by Tanya Henry
Chemist-turned-cupcake-maker Michelle Mahoney claims to use her science acumen in the kitchen far more than she ever did as a scientist. The Georgia Tech graduate moved to Silicon Valley from a small southern town to work on a coveted project examining the feasibility of growing plants in space for the NASA Ames Research Center. But it was her quest for the perfect cupcake that ultimately led her out of the laboratory and into the kitchen.
“I wanted something that tasted like vanilla ice cream,” explains the always-on-the-go Mahoney. She began baking and testing, and within six months she had developed the perfect bite-sized cake. She quit her research job and began selling her signature vanilla, olive oil and sea salt cupcakes at local farmers’ markets in 2009. In September of last year, Mahoney and her husband Kevin (a P.E. elementary school teacher) opened Teeny Cake at 7400 Redwood Boulevard in Novato.
After a relatively short nine months, Mahoney had transformed a longtime empty office space into a gleaming storefront, complete with a professional exhibition kitchen, café space and a party room for hosting tea parties and birthdays. The 1,700 square-foot boutique bakery boasts a sleek, modern look with greys and purples punctuating the bright room. Mahoney has her fingers in many pies, so the 6-year-old business continues to expand its online, catering and party offerings.
Though known for their signature cupcakes, Teeny Cake’s offerings include a craveable cherry almond scone, biscuits and sweets of all kinds—macaroons, brownies and, of course, an array of flavorful cupcakes. An afternoon tea menu features a tasty kale and quinoa salad, assorted finger sandwiches and fresh fruit. From her years at the farmers’ markets (she still attends the Civic Center, Fairfax and San Rafael markets), Mahoney has become friends with local farmers and sources as much organic, local produce from them as possible. She also serves Equator Coffee and Teas.
When asked if she thinks cupcakes are on the downward end of a trend, Mahoney responds confidently, “No—I really strive to maintain the integrity of my products and offer lots of new and interesting choices.” She adds, “Mostly I just love creating something great in a small package—it’s not just a cupcake; it’s a dessert and something to savor.”