13-year-old baker serves her own homemade treats

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By Chris Sardelli

When Elaina Lopez describes her favorite pastries, a smile spreads across her face.

Elaina, an expert baker from Lancaster, enjoys making all sorts of desserts, from whoopie pies to truffles, but her favorite is her Tres Leches cake.

The traditional South American dessert is a concoction of sponge cake and three kinds of milk.

“It takes me two days to make it, but it’s a lot of fun,” Elaina said. “I like taking my time measuring out all the dry ingredients, and then making the whipped topping.”

With her knowledge of various delicious desserts, Elaina may sound like a seasoned chef, but she’s only 13.

The eighth-grader began her business, The Yumm-O Pastry Basket, three years ago and has been learning important lessons about the baking and business worlds along the way.

She says it’s been “a good experience” for her, though it’s been a challenge because she also has home-school studies.

“It’s a lot of work to do that and juggle school,” Elaina said.

It all started for Elaina when she made a faith promise to the Bible Broadcasting Network three years ago, but did not have any money to fulfill the promise. So, she set out to find a way to earn enough for the network.

Eventually, Barnes House of Styling on S.C. 200 agreed to let her place a tray of her individually wrapped treats on their counter every Friday and Saturday. Her parents gave her a small loan to start her business, and within two weeks, she had enough to fulfill her faith promise.

Within a month, Elaina had earned enough money to pay her parents back the loan.

“Ever since then, I have been blessed to be able to give offerings for missions through my business,” she said. “I knew that God wanted me to give.”

Her mother, Rebekah Lopez, said her daughter acts like a business professional.

Each morning, Elaina wakes up, brews herself a pot of coffee and then sits down to check her e-mail for any special orders that may have come in. She regularly receives requests for cakes and cookies.

Elaina has created portfolios with pictures of her desserts so customers can see what they’re ordering.

Many of her individually wrapped desserts cost between $1 and $4, while her Christmas pastry assortment costs $22 for a small plate and $32 for a large.

Elaina has expanded her business to include orders from restaurants around the Charlotte area. She has sold two of her Tres Leches cakes to Don Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant in Pineville and several more to the Plaza Mexican Restaurant in Mooresville.

The owner and executive chef of the Plaza, Raul Rivera, regularly ordered several of her desserts, including her flan, and allowed her to leave a tray of desserts on the counter in his restaurant.

And while that restaurant recently closed, Rivera plans on keeping Elaina in mind for his future location in Charlotte.

“It’s nice that I have different restaurants asking for my pastries,” Elaina said.

Two other highlights for Elaina from the past year were a company’s anniversary party and her participation in November’s Lancaster Street Market.

For the business party, she was asked to bake 12 cakes in honor of the company’s 12th anniversary, and she crafted everything from a Tres Leches cake to a coffeecake.

She brought a different array of pastries to the street market, baking pumpkin bread, molasses crinkles, colossal rocky road brownies, whoopie pies and Texas-sized carrot cake cupcakes.

The whoopie pies were her best-seller, and within three hours, she was sold out of all her items.

“I was thrilled at the response of the community and how they bought something I had created,” Elaina said. “I was just thrilled.”

To keep things interesting, Elaina has begun learning how to create candy. In the future, she wants to try working with fondant, a cream confection made of sugar and water used to decorate cakes.

She sees a time when she may learn how to decorate wedding cakes herself. For now, though, Elaina is excited about expanding the number of customers who buy her tasty treats.

“I hope to begin to open up my business to different restaurants,” she said. “I’m just watching my business grow. As it blossoms, I hope it will get bigger and I’ll continue to give to the Lord as I promised to do.”

If you’re interested in buying a dessert from Elaina, contact her at YummoPastryBasket@yahoo.com.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416