by Linda L. Esterson photography by Nikola Tzenov
Local Youth Garner National Acclaim for Baking Endeavors
Many family photo albums contain similar shots of their children. There’s usually one with the child covered in flour, often with a face smeared with chocolate frosting. It’s a tribute to the fun pastime that many share with their young children: baking cookies or a cake, with more evidence of the ingredients on their bodies, clothes and the counter than of the finished product.
For most, baking is just that — a fun family pastime shared amongst siblings, parents and even grandparents. But occasionally it means more. It can be the start of something greater, a hobby or even a business. It is the latter that applies to two Carroll County youngsters, and both have received national acclaim for their efforts. They promote themselves through detailed websites and social media accounts, and share their elaborate photos — and take orders — through Instagram and Facebook.
Emily Uhlman, ButterWorks Bakery USA
When she was young, Emily Uhlman joined her mother when she watched baking challenge shows on television. Inspired by YouTube videos of Charm City Cakes’ Duff Goldman, she began teaching herself to bake at 12 years old.
By then, she was watching Kids Baking Championships, Chopped Sweets, Ace of Cakes and other shows on the Food Network.
“The very first thing I baked on my own was cupcakes,” says Emily, now 16, recalling the green liners she used just like when she baked chocolate cupcakes with her mother at 5 years old.
Unlike her early youth, when she used cake mixes and premade icing, Emily prefers baking from scratch. “You can play with it a lot more,” says the Westminster High School junior. “There are so many different flavors so you can get really creative with the ingredients like matching the frosting with the batter and the flavors you can create.”
Emily started out making brownies, cupcakes and cakes for family gatherings, changing the flavors each time. The pandemic gave her time to be more creative, using pastry dough, gum paste and fondant, and she watched more shows on the Food Network.
In May 2020, she made an antigravity cake, using M&Ms that appear to be falling out of a bag and onto the cake. She contacted a bakery looking for an internship but was too young at 14 to be hired. Instead, when the shop owner saw her post of the cake, he hired her to make his wife a cake. With a $200 loan from her parents for ingredients, ButterWorks Bakery USA was born. She made her first wedding cake after a photographer found her online.
In the last two years, she’s made about six more wedding cakes and supplied seasonal items like peppermint bark to places like Firehouse Creamery. She made a fancy flag-draped cake for her history teacher. She modifies her menus based on the seasons, including hot chocolate bombs and fancy pretzel rods for the winter holidays.
Last spring, it all changed for Emily. A producer from The Kelly Clarkson Show found Butterworks on Facebook and flew her to California for an interview. While seated in the audience, Emily stood to speak with Kelly. She shared her proudest moment — when Baltimore native Goldman reposted her antigravity cake photo on social media.
To Emily’s surprise, Goldman appeared and she burst into tears. “You’ve helped me throughout this whole experience,” she thanked him. “I watch everything that you post.”
Impressed with Emily’s cakes, Goldman shared that he, too, started out baking at home. He invited her to join him in a baking demonstration on stage. She joined Clarkson and Goldman in making a mini spice cake with chocolate pudding and marzipan. She has since added the cake to her menu, calling it “The Hollywood.”
“It was one of my dreams to meet him, it was one of my dreams to be on a show like that,” she says.
Since then, she’s built on her newfound fame, taking a first place in the wedding cake category and an honorable mention nod for best dessert in the Baltimore Sun’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2022.
Emily hopes to have a brick-and-mortar store one day, but that’s after attending the University of Florence in Italy, where she hopes to study breads, sugars and cakes.
“Once I started doing it, it gave me a lot of happiness and joy,” she reflects. “I’m really enjoying this. I love it.”
Bringing a longtime
Staple Back to Life
Mia Alessi tried Brownies, soccer and other activities but nothing stuck, says her mother, Michele. What she liked was baking.
“The first thing I remember making as a kid was pancakes — I love pancakes and I was so happy that it was an easy recipe for me to start with,” Mia says. “As I got more practice, I started making different types of pancakes. One of my favorites was cinnamon roll.”
As she grew, her passion for baking continued. She woke her parents up in the middle of the night to taste test her recipes. Her mom started calling her “Bratty Crocker.”
That led to packaging a mug cake mix that was sold by Jill’s Jams, Mixes & More at Town Mall. That led to an appearance by “Bratty Crocker” on the Australian version of the Today show, as arranged by Michele, a former TV producer.
At 14, she joined the staff of Snickerdoodles in Hampstead, and vowed to one day own the shop. A diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma soon after limited her time at work, but it “gave her value, something to look forward to.”
Snickerdoodles was sold and she helped the new owners as COVID shuttered area businesses. Soon after, the bakery, too, closed its doors. With the help of her fiance, Jack Massicot, Michele reopened the business to support her daughter and her dream.
Mia expects to graduate this spring from McDaniel College with a degree in business, equipping her to not only run the shop but “make this an even bigger and better bakery.”
She still toys with recipes and in deference to her illness and the need to be gluten-free, she’s created an Oreo cheesecake that is currently featured at local restaurants in Carroll County and the Tillery Restaurant at the Marriott in Owings Mills.
As she prepares to run the financial side of the business, she still has her hand in a mixer often.
“It means a lot; I still enjoy it very much,” says the 22-year-old about baking. “It’s going to be a big part of my future.”
Cameron Livesay, Soul Man Sweets
What started as a home school project has catapulted 11-year-old Cameron Livesay into the status of an accomplished baker.
Two years ago, Cameron started baking cookies for his sports teams. That developed into baking birthday cakes for friends and family, and, ultimately, selling his goods under the name Soul Man Sweets “because I like to bake from the heart,” he says. He’s baked cakes for baby showers, a cupcake wedding tower, and desserts for business events including a 300-person party. He’s worked with Payne Christmas Tree Farm, Sunset Slush of Glyndon, Unwined Candles, Devin’s Deals at Firehouse Creamery, Keller Williams Realty, and Long and Foster.
Family photos date his interest back to about 5 years old, says mom Patrice Stair, when he decorated his own ninja turtle birthday cake. A few years later, Patrice endured a serious car accident, and she could no longer squeeze piping bags.
“He started doing the piping bag for me and the scoops for the cookies, and then he really started taking over from there,” Patrice says. “And then for home school, we made it into science, math, art. It kind of incorporates all of that.”
With lots of practice, especially during the early shutdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cameron put his creativity to work. He progressed from making personalized jersey and football cookies to painting detailed Maryland flags on cakes.
“I think they look better and cooler, and they make people feel special,” says Cameron of the personalization.
Cameron starts with family recipes and modifies them, adding unique ingredients and putting his own twist on the end product.
Last spring, he entered a Makin’ Bacon contest hosted by the Restaurant Association of Maryland, submitting a Coca Cola cake with candied bacon on top. He placed third, behind a celebrity chef who cooked for country singer Brad Paisley and a well-known restaurant in Frederick.
Then the national accolades started. He entered a Farmer’s Almanac honey recipe competition, and his winning honey churro cookies are featured on page 42 of the 2023 edition.
Cameron also won a three-month mentorship from the Guppy Tank Network, a Chicago-based organization that recognizes children-owned businesses who donate a portion of their proceeds or goods to charitable organizations or the community. The group selected Cameron based on his Sweets for the Soul Project, which donates baked goods to people in the hospital, for families following the death of a loved one, and for nonprofit fundraisers and nursing homes. The mentorship connected Cameron to a team of business leaders from all over the country who worked with him remotely on a biweekly basis to improve his business. In the early sessions, he learned to write a pitch and speak with conviction. He also received a $500 grant from the program.
Although he may not bake every day, Cameron is often in the kitchen, especially during peak holiday times. He used over 42 pounds of chocolate, he estimates, when he made candy hearts filled with cookies for candy for Valentine’s Day. At Christmas, he made over 500 hot chocolate bombs for Unwined in one week, and then filled two additional orders for 300 more. In October, he fulfilled an order for 450 hot chocolate bombs for Carroll Community College.
His favorite item to bake? Smith Island Cake with chocolate ganache on top. He baked the famous layered cake for a home school seminar last year, and enjoys modifying the original recipe to use peanut butter, red velvet and Old Bay butter cream icing.
Cameron still aspires to become a major league baseball player, but he’ll have his bakery for his fallback plan, he says. Today, he’s working on a tagline, explaining that he “bakes things for people, not for people to buy.”