Interview with Amanda Hahn
I’m Amanda Raey Hahn, owner of Sweetthang’s Custom Cakes and More, LLC, out of Northport, Alabama! I am a Licensed, Insured, and Certified Cottage Food Home Baking Business, meaning I operate out of my home on a custom order basis as opposed to a brick-and-mortar storefront!
Who taught you to bake/cook?
I’ve was allowed to be in the kitchen from the moment I could pull a stool up to the counter next to my mama. I come from a family of extremely talented cooks and bakers, and everyone was always willing to share that little piece of information, that useful knowledge that I find myself drawing on to this day. My family gave me that confidence and encouragement in the kitchen from such a young age that this only seemed the natural route to go! Thanks to the teaching from mama, aunts, and grandmas, I am able to take and develop my own recipes until I am fully satisfied with the extremely high level of quality I am now known for!
How did Sweetthang’s come about? How did you decide you decide to start a baking business?
I didn’t go to culinary school, nor have I ever been formally taught anything. I am fully self-taught. That being said, I did the traditional route. I graduated high school, went into the workforce, went to college, and nothing I was doing was fulfilling. I ended up in a job that I absolutely hated, and was staring at 40 years of the same thing and something in me broke. I knew I always wanted to bake or work with food, and I decided I would make the leap and start it as a business on the side, that way if it didn’t pan out, I still had my full-time job as a security blanket. Two years later, I left that job to do this full-time!
What made you decide to start it out of your home? Can you explain a little bit about what a cottage bakery is and how it works?
In the state of Alabama, you really have two options if you want to have a business dealing with food. 1. You can open a brick and mortar, and 2. You can become certified to operate out of your home. The second option is tricky due to the fact that we are not inspected by the health department, it does limit you on what you can sell, as everything must be shelf stable (I miss making cheesecake!). The smartest option for my baby business was definitely the Cottage Food route, but I can’t say what the future holds!
Starting a business is scary and seeing it grow is amazing but not without growing pains, what are some of the growing pains you have experienced?
I definitely agree! The excitement of growth tends to outweigh the pains, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this is the most stressful adventure I’ve ever been on! I think, at this stage, one of the hardest things is the fact that I’ve blessedly grown so much, my home kitchen just isn’t cutting it anymore for the volume, but we’re not in a place to set up a brick and mortar just yet.
I think the other, and quite possibly the biggest hurdle, isn’t necessarily the baking, but the fact that I am truly a one-woman show, meaning every single aspect of the business is done by me. From grocery shopping to invoicing, to answering the phone, to baking, to social media, to product photography, to delivery and washing dishes, most days I pray for a clone!
Your cakes are so creative, where do you find your inspiration?
Thank you! Honestly, my clients are absolutely amazing at letting me take their ideas and just create! I’ve developed my own personal style over the years and it seems to be one that people enjoy! I’ve drawn off of all types of art, watercolor paintings, tattoos, nature, other talented bakers and their styles, patterns… just anywhere the inspiration finds me!
What is your favorite type of cake to prepare?
Flavor wise? I am a sucker for the Classic Vanilla! Design wise? Wedding Cakes are where my heart truly finds the most joy! I love weddings!
We know you bake everything from scratch. How long does it take you to prepare a customer’s cake from start to finish? Design, bake, etc?
This is a hard question because it varies so much! The design process, depending on if I’m going back and forth with a client, can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a few days, and some décor does take several days to craft!
On average, I’d say a fairly simple cake design, from the start of baking and buttercream making to finish, can take me anywhere from four to six hours. Add hours to that for more than one tier, any detail work in the decorating.. my most work intensive cake took me a week, as it was four tiers with an entire spray of gumpaste roses cascading down it!
Biggest blooper? Cake fail? Every business has hurdles and mishaps, any funny bloopers you would like to share?
I have two, haha! I dropped a tier of fully decorated cake as I was assembling the final work, 2 hours before it was due. No time to rebake that one, so I pulled another cake out and started again! Thankfully, the client understood that sometimes we all have butter fingers! The second is when I left to go make a delivery and left the entire cake at home! Oops!
A support system is so important… take a moment and brag on yours! Who is in your corner cheering you on?
I have THE BEST support system! Between my amazing clients, awesome family, and friends, I am so blessed! I truly hit the jackpot with my husband, though. He was the one to push me to start the business, the one to encourage me to “do what makes you happy” and leave my job to pursue this with all my energy. He deals with the stress, the long nights, the take-out food, and the far away deliveries. He’s there to make sure I eat and get sleep and encouragement! He’s also the one who named it “Sweetthang’s”, as that’s a nickname he’s called me since we started dating!
All pictures provided by Amanda Hahn and Sweetthangs Custom Cakes. Content owned by Retro Rodeo Publishing LLC and Front Porch Life Magazine.
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