Michele Edwards began baking when she was 6 years old and received an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas.
That little oven sparked what has become a lifelong passion. When she was 10, she baked loaves of banana bread at the holidays for the church congregation at Calvary Baptist Church in Merchantville where her father, Rev. Herman S. Henderson, Jr., has served as pastor for the last 25 years.
Her mom, Carolyn, would help her package, label and deliver orders.
Years later, in 2019, Edwards established Shelly’s Sentiments. Shelly is a childhood nickname given to her by her dad.
“As a self-taught baker, I started making my children’s birthday cakes and offered banana pudding cakes for family events and occasions,” said Edwards, who resides in Camden but grew up in Pennsauken and graduated from Pennsauken High School in 2008.
“My passion ignited with the pandemic when more people were looking for cakes to celebrate family events at home. I would bake and decorate cakes for my family to practice my skills. My husband and three young children would help with developing new flavors.”
In October, the state Department of Health published rules on its website that allow New Jersey home bakers to apply for a “Cottage Food Permit,” making baking from home for profit legal.
Home bakers can purchase two-year permits for $100 and sell baked goods from home, farmers markets or events, with a yearly income maximum of $50,000. Online advertising also is permitted.
That update to the DOH website came after the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law published the ruling that was reviewed in July by the state’s Public Health Council, officially legalizing homemade baked goods sales.
Edwards specializes in custom birthday cakes and wedding cakes, but offers holiday favorites such as Shelly’s sweet potato pie, sweet potato cheesecake and banana pudding. Customer favorites also include Some of her customer favorites include cookies n’ cream cake and banana pudding cake.
Cake prices start at $65 and vary depending on design requests. For example, a small 6-inch cake would cost $65 or more, or a designer purse cake or sneaker cake would cost $200 or more, she added.
Her other treats by the dozen are available starting at $25, including cupcakes, chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate-covered strawberries and more.
By day, Edwards is a certified activity director for an adult medical center in Camden County. But she finds time to bake weekly for weekend events such as birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.
Orders can be placed through Shelly’s Sentiment’s social media pages: Instagram: instagram.com/Shellyssentiments; Facebook: facebook.com/shellyssentiments1/ or by calling or texting 856-295-1599
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Here are four other home bakers in South Jersey and some of their treats, all of which can make for great holiday gifts:
Cakes A Bake, Gloucester Township
Autumn Miller officially started Cakes A Bake about nine years ago and has had an LLC for the last four years, but she’s been baking for more than 20 years, she said.
The Gloucester Township resident said her mom baked a lot when Miller was younger and she loved baking with her.
“We would make cookies all the time,” said Miller, who attended Overbrook High School in Pine Hill, then Camden County College before graduating from Rowan University.
“She would make us homemade cakes for our birthdays. My fave was yellow cake with chocolate icing,” she recalled. “After getting married and receiving a KitchenAid mixer as a wedding gift, I started watching a lot of Food Network and teaching myself pro techniques building off of what my mom taught me as a child. I then decided to take a couple of professional cake decorating courses, which really helped me get better with the presentation of my baked goods.”
Miller says people love her custom birthday cakes. Her sweet potato cheesecakes are another customer favorite and one of her favorites to make.
“I also have a heart for motherhood, so I started making lactation cookies to help moms with breastfeeding,” she explained. “They increase your milk supply immediately after consuming to help moms get more milk for their babies.
“I also make amazing custom hot cocoa bombs,” she added.
The cost of her desserts vary depending upon the type of cake, and what kind of decorations or embellishments are requested.
She does smash cakes for babies starting at $50. Her cheesecakes are between $40 to $50.
Lactation cookies are $22.50 for 15 cookies. “That is a steal, especially because they work so well,” she said.
While Miller works full time for the corporate headquarters of Spirit Halloween in the marketing/creative department, she finds time to bake about four or five orders each week.
“Although maybe one day I will transition to baking full time, who knows?” she mused.
Customers can reach out to Miller for orders via Instagram: instagram.com/cakes_a_bake or on her website at cakesabake.com
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Cuppy Cakes, Woodbury
Elena Franqui (pronounced Frankie) was pulled into baking about seven years ago.
“It’s literally the most cliché story,” said Franqui, who was born in Camden and attended Pennsauken Tech. “Years ago, when ‘Cake Boss’ was the rage, my husband (Will) actually took me to a cake class out in his (Buddy Valastro) store in Hoboken. We had a one-on-one cake class with all the people from the show, so it was awesome. Since then, that’s kind of what got me into it. I was like, ‘This is fun. I can do this’.”
Cakes are her “top thing” that she does, in addition to sugar cookies, decorated to any theme and cupcakes.
“I’m busy all year round,” said Franqui, who bakes about three days per week.
“During the holidays, I like to slow down for myself so I can really sit back and enjoy. But I do usually offer cookie decorating kits as we get closer to Christmas and the same for Thanksgiving. Sometimes, I do theme cakes.”
Prices vary and are based on design. Basic cupcakes are $15 a dozen or $35 for detailed handmade toppers. Smaller, two-tier cakes start at about $135. A regular round birthday cake starts at about $50.
Customers can order via Facebook at facebook.com/cuppycakesbyelena/ or Instagram: instagram.com/_cuppy_cakes/
Liyah’s Sweets & Treats, Willingboro
Nicole Tyler has been baking for about 23 years and it’s something that soothes and relaxes her.
Tyler bakes every day, she says.
“I work for the post office,” Tyler explained. “Every day I go home, I bake. It relieves stress. When I leave here (her job) I’m tired but when I get in my kitchen, my stress is out of the window. It’s good once I start baking.
“Someone asked me to make a red velvet cake. That’s my signature cake, that’s where I started,” she explained. “Now I’ve branched out and have multiple cakes … I do all occasions now.”
That means cakes for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and more are made by Liyah’s Sweets & Treats (named for Tyler’s granddaughter Aaliyah).
She said customer favorites other than red velvet are blueberry-lemon cake, vanilla cake, strawberry crumble cake and her banana pudding.
“Those are the main ones that I sell,” said Tyler, who also whips up a mean banana pudding cake. “I don’t make pies or cheesecakes. I kind of stick with cupcakes and cakes. Eventually, I will graduate and try to learn pies and so forth.”
Her cakes tend to range between $40 to $50.
“I am super busy,” Tyler added. “People have already put in their orders for Christmas.”
To order, customers can reach out by email at [email protected], Facebook at facebook.com/nicole.talley.58, Instagram at instagram.com/liyahssandt/ or by phone at 609-414-9595.
Music Mama Sweets, Cape May Courthouse
Sarah Kennedy is a music maker by day, and a home baker by night.
She officially started her business in November, after obtaining her Cottage Food Operators license.
While she spends most of her days teaching chorus, band, music and guitar to the preschool through eighth-grade students of Crest Memorial School in Wildwood Crest, she spends her free time baking custom-ordered sugar cookies from her home in Cape May Courthouse.
This mom of two wanted a hobby other than her main job, so Music Mama Sweets was born. She always loved to bake, but it wasn’t until at-home baking was legalized in New Jersey that she decided to start her own business, with the encouragement of her coworkers, who love her baking.
This mom of two explained that she finds a lot of her creative ideas online, especially on TikTok.
One product she offers, which her children love, is the paint-your-own Christmas cookies, topped with white frosting that come with a washable paint brush, as well as a tiny cookie paint palette with M&M’s on top.
By dipping the brush in water, at-home crafters can take color from the M&M’s on the palette, paint their gingerbread man and then eat the whole lot (palette and all).
“For now, I’m just making sugar cookies, since I’m just starting out, but I plan on adding more flavors in the next year,” she said.
She also makes Christmas-themed cookie platters for the holidays, and custom cookies all year round.
“The [cookies] really do make nice, personalized gifts and I feel good providing that for people, who are then so excited to give their gift to someone,” said Kennedy.
For more information, visit musicmamasweets.com.
This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Home bakers offer cookies, other holiday treats in South Jersey