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Disrupting Southeastern Pennsylvania Pastries with Michela Sorano

An interview with Michela Sorano, owner of Baked by Michela. She is a Bucks County, Pennsylvania based pastry chef, baker, and dessert extraordinaire. Michela found a love of baking when she was just a child. As she grew up and became a working professional, she found that her talent for baking sweet treats grew as did her passion for doing it. She continued to work in corporate professional cooking for several years and had dreams to open a bakery one day. She knew that it would become a reality if she kept her head down and continued striving towards what was in her heart. While only in her twenties Michela is already making a name for herself in the culinary world. Michela’s business is now growing faster than ever, and she is offering pastry and dessert catering for weddings, anniversaries, private events, in-home services, as well as attending a host of neighborhood events. Even at such a young age, Michela Sorano has an impressive list of accomplishments and is known by many around her as an old soul – someone that has truly grown and learned from the trials and tribulations she’s faced. Her pastry business is better than it has ever been, and perhaps a brick-and-mortar bakery is in the near future.

“When love and skill work together expect a masterpiece.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a pastry chef?

When I think about what inspired me to go down this path, when it comes to my career, it honestly started when I was younger around the earliest age, I can remember I have always wanted to be in the kitchen.

My dad, being 100% Italian from a town in Naples, Italy, he loved to cook and be in the kitchen. I was just born with this gravitational pull to be in the kitchen with him. When it came to baking, that stems from my mommom Rosemarie Burke. I always knew I loved the kitchen and I also enjoyed cooking, but baking was my passion, my happy place. With my mommom growing up, I was always around fresh homemade baked goods and most of the time, I even got to stand side by side with her to see the skill and passion she would put into everything she created. When I entered high-school I was a good student, but I never found anything I loved more than being in the kitchen and especially baking. I loved making people happy with the sweets I could create with my own two hands.

After high-school, I decided to take a year off and work as a shift lead at my local Dunkin’ Donuts. This was my first job and I felt I excelled extremely fast. After a couple of months, I became a shift lead at the age of 16. At this job I learned how to train others, work in food service and over all learn how to be a leader. I loved it. While I was working and taking time for myself, I knew I wanted to enter a culinary program. Eventually I found Bucks County Community College and I enrolled in their two-year pastry chef apprenticeship, while working at my second job as a cake decorator at my local Acme markets. I would have never thought that I would honestly have any interest in cake decorating, but once I enrolled in the pastry chef apprenticeship, I noticed that pastry and decorating go hand in hand. It was an amazing skill to learn, and I am grateful for the opportunity of working while also learning during this time.

Young success often comes from a place of strong motivation, and for Michela, this is absolutely true. She is motivated by her faith and the people around her that offer constant support. Whenever Michela doubts something – her skillset, her experience, or her prices – her mentors are there to reassure her.

Throughout my high school years, I was told countless times that culinary school and the job I wanted to choose would get me nowhere in life. I was told that I would never be able to find a job that pays well.  Peers would also say, do not go to a well-known culinary school, you will be in debt the rest of your life. I wanted to prove them all wrong, there was always a little spark in me that I was worth more. I’ve always had the dream of working for myself and running my own business one day. I come from an extremely hard-working family. As I was in my culinary program at Bucks County Community College, while working at my local Acme, I decided to create a Facebook business page. I would have never thought I would have evolved in the last four years to me being full time and working for myself.

I did not have high hopes in the beginning, it was honestly all a dream, but I always told myself it does not hurt to try and to keep pushing and putting yourself out there. You will never strive to do anything if you never push yourself hard enough to get somewhere or to follow a dream that did not seem very possible during the time when you are only 19 years old.

How do you decide on pricing? Do you have issues such as customers comparing your price to stores and asking for lower prices?

When it comes to pricing, three major factors come into play: ingredient cost, the cost of your time and skill, and surrounding bakery prices. Ingredient pricing is always fluctuating so it is important to factor in if you are making a profit on the items you are offering. For the cost of your time, you must factor in the amount of time something is taking you to make. As for cake decorating, it takes more time, so you must make sure you prepare your day around specific orders that are happening that day. Along with difficulty, of course, if a simplistic birthday cake with sprinkles only takes you a quarter of the time a tiered wedding cake would take, they would be priced differently. The last factor would be surrounding prices. This is one that could vary for every home-based bakery depending on where you’re located. It is always important to check surrounding areas to try to stay in the same price range, so customers won’t totally count you out when considering you for a custom order.

Do you face any challenges with delivery? How do you manage your deliveries?

For deliveries, the biggest challenge is tiered cakes. I always make sure to have someone drive me so I can make sure the cake is safe along the way. I never take any deliveries over an hour away for deluxe custom cakes due to weather or any road bumps along the way. I am grateful that most of my customers do come to me to pick up most of their sweet treats.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

In my experience, when thinking of new ideas, and what to offer on Baked by Michela, I always like to look at new and upcoming trends. Also, I think what my own family would like if they were looking around a bakery or looking at someone’s stand offering baked goods. Flavor combinations are also very important when I am thinking of new ideas. I have to think about what chocolate would go best with that design or what flavor cake would go best with a specific design. At the end of the day, you want your customers to look at what you’re offering and actually want to purchase it. After deciding the best flavor combinations, the presentation of your desserts is the next step because most of the time people eat with their eyes. Lastly, looking at trends and what is most popular that would fit the clientele I am trying to persuade is definitely a step in the right direction.

Did you ever get formal training, or did you just jump right into the bakery?

For training, like I have stated previously, I have been baking since I was six years old with my family. Once I turned 11 years old, I started baking on my own with a mixer and recipes from family. I always enjoyed watching food network growing up and shows like the Cake Boss. I always turned to watching tons of educational videos on this because I wanted to learn myself. I was already pretty advanced before entering into my apprenticeship program at Buck’s County Community College. In the apprenticeship program, I learned basics along with more advanced French pastry and techniques. While working at my job at Acme markets, I learned the basics of cake decorating alongside of coworkers. A lot of my skills were learned on my own when trying new things and working on practicing different skills.

Personally, what is the perfect sweet treat for you?

In my opinion, a perfect sweet treat for me would have to be anything that works with laminated dough meaning anything like a croissant, danish, or puff pastry. I really appreciate the work that goes into the French style pastry and the buttery flakiness of the dough is one of my favorites, especially when paired with chocolate, fruit fillings, or some type of custard or cheese filling.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

At the moment, I am working on filming a lot of my cake decorating processes to appeal more to my followers on social media.  I think it is a great way of engaging with them and they seem to really be in enjoying seeing what ingredients go into each cake and the process of decorating.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement I would love to inspire would have to deal with helping all the kids out there that are unsure of the career path they want to take because people have doubted them. They should have influencers and people to look up to that can tell them that it is possible and that they should work for themselves and put themselves out there. They should strive to do what makes them happy every single day. I feel that in this generation a lot of people just choose the path that will make them the most money in life and not what makes them truly happy. I chose the opposite, and I am still making money and loving what I do every single day of my life. With happiness, stability will come as long as you strive and put the hard work in as well.

Any last thoughts you have for our readers?

Four years ago, I started something that I never would have ever thought would allow me to not only work for myself full time, but what would bring me my ultimate happiness. I am so grateful that I was born with this type of passion, and I am so proud of the jumps I have taken to make what Baked by Michela is today and what it will grow to be in years to come. I’ve always loved the quote from John Ruskin, “When love and skill work together expect a masterpiece.”

Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!

 

You can follow Michela and her adventures with Baked by Michela here:

Website: BakedByMichela.com

Instagram: @BakedByMichela

Facebook: @BakedByMichela

 

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