July 30th, 2007

There’s No Cake Like Home

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Photos by Rachael Lee Coleman*

My friend Rachael and I arrived at Allie Herrera’s Miami Beach apartment last Monday knowing few things about her.

We knew that Allie, who is just starting out her cake business (the reason we were there to meet her), had been baking for more than 10 years and we knew she worked for a non-profit. With these tidbits of information, we each formed our own ideas of who we were about to meet, but neither of us pictured who greeted us at the building lobby: a warm and expressive 24-year-old.

Born in Los Angeles to Ecuadorian parents, Allie got an early start in baking.

She asked her mother for an Easy Bake oven at age 3 (her request was denied because her mom wanted her to learn how to bake for real); she baked her first carrot cake by herself at 9; and says she’s really been baking since she was 13. Now, aside from managing a $10 million account at Best Buddies — where she has worked for two years — she provides all baked goods for staff birthdays, Christmas baskets and meetings. In fact, the idea for her business started brewing there, as coworkers who tasted Allie’s treats urged her to sell them.

I heard about Allie from someone who tried her cakes at a party and was curious to learn more. After a few email exchanges, we arranged to meet. At her apartment, four munchkins, as Allie likes to call her four-inch cakes, awaited us atop a wooden lazy Susan. There was chocolate, red velvet, coconut and carrot, four of the six flavors she offers (vanilla and tres leches are the two others).

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Allie speaks of her cakes lovingly with an almost childlike delight, associating each to a childhood memory or person in her life. Her family’s influence and support is evident throughout our conversation: all of her cakes are made from family recipes; her aunt sends her care packages with new ingredients for her to try; her step dad made her the wooden lazy Susan holding our cakes; and her family in Ecuador sends over the vanilla that Allie claims is the secret to her baking.

“Desserts are all about being a kid,” she tells us. “It’s about childhood memories. I love to watch people eat them.”

To Allie, cakes are home.


I go for the chocolate first. It’s rich in taste but not too sweet. Fresh raspberries hidden in the ganache between its three layers were a nice surprise and they cut nicely through the richness of the dark chocolate. Allie uses organic ingredients as much as possible and tries to be health-conscious choosing oils that are healthier and using less sugar where she can. Although she doesn’t know how to decorate, learning is among the things she’s doing to get her business rolling.

Next I move on to the red velvet cake. Allie says she perfected this recipe with the help of her college sorority’s cook, a true Southerner who taught her the key to a good red velvet cake. “It’s all about the cocoa you use,” she tells us. I’m no red velvet expert, but I like what I taste.

Unlike many carrot cakes, Allie’s — which is made from her mother’s recipe — is not overly sweet or spicy (from the cinnamon). She prepares it without nuts or raisins.

“I don’t like nuts,” she says. “It’s a picky kid thing.”

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Last, I take a few bites of the two-layer coconut cake, which is topped with Allie’s cream cheese and coconut cream frosting — believe me, I would’ve eaten the whole slice had I not already eaten three others. This one had to be one of my favorites. It was moist and fluffy.

Before we go, we order a chocolate cake for a friend’s upcoming birthday party. And we leave convinced that Allie is well on her way to her dream of owning a cake business.

Allie can be reached at allie@nocakelikehome.com.

Munchkins (4-inch) – $7
8-inch – $30 (chocolate, carrot and red velvet); $35 (coconut and tres leches)

* Need a little more sugar? See Rachael’s There’s No Cake Like Home Flickr photo set.

[tags] There’s No Cake Like Home, Allie Herrera, cakes, baking, miami beach [/tags]

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21 Responses to “There’s No Cake Like Home”

  1. What a wonderful entry! I wanna bite into the picture. As if I weren’t excited enough about Perlinas visit now I have some cake to look forward to.

  2. Fantastic article Paula! I’ve tried all of her cakes and they are amazing. The pictures don’t do justice to how great they taste!

  3. Great article! I have personally tried each of her cakes, and they are truly delicious. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the carrot cake is the best I’ve tasted (better than the ones offered at IceBox or Books & Books).

  4. If you think her cakes are great you should try her cookies! Don’t watch your waistlines, her treats are worth every bite!!
    loyally,
    Laura

  5. I agree, great article! I have also tried all of these cakes and they are all AMAZING! The coconut is my favorite. Can’t wait to see what other cakes Allie comes up with next.

  6. Hi Paula,
    Thanks for linking back to me! Another very nice article and lovely photos.

    Tell your friend, the cakes look so sumptuous and tell her she is undercharging!!! Advise having her visit all the bakeries in her market area and price every equivalent to her pieces. She will see. It is much harder to raise prices down the road than to go in as you mean to move forward!

    Cheers and happy cooking!

    bz

  7. Allie’s cakes are sinful… you can taste the love baked in. My husband is crazy for the coconut, so I occassionally surprise him by bringing a munchin home for dessert — such a small price for the big points I win!

  8. Wow! Finally, the public will get to endulge in these delightful treats! I have been lucky enough to try a few of her baked creations in the past and have loved them to the very last bite.

  9. I am so proud that Allie’s creations are making their maiden voyage into the world. I knew these cakes had a future when they survived my little one bedroom aptartment’s oven, which mide as well have been an easy bake oven!

  10. Also very proud of her and all she’s accomplishing. I can’t wait to taste the chocolate cake as it looks too good. I hope that once her business takes off, she has long distance delivery!

  11. Kinda makes me want to eat the computer screen.

  12. Allie’s Carrot Cake is so delicious, especially the homemade frosting. I wish her the best in her business endeavors! Congratulations Allie! :)

  13. I agree with everyone allie’s cakes are amazing you cant even begin to describe how they taste! Her carrot cake melts in your mouth and i never leave any frosting on the plate!!!! If you haven’t tried them do you’ll be so thankful!

  14. We ordered a basket of cookies to offer people at a trade show. They were a hit!

    A mouth-watering selection of Allie’s cookies were lovingly presented in a basket with a checkered napkin. People just kept ccoming back for more.

    About 80 cookies disappeared in less than an hour!

  15. Allie’s cakes are AMAZING! I am already pre-ordering for my step-father’s 60th birthday party in December, they are heavenly!

  16. Great article! Its true–I eat Allie’s cakes all the time! They are seriously the best I’ve ever had…Can’t wait til I can order a baker’s dozen!! Keep it up girl!

  17. Thanks for posting this story Paula! I’m so inspired. I have too always wanted and dreamed of owning a bakery… some day! I’d like to contact Allie about my project. She could be quit helpful.

    Lovely website! and I love Miami!

    Mariel :)

  18. Well, I tried Allie’s chocolate and berries cake for the first time this past weekend…and it was delightful…to die for…

    Not too sweet or rich, just right…it was the perfect cake for the ideal occasion…to Ms. Paula…thank you…to Ms. Allie…I have never had such a wonderful b-day cake…

  19. Oh lovely lovely article! I now have a big cake and girl crush on this fabulous breakout baker.

  20. Wondering if you have written about Becky Cooks? She Cooking Lessons She is based in Miami and is teaching really cool cooking lessons. She teaches all sorts of interesting dishes.

  21. Is there a store that I can visit? If yes, please send name, address, hours, number and website. Thanks.

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