Thirteen-year-old Charli Ann only began her cake-baking business a year ago, but now she’s baking three or four cakes per week – and having to turn down nearly four times as many requests for cakes.
Charli Ann’s love for baking goes back almost as far as possible. Her mother, Sarah Kathryn Joseph, says that as a newborn, Charli Ann would often sit in a baby seat in the kitchen while her great-grandmother baked cakes for the family.
“I’ve been baking forever!” Charli Ann said. “I’ve always liked it, but I only started selling cakes a little over a year ago.”
A family friend first asked Charli Ann if she would bake their son’s birthday cake. The finished product was far from simple, featuring a fondant figure of a snorkeling boy.
“It only costs me about $20 or $25 for an average cake,” Charli Ann said, “and they paid me $40 for thaty first cake!”
At first, all of Charli Ann’s profits went toward paying her way on a family mission trip to Japan. Then another person asked for a commission cake. Then another, and another. Suddenly, Charli Ann had a budding business, 4 Heaven’s Cakes, on her hands.
“We were paying for her baking ingredients at first, but then she started making more and more cakes,” Sarah Kathryn said. “We ended up working out how she could run it like a business, and pay for her supplies out of her profits.”
Charli Ann said that she loves cake-bakings even though cake isn’t among her favorite desserts.
“I can be creative when I bake,” Charli Ann said. “None of the cakes are exactly the same as any others.”
And “creative” would be an understatement for many of Charli Ann’s creations, which to-date include a partially “eaten” cake alongside a fat fondant unicorn, a cake in the form of a folded dress shirt and fedora, and one of her greatest accomplishments yet: a two-tiered groom’s cake topped with donuts she made two weeks ago.
“Making the groom’s cake was really exciting,” Charli Ann said. “The groom had proposed at a donut shop that was important to them, so I made a chocolate cake with white icing and chocolate drips and arranged donuts on the tiers and on top. It turned out really good.”
Charli Ann maintains a rigorous baking schedule to meet her baking goals of multiple cakes every week: baking on Mondays, icing and topping shopping on Tuesdays and then decorating the rest of the week.
“I freeze my cakes after they’re baked and until I decorate them, so they stay moist,” she added.
Charli Ann’s father, Matt, says that while she can be very particular about her kitchen environment and processes, it’s her goal-oriented nature that has really allowed her cake business to succeed, and she plans to attend culinary school after high school and establish her very own cake bakery.
Even now, Charli Ann ensures that a significant amount of her baking profits benefit other people somehow. After giving 10 percent to her church and saving another 10, she recoups her overhead expenses and then decides what to do with the rest, whether that be funding another mission trip, buying Christmas gifts for her less fortunate friends or something else entirely.
“I just try to help whoever needs it the most,” Charli Ann said. “I think it’s great that baking lets me help other people and to enjoy doing it.”
Charli Ann also donated a cake to a charity auction at an Arkansas church and was shocked when the cake garnered a winning bid of nearly $300.
Baking also serves to connect Charli Ann to a family legacy on both her mother’s side and her father’s. Both of her grandmothers are avid bakers and sometimes help her in the kitchen.
The connection runs even deeper still – her great-grandmother willed the recipe for her beloved buttercream icing to her children, and Charli Ann’s grandmother passed the recipe on to her. It’s top secret, but Charli Ann said it’s one of the things people love most about her cakes, besides their artistry.
“She’s always been a very artistic person,” Matt’s mother, Brenda, said. “She’s very neat and meticulous with everything, and her artwork – and baking – have always stood out for that reason.”
Her baking keeps her mostly occupied these days, but Charli Ann enjoys drawing and painting as well. Just two years ago a piece of hers was selected for her school’s yearbook cover.
Even at the young age of 13, Charli Ann handles the pressure of running a busy and functioning business very well, which Matt says is largely thanks to her de facto business manager: Sarah Kathryn.
“She’s the talent, but I do help to filter the requests for cakes, because you would not believe how many we get,” Sarah Kathryn said.
Sarah Kathryn was recently on a cruise without cell service for seven days. When she regained service, her phone exploded with more than 30 inquiries about cakes, which she says is a weekly reality.
“I kid you not, we end up having to turn down five cakes every day,” she said.
Charli Ann said that they recently had to turn down a request for a full wedding commission: the bride’s and groom’s cakes. It was a hard decision but the smart thing to do since she was already committed to others.
“I’ve even had people reschedule their birthday parties to a different weekend so that I could make the cake!” she said.
For more information about Charli Ann’s business, even more examples of cakes and contact information to request commissions, find 4 Heaven’s Cakes on Facebook and on Instagram at @4.heavens.cakes.