Q&A with Isabella Alexander of Darlings Sweets
I personally love to bake cakes. It's one of my favorite things to do in my free time. I started baking about three-and-a-half years ago, which is why I was beyond impressed when I was recently told about Darlings Sweets.
Isabella Alexander is 15 years old and owns her own custom cake business. She's made army cakes, beach cakes, and even cakes covered in gorgeous flowers. I was blown away by her talent and perfectly crafted fondant designs, so I'm really excited I got the chance to reach out to her for an interview! Read on to find out how she got her start baking and how her cake business began.
1. First, tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Darling Isabella Alexander, but everyone calls me Isabella. I am 15 years old. I am technically a sophomore in high school, but my parents homeschool me and my twin brother and my two other sisters.
2. When and why did you first start baking cakes?
I started baking at the age of 12. My mom was diagnosed with Lupus and fibromyalgia so my aunt came to stay with us to help out my dad with mom. My aunt was an at home baker and she and I would always be in the kitchen baking something. I would sit up all hours of the night and watch The Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, and Duff from Charm City Cakes and I was amazed at the things they could do. I really enjoyed baking and my parents saw my interest, so they signed me up for the Wilton decorating classes.
3. Where do you get inspiration for the cakes you make? Cookbooks, chefs, bakeries?
I would have to say that the most inspiring people that pushed me toward my career would be Chef Buddy, Chef Duff, Chef Robert Irvine and most importantly, my family.
4. When and why did you decide to start your own business?
After finishing the Wilton Decorating Classes, my instructor said I had a real talent for the business and I should start thinking about doing decorative pastry art as a side business. So in late 2011 I started advertising via word of mouth and friends and family. It started out I would do a cake for a family member's birthday or a holiday celebration. Then I started getting into more design detailed cakes for my dad's office. My dad is a US Army Veteran and his office employees were all veterans as well from all 5 branches of the military. I was commissioned to do a cake for the Marine Corps Birthday, the Army Birthday, as well as the retirement of a US Air Force Colonel who was the head of my dad's department. Things just grew from there.
5. What is it like balancing your business with school and your social life? What is it like to be 15 and have your own business?
Having a business at my age is sort of taxing at times. My mom and dad help out a lot when I get in a crunch. My dad is my human fondant mixer/sheeter since I don't have a fondant sheeter yet. My mom is more of the steady hand and attention to detail type person. She critiques me on my final presentations before the cake is presented to my clients. As for my social life, I have an even balance so far. I spend a lot of time with my friends from my church youth group. I have been on mission trips and volunteered with the vacation bible school. My friends are a great influence in my life and they are my biggest fans.
6. What are you career goals? Where would you like to see Darlings Sweets in 10 years?
My goal is to graduate high school and enter into a Pastry Arts school where I can hone my skills and learn other aspects of the business. I would like to have my own bakery and restaurant one day. Not only do I bake, but I also cook. I learned to cook Venezuelan dishes from my mom and great grandmother. And I learned to cook Italian from my dad. My uncle Johnny, who is in the Army, taught me some dishes and pastry recipes as well. My dad and Uncle have talked about having their own restaurant one day and I hope to be a part of that with them as well.
7. Recently you've been interview on radio stations and were featured on television. How did that come about and what was it like?
I would like to thank a few people who have really stepped up for me and helped me to get recognized in the community since we moved to Birmingham from Tampa 10 months ago. I would like to thank Mrs. Beth Ferguson for introducing me to her husband Mickey, who is the morning weather man on FOX 6 Birmingham. Mr. Mickey had me on his morning show one day, and I made them a Fox 6 cake and a 2 tier cake with flowers for the entire station. And by being on the morning show, I was introduced to my best friend and mentor Ms. Martie Duncan from Martie Knows Parties and the Next Food Network Star. Ms. Martie has been there for me since we met. She has given me guidance, suggestions and knowledge that I will take with me the rest of my life. Ms. Martie introduced me to Matt Murphy from the Matt Murphy show on Alabama 1070 WAPI. Mr. Matt interviewed me on the air a couple of different times and he even commissioned me to make his wife's beach themed birthday cake.
All in all I am very blessed that God has given me the skills to pursue my passion and that he has also put so many wonderful people in my life to guide me on the path to success. I appreciate them all.
If you live in the Birmingham, AL area and are ever in need of a custom cake, be sure to check out the Darlings Sweets Facebook Page. You can view all of her fabulous cakes and contact her there if you'd like to make an order!