Mix until just combined.
  5. Divide batter into prepared baking cups and bake for 12-15 minutes or until a cake bounces back and a skewer comes out clean.

 
Vegan Lemon Curd
 
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Fills 12 standard or 24 mini cupcakes.
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅓ cup alternative milk (I used almond)
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter (I used earth balance)
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan whisk together lemon juice and zest, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
  2. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thickened and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Take off stove and whisk in milk and vegan butter. Set aside and let cool.

 

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A couple weekends ago Gary and I took a day trip out to Santa Barbara. Work has been all over the place lately and I thought a change of scenery would be nice. While my timing wasn’t so great (I had to bake almost every cookie for our MK/BITA cookie gram the next day), the trip was surprisingly refreshing and restorative.

We started off our trip at the new Santa Barbara Public Market. I’ve been eager to try Enjoy Cupcakes ever since I discovered them on instagram and their cupcake flight did not disappoint. Gary had yet to drink his morning coffee so after a circle around the rest of the market we went to The French Press. I didn’t order anything so I can’t speak on flavor, but the service was very friendly and welcoming! A nice change from certain hipster coffee shops in Los Angeles.

After coffee we walked down State Street. I had no clue it was the street to be on and that most businesses I bookmarked would be on or nearby State. After some window shopping we ended up eating lunch at Cajun Kitchen Cafe. I didn’t have a spot bookmarked for lunch so this was a last minute decision, but we both quite enjoyed it! It was a typical greasy spoon/diner but with Southern/Creole food. Gary and I shared their breakfast gumbo and some plain beignets.

Our next stop was the Santa Barbara Mission. We didn’t take a tour so I don’t have photos, but the weather was nice and the quick drive over was through a nice neighborhood with pretty houses.

After that we headed to the beach. Natalie suggested I visit the one directly across from the Four Seasons, Butterfly Beach. It was seriously beautiful, relaxing, calming, and overall so enjoyable. I’ve really never been a beach person. I think it’s because growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, my two most frequented beaches were Santa Monica and Venice, which aren’t exactly the cleanest. I’m also pretty terrible at relaxing/laying out (I could doing something!) but the small beach was the perfect distance for a short, leisurely walk. And we saw a bunch of dolphins! We looped back around then walked into The Four Seasons. Wow! Was that a gorgeous hotel or what. It was nice to feel fancy, even if for just 20 minutes.


(can you see me?)

Next it was time for something sweet. My friend Michelle proclaimed Rori’s as the best ice cream she’s ever had, so of course we had to try. I ordered their lemon curd ice cream which had lemon curd swirled throughout and Gary ordered a chocolate mint patty. Both were absolutely delicious. Knowing we still had other place we wanted to try, we both ordered an “itty bitty” scoop that was the perfect size. It even came with an adorable matching mini waffle cone! Seriously, all ice cream places need to offer this size!

It was too early for dinner so I suggested that we visit a grocery store. Not a common destination while on vacation, but after finding it on Zero Waste Home’s Bulk Food app, I wanted to visit, hoping it would be similar to Rainbow Grocery in SF. The Isla Vista Food Co-op was right by UC Santa Barbara and it made me a little jealous of those college students having a store like this so accessible. They sold Fat Uncle Farms almonds in bulk so we got a couple treats for the drive home. While much smaller than Rainbow, it was such a great little market for the community. I really wish there was something similar in my neighborhood.

Dinner was eaten at Sama Sama Kitchen. The space was so clean and crisp, our server was nice, and the food was good. Ultimately we were expecting something else and left slightly disappointed.

To finish off the trip we went to McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams. Gary introduced me to McConnell’s by bringing home a pint of their peppermint ice cream a couple years ago. We tried a bunch of different flavors but I ultimately chose blueberries and cream. It had whole, fresh blueberries inside! Gary went with cookies and cream, which I also liked, but I really loved my choice.

All in all, it was so great to get away from LA for the day. Of course, we couldn’t wait to get home and missed our cats (and hoped they didn’t get into any tussles while we were gone). I haven’t taken day trips since I was a kid and you know, didn’t really have anything to get away from, but now I feel like I need to schedule one every month!

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Last year I was on instagram and discovered Blooms In The Air, a line of flowers that looked unbelievably natural yet were made out of crepe paper. It wasn’t before long that I emailed owner/maker Ji to see if we could somehow work on a project together. She was welcoming to the idea I initially pitched to her and suggested we work on a special collaboration. From our first meeting we hit it off instantly. It’s was so funny how many similarities we had, and a great sign that our project would work out just fine.

I’m excited to share MK/BITA, a cookie gram gift box! The idea is based off of candy grams we used to send and receive in grade school. Our first gift box is made especially for Mother’s Day. You can choose between an ombre pink or fuchsia crepe paper peony by Blooms In The Air, and lavender almond or cardamom rose shortbread by myself, Matchbox Kitchen.

Each flower is skillfully made by Ji’s own two hands. They are truly beautiful and a work of art in which many hours have been poured into!

Each box of cookies contains one dozen shortbread in your flavor of choice, and as always, are made with organic and locally sourced ingredients. They are tender, not too sweet, and just the right amount of butteriness you expect from a shortbread cookie.

As a special treat, we are offering Free Shipping for all orders placed by this Sunday, April 20, until midnight PST.

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I recently had a request to make egg free, dairy free carrot cupcakes and they were a hit with vegans and non vegans alike.  Many were requesting the recipe on my instagram (make sure you’re following me there as I update that more often) which I am happy to share.

Now, this isn’t your typical carrot cake. A lot of the fat is replaced with applesauce and there isn’t a lot of sugar in them. They are more like carrot muffins than a cake. But it doesn’t mean that they’re not good! Also, once they’re frosted you don’t really want them too sweet anyway. I frosted these with a vanilla buttercream made with earth balance, powdered sugar, a bit of almond milk, and vanilla extract. No recipe, just kept whipping until I got to a flavor and consistency I liked.

It’s very important that you let these cupcakes cool completely. I’ve had them straight out of the oven and they’re sort of a gummy mess. Letting them cool the crumb dry out a bit to have a nicer texture. I’ve even left them overnight in the fridge and on the counter and they’ve both been delicious.

Lastly, feel free to add any additional spices you like. Cloves, more cinnamon, vanilla extract. You can also replace some of the liquid with crushed pineapple, if that’s your thing. Let me know what you think!

Carrot Cupcakes - Egg Free, Dairy Free
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Carrot Cupcakes
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1¼ c all purpose flour
  • ½ c sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6 T (1/4 c + 2 tbsp) unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 T oil
  • ¾ c non dairy milk (almond, coconut, etc)
  • ⅓ c raisins
  • ⅓ c walnuts
  • 2 c grated carrots
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and prepare a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk oil, applesauce, and non dairy milk.
  4. Add wet to dry, then fold in carrots, raisins and walnuts. Do not overmix.
  5. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Let cool for a few minutes then remove from pan. Cupcakes are best eaten fully cooled or else they will be slightly gummy.

 

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When it comes to development for future Matchbox Kitchen offerings, I’ve been trying to relax a bit and experiment with new flavors and decorating techniques. It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone when you know certain things work together, but to be honest I’ve been pretty bored with the usual combinations. This cake was no exception. The combination might sound strange, or even off putting, but I quite liked it. I wasn’t really sure where I was going with the cake. Did I want something soft and pillowy with a slightly spiced accent, or did I want something more dense and hefty with a chunks of strawberries simmered with balsamic vinegar? Instead of being paralyzed with all the options in front of me, I dove in before I could over think it.

The result is a very soft cake, thanks to the use of spelt flour, lightly hinted with ground cardamom and a swirl of strawberry balsamic sauce throughout. Diced strawberries are folded in for added bursts of flavor. It also happens to be dairy free. I finished off the cake with sliced strawberries and a random assortment from the pantry: dried rose petals, chia seeds, and crumbled shortbread. These were added mostly for visual and textural aspect and did not add flavor.


The cake was also fine without all the stuff on top so you can see the strawberry balsamic swirl. Here, I added a light sprinkling of turbinado sugar.

Strawberry Balsamic Cardamom Cake - Dairy Free
 
Prep time
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Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • ¾ c (77g or 2¾oz) spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, separated
  • ¼ cup raw cane sugar
  • 3 tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 small apple, grated
  • ⅛ tsp ground cardamom
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 5-8 strawberries, diced
  • 2 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 6 inch round baking pan.
  2. In a small saucepan, simmer strawberry jam and balsamic vinegar together. Alternately, you can dice fresh strawberries and cook them down with a bit of sugar if you do not have jam. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together spelt flour, salt, cardamom, and baking powder.
  4. In a separate bowl, whip egg white until soft peaks form, then add 2 tbsp sugar and whip until firm, glossy peaks form. Set aside.
  5. In another separate bowl, beat together the egg yolk, oil, remaining 2 tbsp sugar, and grated apple until combined. Add mixture to dry ingredients and mix together just until there is no more patches of flour. Fold in a third of the whipped egg whites until mixture has loosened up, then fold remaining egg whites in 2 more batches. Be careful not to overwork and deflate batter. Fold in diced strawberries.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until done.

 

 

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A few weeks ago I made friands for the LA cake club meeting. Admittedly, I needed something quick, easy, and low maintenance to bring since I was running around doing last minute errands for the club. Somehow I settled on making these almond berry friands even though I’ve never made them before!

Friands are very similar to French financiers. They’re both made with egg whites and melted/browned butter, and the process is very much the same. In Australia friands are common and can be found in most cafes and bakeries, but pretty much unheard of in the US. My mom is in Australia at the moment so I asked her to bring me back a friand baking pan. I have to say I’m pretty excited about that. One day, when I open my own store front, maybe I can popularize friands over here ;)

The recipe is really a cinch to put together. You don’t even have to brown the butter, but it does add a lot of flavor. Best of all, you can make the batter ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready. My version is slightly more healthful, using wholesome ingredients like almond meal, oat flour, and only maple syrup as a sweetener.

If you make this recipe, let me know you think!

Almond Berry Friands - GF, SF
 
Prep time
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Makes 18-20 mini muffin size friands.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 5 (150g) egg whites
  • 1 cup (87g) almond flour
  • ½ cup (48g) oat flour
  • 6 tbsp (85 g) browned butter
  • 4-6 tbsp maple syrup
  • berries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a mini muffin tin (or equivalent).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites just enough to loosen them up a bit. No need to whip them into peaks or anything like that. You just want to unravel the protein strands.
  3. Add almond flour, oat flour, butter, and maple syrup. Whisk together until no lumps remain.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and top each off with berries. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set. Let cool in pan then remove. To serve, garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar.

 

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Happy Friday! Here’s a quick and easy sweet treat to make without an oven or even a stove. There are many variations online, but mine are on the less sweet side with a lot of added “superfoods” to give them more nourishment. It’s an easy recipe to fudge with, so feel free to experiment with whatever ingredients you have at home! I do believe the brown rice syrup is very important due to its stickiness/viscosity; its what keeps the bars together. I have also added melted chocolate like these “hippie crispy treats” but then they start to veer into “not so healthy” territory. Very delicious though.
Healthy Rice Crispy Treats
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup brown rice syrup (cannot be substituted)
  • ¼ cup almond butter (or other nut/seed butter)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1½ - 2 cups crispy brown rice cereal (not puffed)
  • Optional (up to ½ cup)
  • popped amaranth
  • chia seed
  • flax seed
  • chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together brown rice syrup, almond butter, and maple syrup. Microwave for 30 seconds to melt ingredients all together. Mix well, then add brown rice cereal and mix together. If using optional ingredients, add them now. If not, add an additional ½ cup brown rice cereal.
  2. Press into a container (no need to be gentle) and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or until solidified.
Notes
Variations:
1. Add 1 tbsp cocoa powder to wet ingredients and mix well.
2. Switch ½ cup cereal for rolled oats for a more granola bar like texture
3. Add chopped nuts and dried fruit for more sustenance
4. Spread melted chocolate on top and sprinkle with flaked sea salt

 

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This past Sunday I hosted the very first LA Cake Club meeting! It’s safe to say we all had a great time and can’t wait for the next one. I was super nervous no one would show up but everything fell into place at the end. Thank you to all the wonderful ladies (and gentlemen) that came out! And a special thank you to Gary for helping me set up and take our group photos.

My contribution were these gluten free almond berry friands with cream cheese frosting. Recipe to come!

Missing a few more who showed up after this photo. Such great baking work!

More photos of all the desserts will be on the LA Cake Club instagram. If you would like to join in on the fun, follow along on twitter and instagram, both @LAcakeclub. For the latest updates sign up for our mailing list! The next cake club meeting will be in 6-8 weeks.

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About a year ago my friend Ami was working on a personal project that featured entrepreneurs and asked to include me. She came over to take photos at my old apartment kitchen and ask me a few questions. While she decided not to go through with the project, Ami just recently sent me the photos and I thought I’d share them here, as well as the interview. It’s been interesting to look back at where I was almost exactly one year ago. Thank you Ami for the great photos and for the opportunity to capture this time capsule of my little business!

Why Matchbox Kitchen?
Matchbox Kitchen originally started as a blog to be shared between my boyfriend, Gary, and myself. He went to culinary school and cooks more savory foods while I was baked mostly as a hobby. I wanted something gender neutral and though we hadn’t moved out yet, we were planning to in the next few months and knew our first apartment would be very small. Hence, Matchbox Kitchen! We have since moved out and indeed, our kitchen is rather small.

Can you talk a little about your background and how you got into baking? Did you always know you wanted to be a baker?
Around 2009 I had been reading several blogs that would keep on mentioning a book called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. These weren’t food blogs, but they’d always crank out beautiful loaves of bread, bagels, brioche, donuts, pretzels, all from the same cookbook! The next year I made it my New Year’s resolution to purchase the book and learn how to make bread. After having some success it snowballed from there. It was so exciting to make something look so professional, yet came so naturally. I loved learning the hows and whys behind baking and just kept practicing.

I don’t think I ever thought I’d become a baker. I actually went to college for graphic design, and if you asked any of my friends they would’ve said the same thing. Back then I still baked cakes and cookies from boxes (which now makes me cringe).

What was the biggest factor that made you make the leap into making baking a business?
I always knew I’d want to create something with my hands and started off selling stationery on etsy, but I wasn’t making any progress and kept it as a hobby. After baking for fun for a year or so and when I remembered that Unique LA was coming up and I thought I’d try applying for it.  I was tired of not taking risks and not doing anything with my life. My friend helped design packaging for me and I took some photos and created a website. It was actually all fake for the application! I told myself that if I got in then I’d have to go through with it, and even if it was a a horrible experience I wouldn’t have to continue. Thankfully I had an amazing time and I’ve stuck with it since.

Currently you work part-time while running your business. What is it like juggling a part-time job and your business simultaneously? Is it harder/easier than you imagined?
In the first half of 2012 I worked part-time at a bookstore while my own business was starting to pick up. My day job hours were not very flexible and it was a struggle to balance both At the end of May I decided to quit that job and work on Matchbox Kitchen full time. It was exhilarating to be able to be on my own, but after six months it started to wear down on me. There stress of having to make a certain amount of money was too much to bear, and being alone to my thoughts all day was not helpful! Thankfully I found another part time job, this time at a bakery. I truly have the best coworkers that are all supportive of my business and I have a much more flexible schedule. At this moment, working part time takes a lot of pressure off of me and allows the business to grow at my own pace. I work better when my time is filled up, so having another job gives my days more structure as I can get into a bad habit of procrastinating!

What is a day in your life like?
Most days I wake up around 8 and check my email/instagram/twitter from bed. I usually make a to do list on my phone the night before so I go through that. If I have any cake or cookie orders I start working on them so they’ll be ready to be shipped out. If not, I will try to work on the other side of the business, such as updating my website, get my paperwork and taxes organized, order supplies, etc. Some days I’ll experiment in the kitchen and take photos for my blog. Unfortunately I get sidetracked easily and will take breaks cleaning the apartment, play with my cats, or read blogs. I try to go to the gym twice a week and I work part time three times a week. Other than that, any free time is spent either baking or on the computer!

You wrote an insightful blog post on celebrating the one-year mark of running your business and the struggle that you felt during that time. Can you elaborate on that? What keeps you motivated during tough times? For you, what have been those tough times?
At the time I wrote that blog post I was under a lot of stress to push my business forward. My savings account was dwindling and I wasn’t sure how to use my last pennies to keep myself afloat. I had a few big baking jobs that went horribly (at least in my eyes). Not only were they large orders, they were bigger clients that could potentially give me my “big break,” which put a lot of pressure on me to make sure everything was perfect! Unfortunately things didn’t go swimmingly and I really wanted to give up at that point. I had lost motivation to bake and holed myself in my apartment. It was a tough couple of months, but I still had some online cookie orders and cake orders coming in and kept going even though I wasn’t enjoying it. I can’t say that I was very motivated during this time, other than feeling an obligation to my customers to keep baking.

One of the biggest concerns for new businesses is how to grow and reach clients. Do you do a lot of in-person or online networking with people one-on-one? You’re also fairly active on social media, have you found that it’s helped in the growth of your business? What do you think has been your biggest contributing factor to your growth?
I am the worst at promoting my own business, especially in person! My blog and Instagram have been tremendous help in promoting my business as they allow my photos to speak for me. The biggest factors to my growth have been working on my food photography as well as surrounding myself with a group of fellow small business owners. My friend Erin Dollar (of Cotton & Flax) started a small business group that meets up monthly to discuss our goals to help us stay accountable. Not only that but because we’re all in different stages of ownership they’ve given me so much valuable advice!

What are your ultimate goal and hopes for Matchbox Kitchen? What would mean success for you?
My ultimate goal for Matchbox Kitchen is to open up a shop/cafe/studio space. Although I mostly make desserts right now, my goal for Matchbox Kitchen is to promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. I want to serve healthy options as well as indulgent ones, using only locally grown, organic ingredients. For the shop portion I’d offer sustainably produced home goods such as reusable bags, wooden cutting boards, and tea towels. As for the studio space, I would love to host classes and partner with other local businesses, such as teaching a container gardening class.

As cheesy as it sounds, success to me would be to leave a positive impact on the world, knowing that I made it a better place.

What is your advice for other who want to pursue owning their own bake shop or other creative venture?
Don’t compare yourself to others, just keep working hard in pursuit of what you love.

What is your favorite item in your shop to make/eat?
My favorite thing to make and eat are cakes! I love carefully assembling each layer, smoothing out delicious frosting, and combining different flavors and textures.

All photos by Ami Martin.

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