For the love of cupcakes

Cupcakes haven’t always been my passion; I have $40,000 in student loans to prove it.

In May, I will graduate from Ohio University with honors, a degree in journalism, specializations in African American Studies, English, and art and a certificate in entrepreneurship. I graduated high school with an associate’s degree in arts and after graduation in May, I’m heading to culinary school. After that the ultimate goal is to open my own bakery.

You can see why everyone’s worried: I’m a journalist who wants to open a bakery. It looks a bit like I’ve lost focus, but it feels more like I’ve finally found serenity in all of my chaos.

I started baking vigorously when I started battling a mental illness. Nothing distracted my mind quite like having to follow a recipe. Freshman year all of my baking was done out of a box and all of the icing was provided by Betty Crocker. It distracted me, but only for an hour. It just wasn’t quite enough.

I visited Gigi’s Cupcakes for the first time nearly a year ago, and I was in awe of their intricate decoration. I spent $20 on cupcakes that day. I took them home, still fascinated by the decoration and eager to show everyone I knew. Finally, I reluctantly bit into my investment and was, quite frankly, disappointed.

Inspired by Gigi’s decoration and lack of flavor, I spent an entire summer barefoot, covered in flour, mixing, measuring and baking. Finally, my mind was at ease for hours every night. If I wasn’t decorating cakes or trying out the latest Pinterest recipe, I was searching for ideas and avidly consuming cooking shows.

Toward the end of the summer I decided to be ambitious: I planned a cookout for my twin sister’s birthday. I offered to do all of the cooking and the baking. I wanted burgers, barbecue chicken skewers, potatoes, mac and cheese, a tiered blue velvet cake with fresh berries and of course, cupcakes.

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Luckily for you, I documented that chaotic day, and lucky for me too, actually. I posted the events of that day on my blog (one that has gone untouched for months as almost all of them do.) I also posted photos of the cake and cupcakes on Facebook.

I was so proud. Now that I look back, the cake was cool but I wish someone had stopped me from posting photos of those sad little cupcakes. Somehow my first order stemmed from those sad little guys.

At the end of August I packed for school and headed to the bank to make my last deposits before I left for Athens. I walked in the door and naturally, my eyes jumped to my left in search of my great aunt in her office so I could wave hello.

Before I knew it, my aunt Brenda was behind me waiting to chat. She mentioned the desserts I posted on Facebook and said my cousin had a birthday coming up. She asked if I would be in town the following weekend as she was in search of someone to provide cupcakes for the birthday party. Although it would be my second weekend back to school, I had to come back to finish out my summer job at home. I knew I wasn’t exactly free that weekend, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

I must admit, I spent the summer baking, but I still hadn’t made a cake or cupcake entirely from scratch. Despite that fact, I had someone who wanted to pay me to make three dozen cupcakes from scratch. I loved baking, but I had never considered selling anything. Baking and decorating was therapeutic for me. It was fun, but it surely wasn’t a business opportunity.

On Aug. 24 classes were set to begin, but before I could attend my first class I had a job interview. For some reason I was in the mood to embrace my love for food, so I applied to be a server and prep cook at Eclipse Company Store.

The job sounded too good to be true, and I honestly wasn’t even sure I could handle it. I had a full course load, I had to work my job back home for three more weeks, and I had three dozen cupcakes to worry about. On day one of classes, I was hired on the spot to work 20 hours a week for Eclipse Company Store.

I spent the week trying to wrap my head around all of the commitments I had made. After classes my eyes were glued to Pinterest in search of unique cupcake flavors. I sent a list to my aunt and she chose Reese’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes, Kit Kat Cupcakes and a basic vanilla cupcake.

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In the name of transparency I had to share this photo. Stick with me, they get much, much better.

So it was set. I would go home that weekend, work my job and on the day I turned 20 I was to deliver three dozen cupcakes made from scratch.

Within one week my dreams were laid out in front of me. The opportunity left me second guessing everything…was journalism still the right path for me?

I forced myself to come back to reality. I loved writing and there was no way I had enough talent to sustain a living from baking cupcakes. This order from my aunt had to be out of pity, like when I thought I could draw and my family asked to see my sketches.

I couldn’t possibly give up a career in journalism to cook, it just wasn’t smart. I had to fill the order and let that be the end of it, at least that’s what I intended to do…

Stay tuned to find out more about Tristen’s journey as a cupcake-extraordinaire next week!

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One thought on “For the love of cupcakes

  1. HiTristen, Well l first I want to say an early Congratulations on graduating fromOhio University; as that is certainly a achievement. I will say that what I like to tell others is just because you have a degree in something, it does not mean that you have to limit your life to just doing those things because I truly believe that the Lord has provided us with so many opportunities on earth that we shouldn’t miss them. Why should our many passions be denied ? That being said, I can kind of relate because while I took an interest in a more artistic career, my parents insisted on me making the smarter choice to get a degree in another field. However, you know it is not impossible for you to earn a living based on selling cupcakes. Having a business is more than having talent, it’s also about working relationships with people ( your consumers) and having a business mind. If it’s something that you really want to do though, you can do it! It surely sounds like your passion/heart is in cupcake making!

    By the way the cake looks great!
    ~ baaps

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