Baking is something I’ve done for fun and profit since I was 14. As a married and pregnant college student 26 years ago, I sold cakes and pies to my instructors.
Years later when I had two children under the age of two, I set up my baking business inside our home again. For years, I sold cookies, cakes and pies. I’d also bought a Wilton Cake Decorating Kit and taught myself to decorate. Over the years, especially after hubby was diagnosed as a diabetic, the baking came to a halt. He was one of the biggest fans of old fashioned banana pudding, lemon meringue and apple pies. I didn’t want to tempt him when he got sick.
Fast. forward 15 years to May of this year. My church started having bake sales. One of my former cake customers commissioned me to bake a three-layer chocolate cake, and he’d pay $50 for it. It had been so long since I’d baked a cake that I felt intimidated by the task. This classic scratch yellow cake recipe, made with cake flour, pure butter, pure vanilla produces three nine-inch layers. The rich, thick velvety chocolate frosting was a stove top version and tricky to make. When done right, the frosting can be slathered on the layers within minutes.
When I finished the cake, it looked like something out of a Betty Crocker commercial. I started remembering how much fun I used to have making dozens of cookies, layer and pound cakes, pies and pecan brittle. I began to wonder – was this a sign that I should start the baking business again? Was Chef Janelle ready for a comeback?
It only took a few free samples of Butter Pound Cake and Chocolate Chunk Cookies for friends and co-workers to start ordering. From April until August, I lived in my kitchen. Rising early in the morning and baking until noon. Selling at the flea markets. I also put together a business plan during this time and took some baking and food safety classes. Chef Janelle’s Old Fashioned Baking was most definitely back.
In one of the books I read, it stated that laws concerning a home-based food business differed from state to state. The norm was no one could serve the food at your home, but you could bake or cook it and take it elsewhere. I continued to bake, invest in products, advertise, show up at flea markets and chamber meetings. I knew before I could move forward, my home would have to be inspected by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
One morning I stopped by the local health department and tried to dazzle the health inspector with my explanation of Chef Janelle’s Old Fashioned Home Baking. He stopped me in mid-speech:
“The state of Alabama does not allow anyone to set up, cook, or sell cooking out of their home. Period.”
But the book I read said…
In Alabama, no one is allowed to bake or sell baked goods from their home kitchen, he continued in spite of my protests. They would have to invest thousands of dollars to build a separate kitchen with its own entrance and exit. This kitchen could be used for nothing else. It was required by law to be equipped with three sinks, among other things. Add to that more money to purchase modern equipment, such as convection ovens and industrial grade mixers.
I just wanted to bake, sell and make money, not go into to debt to set up a home bakery that would take me years to see a profit from.
Whoever said starting a home baking business was easy and cheap didn’t know about the state of Alabama.
The lesson: BEFORE you create the first flyer with your name on it telling everyone you bake for pay, please check with authorities in your area to make sure you don’t get shut down before you start up. That includes health inspectors, zoning officials, revenue department, and city or county officials. If you do get shut down, send me a message. You and Chef Janelle can cry on each others shoulders.
If you are serious about a home baking business, Chef Janelle has more wisdom to share in future articles from her ashes of the burned down dream of an old fashioned home baking business.