By Tanya Henry
When I first saw a bouquet of cupcakes—aka Baked Blooms—I did a double take. Bright red roses, purple hydrangeas and soft pink-hued camellias all convincingly crafted out of buttercream and wrapped in tissue paper appeared to be a colorful spring arrangement of cut flowers.
“I learned how to make these bouquet cakes from a lady in England,” explains San Anselmo resident and mother of three, Sarah Thongnopneua. “I hadn’t seen anything like it here—I kind of have a niche.”
The 36-year-old baker, who grew up in England and who filled her first order for the floral-themed cupcakes last May, hadn’t dreamed of becoming a pastry chef. Her culinary training extended no further than working as a line cook and making pastries in a pub. Instead, she received a degree in computer science from the University of Manchester in Northern England, and came to the U.S., where she worked as a project manager for eBay.
“When I went out on maternity leave and was later laid off, I wanted to do work that allowed me some flexibility,” Thongnopneua says. So the busy mother went about filing all of the paperwork necessary to secure a food handler’s certificate and a cottage food license that enabled her to bake out of her home kitchen in San Anselmo. She now offers three different Baked Blooms options—seven-, 14- or 19-cupcake bouquets. She prefers odd numbers, as they create a more realistic-looking bunch. She also avoids “too many crazy flavors and fillings,” and sticks to classic vanilla, chocolate, lemon, almond and coconut.
Thongnopneua relies on word-of-mouth and Facebook to advertise her unique cupcakes. “I have orders every day,” she says. Through her elementary-school-aged-children, she also has a large network of parents who become customers and help spread the word.
Unsurprisingly, Baked Blooms is a popular choice for weddings. Prices for the celebratory bouquets begin at $45, and the budding business delivers throughout Marin and into San Francisco.
Baked Blooms; San Anselmo; 415/378-5020; bakedblooms.com.