I stumbled into something awesome

7 Jul

About 5 minutes ago in the kitchen, my dad picked up a leaflet in the newspaper that featured some politician’s supposed achievements. Among them was “Creating New Jobs”. I told my dad “Yeah right, nobody created a job for me, I had to create my own”. Sure, I was being a smartass, but I was also telling the truth. 

See, I’ve always been good at cooking and baking, and it kinda runs in the family. See, my great grandfather ‘Papá Rafael’, had a very successful bakery, Repostería La Reina,  in Puerto Rico in the 1920’s or 1930’s. One of his daughters, ironically one of his least favorite ones, had the baking gene in her. She didn’t pursue it professionally, but she did bake. Among her creations was a cake that, to this day, I haven’t found one that tops it. It’s a ‘simple’ butter cake, but calling it that will never do justice to the taste it has. I always loved the little burnt parts that formed when the cake grew too much and went over the borders of the pan a little. Still hot, crispy, and immensely full of rich, buttery goodness. This cake was part of my childhood.

My mother was the only one of my grandmother’s four children who took the time to ask my grandmother for the recipe.  My birthday parties always had that cake present. I remember my mother frosting it with hundreds of little tiny ‘flowers’, and that she’d make one or two on the top of my hand, and I’d gleefully lick it up, feeling like my mom had broken some rule for me, and I felt indulged. My mom’s baking was few and far between, until she had to do it out of necessity. When I was in the 9th grade, money was very tight. Here in the island, public schools are never the pretty, all American high schools where there’s cheerleading and teachers who want to make a difference. Sadly, the best education from pre-school to senior year of high school is a private one, and my parents worked hard to make sure I got it. So when necessity came my mother found the answer in her cakes. I would sell cakes and cupcakes at school. I’d come in with them in the mornings and students would flock to me. I wasn’t supposed to be selling them at school, yet the school secretaries would buy from me. They knew the money was being used 100% to pay for my tuition, so they not only turned a blind eye, they were faithful customers. Eventually things got better, and business was doing good for me, so she kept selling. Then came the government decision that changed it all…

Up until this point, Puerto Rico had been a tax free haven. They even had novelty t-shirts that read “No Snow, No Taxes, No Problem”. See, our tiny island had a big budget deficit, so they decided that implementing a 5% state tax and 2% municipal tax would help out. They said it would be temporary. It wasn’t. Now there’s a 7% sales tax on absolutely everything. Now, in order to charge that tax yourself (you are, after all, paying it on all your ingredients), you’d have to register with the state. Now, my mom didn’t have a steady income with this, it was all upon requests. So, any amount she put in as what she earned, she’d have losses if she didn’t make that amount that month, but still have to pay the government. To avoid the endless hassle, she decided to just stop doing it. We didn’t really need to anymore, and she’d make exceptions for special requests, but the whole constant baking was gone.

Which brings us to the newest chapter in this story. See, last month we decided to finally take a trip to the city I’ve been in love with forever but haven’t yet met, New York. We also found ourselves pretty much without money. My dad’s bonus came at an all time low, plus we had to purchase the tickets and the hotel room, and we literally had no money left. Three lovely months earlier I had lost my job, months one month before that basically lost my transportation and now found myself with an expired license and absolutely no money to renew it (and pay the $100 speeding ticket for going 60 miles an hour). I couldn’t get a job because I had no transportation, and without money I couldn’t solve my ride conundrum.  So here I am, broke, going to one of the most expensive cities in the world. My mom suggested we started selling cakes again to raise funds. I was getting totally into it, made a Facebook group, came up with the flavors we were going to sell and when. My mom then tells me that all the money we make from this is gonna be for me. Mine. This whole bake sale, is mine. Now my wheels are clicking. I’m good at this baking thing, could I make it an actual business? I start thinking I can. I can start small, making cakes and cupcakes for parties and events. I ask my mom why she never opened up a store and she tells me about the whole tax hassle thing again. Then she says “Why don’t you do it? I’d back you up”. And I tell her, I’ve been thinking about it. But I’m thinking big. Like a storefront in a busy area, with gorgeous displays where my cupcakes will look their prettiest. I’d have all the traditional flavors, but also the ones you can’t find so easily here, like Red Velvet. I’d have dozens and dozens of cake and buttercream flavors. I start creating flavor combinations in my head and become giddy with anticipation. I can actually do this. For the first time in my life, I’m confident in my abilities. I can actually pull this off. So, stay tuned. My life may have just gotten a whole lot sweeter…

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