Most days, 18-year-old Rachel Lisi goes to her part-time job at Knightdale’s Tj Maxx.
Other days, usually in the summer and fall, Lisi is busy in her kitchen, baking and decorating cakes for birthdays, baby showers and one time, around New Year’s last year, someone’s wedding cake.
Lisi started her cake decorating side business in 2012 after making a cake for her neighbor. She posted a picture of the completed cake (made for a new baby) on Instagram and requests started coming in.
“I didn’t start intentionally,” she said. Lisi has no formal baking experience, using her neighbor, family recipes and the Internet to help her perfect her technique.
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In fact, she said, cooking and baking are not activities she’s particularly fond of.
“I actually hate cooking and baking and I’m not very good at cooking anything,” Lisi said. “I guess I’m OK (at baking), but I enjoy decorating the most.”
Lisi offers customers several flavors of cake and icing, all of which she has perfected by tweaking her family or neighbor’s recipes.
For cakes, she’ll add extra vanilla or pudding to boxed cake mix. She might add an extra egg or substitute milk for water.
But Lisi is almost completely self-taught when it comes to decorating her cakes.
“I just kind of taught myself,” she said. “(I had) no practice, I just kept doing it.” Sometimes she refers to Youtube videos, which was a key help when learning to use Fondant, which is the edible material often used to create shapes and cover the entire cakes for some designs.
Her interest in decorating cakes paid off. At the 2013 North Carolina State Fair, she placed first in the cake decorating competition for nonprofessional cake decorators aged 16 to 18.
But before that honor, Lisi had a bigger challenge as her cake decorating business became more popular: she was asked to do a wedding cake.
“I don’t want to do it again because it’s really stressful,” Lisi said. “You’re making a cake for someone whose day can be ruined by something you do.”
Lisi was able to make the cake without a problem, but she’s quick to point out there is a seemingly endless list of things that can go wrong when making and decorating cakes.
Cakes get stuck to pans, she can run out of ingredients, cutting them could yield uneven or “weird” pieces, Lisi said.
And in the worst case, cakes can easily fall or be dropped. Lisi, though, has never dropped a cake.
Even though it can be stressful, she said she does plan on continuing it as a side business venture.
Primarily though, Lisi wants to eventually become children’s therapist. She’ll be attending Appalachian State in the fall for pediatric occupational therapy and during her freshman year, she said she’ll probably take a break from the cake decorating business.
Once she moves into an apartment and has the space though, she plans to pick it back up, she said.
“I want to continue it as a side job, even once I (enter the workforce),” she said. “I do enjoy doing it.”