In the last few years, cake baking has become everything from a fine art form to a spectator sport. Viewers have been mesmerized by the confectioners on popular shows like Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes” and TLC’s “Cake Boss.” But these days University students have a chance to see the cake haute couture right here in Charlottesville. Last semester, four roommates turned cake pop making from a fun hobby into a new business.
In October, third-year College students Rachael Hanna, Natalie Burkhart and Casey Davis, and third-year Commerce student Imogen Bradbury, launched Let Them Eat Pops. They run the business from their shared apartment and customers can order custom-made cake pops through the company’s website.
Cake pops are made by taking baked cake and breaking it into very fine crumbs. These are then mixed with icing and rolled into balls. The bakers take those balls and insert sticks, and then dip the whole thing into liquid candy melts of the desired color. How the pops are displayed after this point is up to the customer.
The initial idea for Let Them Eat Pops came from Burkhart, who began experimenting with different pop recipes she found in a cookbook last year. Thereafter, Burkhart said things just began to spiral as she showed her creations to her roommates.
“Then one night we were like, ‘let’s just do it,’ and made the Facebook [page] and made the website,” Bradbury said.
Today the students offer chocolate, vanilla and red velvet, with the options of various dipping colors and designs. However, they have experimented with different tastes to add to the website.
“We did pumpkin for fall, so we’ve tried to do seasonal flavors,” Bradbury said. Burkhart added that they had also tried some peanut butter flavors last semester.
The bakers are sticking to the basics as they get started, but that may change as sales pick up. Hanna explained that the most cost efficient way to make the pops is from pre-prepared frosting and cake mix, but as business grows that may change.
“If it did get a lot bigger we were thinking we would [make them from scratch],” she said.
Business was slow at first, with mainly small birthday orders placed by friends, but Bradbury said that they hope to see an increase this semester. “We got a few orders at the beginning because everyone was excited about it, but we’ve been waiting until rush and all the spring events to kind of push ourselves out there,” she said.
Right now the group is working on its largest order so far, 250 pops to be used for a sorority’s house tours portion of rush. The group anticipates that larger orders will allow for more creative decorations.
“For our big orders that we are doing now they just want us to do a bunch of those boxes with bows, but we’ve definitely discussed doing other things,” Burkhart said.
In fact, a bride recently approached the group looking to incorporate cake pops into her wedding reception, and Bradbury said this would probably require a new design.
“I think that we’ve been getting orders so far because it’s kind of a novelty thing,” Davis said, but she added that they would like their cake pops to be available on a more everyday basis through local vendors like The Corner Cup and Para Coffee.
“Right now Corner Cup has ‘Cupcake Thursdays,’ and we’d like to talk to them about having something like ‘Cake Pop Mondays,’” Bradbury said.
The four students hope to see the business grow in the future and plan to continue baking into their fourth year. Burkhart said although she enjoys baking she does not see it as a career beyond college. Both she and Hanna plan to attend medical school after graduation. For Bradbury and Davis, who handle the finance and marketing portion of the business, Let Them Eat Pops is good experience for their intended fields.
“I’m not really entrepreneurial; I just wanted to see if I could market a company,” Bradbury said, while Davis said as an economics major, working as the company’s financial officer has been good practice for later jobs.
Whatever their personal goals, the owners of Let Them Eat Pops are sure to have a sweet future.