Life Is What You Bake It

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| This is the 472nd story of Our Life Logs |


As the positive comments rolled in at the potluck, I could feel myself begin to float. Maybe I really could do this. Maybe everyone was wrong after all. I could do this, I could…then the winds of doubt blew through my mind as quickly as the hope came. But what if I fail? What if it’s all some kind of joke, and I’m not that good? What if I was never meant for this? What if—

Stop.

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My story begins in New York in 1985, Manhattan, to be exact. When I was 11, we moved to Florida and that’s where I spent the rest of my childhood. I grew up in a close-knit Hispanic family who always wanted the best for me. My parents wanted my siblings and me to be educated and successful. A couple times a week, my mom would take us to the library to feed our brains with the necessary knowledge we’d need to get there. But the knowledge I often craved couldn’t be found in a textbook or a fantasy novel. Each time we walked through the glass doors of the library, I found myself wandering into the baking section.

I would check out four baking books and sit in my room, reading the recipes as if they were stories. I was enthralled by the meticulous details…one cup of sugar, two tablespoons of cinnamon, a half-cup of milk…all these ingredients could create a spectacular cake. How incredible!

I think I was so mesmerized by these recipes because we never really baked at home. When I was nine years old, I asked my parents for a stand mixer, a request they were very confused by. Despite my interest in baking, I never got to practice. I could tell that my parents wanted me on a different path. Any time I would bring up the prospect of becoming a baker, they would steer me away, suggesting a profession like a lawyer or doctor. Since my parents were all about me finding success, they pushed the typical professions onto me, the “safe” job markets.

My mom never understood why I wanted to go through the trouble of baking at home.  If I suggested that we make a birthday cake, she’d squint her eyes and ask, “Why would we do that when we can just buy one at the store?” My parents were all about saving money and electricity. With the way that my mom talked about electric bills, I was convinced that turning the oven on would land us with a $500 electric bill!

Yet seeing cakes in the glass cases in the stores always brightened my day. The intricate details and the vibrant colors had me yearning for the chance to create something of my own. But sometimes the dreams of a child do not get to blossom. Sometimes, life gets in the way.

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At 16, I became pregnant with my first child, a baby boy. Luckily, there was a local all-girls pregnancy school I could enroll in so I could get childcare while I was raising my baby. After I graduated, my mother dropped me off in front of a vocational college and said, “I don’t know what you want to study but you have to study something.”

“I want to be a pastry chef,” I said with hopeful stars in my eyes.

My mother just gave a deep sigh and said, “You have a child now. You have to study something that will bring a steady income.” While I knew she was right, I was of course discouraged by her dismissal. But she was right, it wasn’t just about me anymore. I had to think of my son. And my mom had sacrificed so much for me that I wanted her to be happy. So, I decided to go into the medical field.

I had so little interest in medicine that when it came time to choose my specialty, I chose based on the color scrubs that you would wear every day. I wound up choosing blue, the colors for certified medical assistants. I told myself that I wasn’t meant to be a baker, that I probably wouldn’t have been good anyway.

I spent the next 14 years working in the medical field. I fell into my career with hard work but little heart. In between, I had another baby boy and got married to the man I’d been in love with since I was 15. I became a medical assistant at a dermatologist office in 2013. By then, I’d had my third child, a baby girl. I was not going to work in the morning with a smile on my face, but I figured it was all part of life.

Aside from my family, what helped get me through the days at my dermatologist job were the Potluck Fridays. I would buy store-bought mixes and bake all kinds of pastries and cookies for my coworkers. It was all I had the time and confidence to do. At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to make anything tasty from scratch. Still, I relished in the compliments from people telling me how incredible my baking was.

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Sometime in 2017, I was sitting around with my co-workers talking about my passion for baking. They knew how much it meant to me by the look in my eyes. But I was still in denial that I could do anything more than Potluck Fridays. But then my good friend Kristine, who nicknamed me Linus, startled my heavy-weighted self-doubt with a question, “Have you ever considered opening your own bakery?” I stopped for a second in shock. Sure, I’d always had interest in baking but I had spent years convincing myself that I wouldn’t be good enough to make it any more than a hobby. But that question dusted off the cloud of doubt inside my soul, awakened the hope I’d buried years ago and asked me, “Well, why not?”

In my contemplative silence she continued, “Picture this. You own a bakery and outside it reads Sweets by Linus.” I could see it all, the big glass windows, the plates of pastries and cakes displayed in decorated cases, enticing passersby to pop in, if not to buy, just for the smell. I could see it. For the first time in my life, it felt possible. It wasn’t just a far-off dream. I could visualize it. They say if you can dream it, you can do it. I believed that for the first time that day.

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But doubt still won out, my dream not leaving the confines of my mind. Not yet. About a week later, I was let go from my job. Still believing I needed to dismiss my dreams and stay focused on my career and a stable income, I began applying for jobs. But as I filled out one application after another, I began to feel jaded and empty. I wondered to myself, why was I assisting others in their dreams but refusing to take hold of my own?

My husband seemed to be wondering the same thing. He noticed the vacant look in my eyes and sat next to me. “Take a deep breath,” he instructed. “Why don’t you take a break from work for a while? Try to bake some cookies.” He had known about my interest but never the extent of how deep it ran. Hearing the confidence and certainty in his voice finally drove the overwhelming doubt away, and I got to baking. I could see the shop again, my dream within grasp. I knew then that I had to stop doubting myself. I needed to give myself permission to not only dream but do something about it.

My husband brought about 15 bags of my cookies with him to sell at work. I thought little of it at first. But within half an hour of getting there, he had sold every single box with glowing reviews. A one-time selling became weekly orders in his office. Seeing how well they had sold, my husband encouraged me to take my cookies to local businesses. “I’ll hold us down,” he said. “Just go work on your dream.”

From there, it was like I had been powered up like a battery. I joined Instagram (naming my page Sweets by Linus, of course) and started getting my name out there. I made cookies, cake pops, cupcakes, and then for the first time ever in February 2018, I made a cake from scratch. It was a chocolate drip cake I had found the recipe for online. I wanted to add my own creative flair, so I tweaked the recipe slightly, and it turned out great! When it was finished, I snapped a photo of it, and with a shaky breath, I posted it to my Instagram page. Almost instantly, positive comments poured in and along with requests for their own cake visions.

I had one woman reach out and ask if she could have the same cake I’d posted but in white. That was when I realized all the possibilities I’d have, all the chances I’d get to explore my craft and use my creative eye. Finally, after all these years of doubting myself, I realized just how destined I was for this path all along.

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Since that day, I have been working to build my craft thanks to YouTube University and other resources. The amount of positive feedback from friends and family has helped me tremendously. Knowing that I can create such amazing things despite being self-taught strengthens my belief that I was always meant to do this. Doubt just got in the way.

My heart is in every piece I create. They’re not just cakes to me; they’re art. The ideas fly into my head, and spill out into my creations with details that are also quite delicious! I have perfected my recipes to be so moist, rich and exotic that I am willing to try anything requested by a customer. I have done character cakes, geode cakes, and even object-based cakes!

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I know with time and practice, I can only get better from here. I am so happy to be able to wake up every morning and do what I love. I have most definitely been faced with struggles in building my business up and making sure I give enough time to each order, but instead of letting these things break me, I decided to let them motivate me to help me reach my goals.

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The fear of failure may always be in the back of my mind, but I’ve realized that I cannot let fear control my life like it used to. If I do, I’ll never reach my goals. Once I let the fear go, everything started to fall into place. Just this year, I have made over 700 desserts, and I plan to keep growing that number. With the help of my dad, who is an architect, I plan to break ground on a bakery of my own very soon. My heart swells when I think of how far I’ve come. And I can only imagine how far I’d have been if I had gotten into baking sooner. But I’m thrilled that I found the courage to finally pursue my dream. Don’t let doubt poison your mind. If you’re meant to do something, it will find its way into your life.

 

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This is the story of Lennette Ramirez

Lennette is a self-taught baker residing in Cape Coral, Florida where she is finally living out her dream and building her business. As a little girl, Lennette had an interest in baking but was steered away from it to a more “sustainable” career path which, for years, flooded her with self-doubt that she had the talent to pursue baking. It was until she was let go from her job in late 2017 that she finally found the courage to pursue her dream, and since then her business has taken off. Lennette specializes in sweets such as cakes, cake pops, cupcakes, decorated Oreos, Rice Krispies, marshmallows, pretzels, and dessert cups. She can fill your entire dessert table at weddings, Sweet 16’s, birthdays, or small gatherings. Follow her on Instagram: @SweetsByLinus. If Lennette isn’t baking, she’s looking at other cakes or watching Cake Boss to enhance her skills. She says, there is always a reason to celebrate with cake!

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Lennette, 2019.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on December 14, 2019.

| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: MJ |

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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One thought on “Life Is What You Bake It

  1. Pretty funny I am also from NY and had no idea what to do with my life so I went to a trade school for MA right after high school in 2009. Quit my job this week… ready to pursue something different! Best to you.

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