Those inclined to indulge in sugary desserts should recognize that when something tastes “homemade,” it truly may be.
Late last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the cottage foods bill, which created a new category of baked food production — one that could be operated out of a house. The new law took effect Jan. 1.
The legislation was catered to entrepreneurs, like Christie Vega Apodaca, whose Cake Couture business venture was the first one in Yolo County licensed under the new law. Her sweet creations are products of a kitchen in a Davis home.
“Now you can legitimately promote yourself without feeling the need to keep it secretive,” said Apodaca, 35. “It’s common in weddings and birthdays for someone you know to make it, as opposed to a bakery or commercial kitchen.”
Originally born in Peru, Apodaca has lived in Davis for more than 30 years. It’s here that she learned the art of cake baking and design — at the tender age of 12 — in a Davis Adult School cake decorating class.
“I convinced my mom to sign up, so I could tag along,” she said. “That’s when I really got interested in it. She started dropping me off, and she would go home. I’d be there decorating — at 12 — with 40-year-olds. It was funny.”
But it was a while before the early hobby would become a professional pursuit. Apodaca chose to study mechanical and aeronautical engineering at UC Davis, and worked in that field for six years.
“I liked making things efficient,” she said. “It’s like with making cakes, I’ve gotten a routine down. Fifteen minutes for this, half an hour for that. … I was very much a process and production engineer, so I utilize that mind-set still.
“I don’t know if I use equations quite as much, aside from calculating the recipe portions,” she added with a smile.
Apodaca, the mother of two young girls, switched to a more flexible profession to suit her full-time parenting schedule. With the passage of the cottage foods law, she was able to transform her home into her own faux bakery.
Four months ago, Cake Couture was established, and provided occasional cupcake gift boxes for clients of Dixon-based Greiner Heating & Air Conditioning. The operation sustained itself, but Apodaca wished to expand into the wedding cake business, an ambition partly based on appreciation for all that goes into a wedding.
“Cakes, design and fashion are all integrated to me — all things that I enjoy,” Apodaca said. “I’m especially into design; I guess that’s why I liked mechanical engineering, too.”
Today’s brides and grooms value creativity in decoration, contrary to the traditional designs of the past, she said. Her vision for the future is to have retail cakes that are made with visual flair, but remain affordable.
Davis artist Marie Therese-Brown partnered with Apodaca to bring her unique aesthetic to life at Cake Couture’s debut at the Cal Expo Bridal Show on Jan. 13. The result was well-received, she said.
“I got a lot of feedback, and mostly because of the design,” Apodaca said. “Even the vendor lady next to me said, ‘I’ve never seen a cake booth so busy without samples.’ It was really exciting.”
The biggest investment for Apodaca in starting her business has been time. She said much of her energy has gone toward showcasing her work locally, including a three-tiered cake donated to the UCD department of engineering for its 50th anniversary gala.
Getting more exposure in the region has been a priority, as demonstrated by the many promotional cakes Apodaca supplied at no charge last month. She’s also employed modern technology to spread the word, such as Facebook, Google and text messaging. The latter has even acted as a means of improving relations with current clientele.
“I send pictures to my customers of their cake in the decoration process, and they love it,” she added. “Through a quick phone picture message they feel reassured, and can see how their cake is coming along.”
And customers aren’t the only ones thankful when it comes time to prepare the sweet treats.
“There’s always plenty of cupcakes and icing left over for these girls, too,” Apodaca said as she held her 3-year-old daughter. “That’s probably not the best thing, but there is.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett