Sunday, June 7, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Sweet Baking Co. in Lompoc had to make some changes because of the pandemic and found sweet success

CAMILLIA LANHAM

From day one, Missy Morales knew she was sure about one thing. 


Treat yourself
Keep up with the escapades of Sweet Baking Co. in Lompoc via Instagram and Facebook. That’s where you’ll find the latest hours, updates, and changes happening due to the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic. For now, the shop is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at 322 N. H St., suite C, in Lompoc. And, of course, you can always visit the shop virtually at sweetbakingcompany.com.

CUPCAKE QUEEN
Sweet Baking Co. in Lompoc started focusing on its cupcake game during the pandemic, and every weekend they have several flavors for customers to choose from. Oreo (center) and confetti (sprinkles) are always on hand, and the rest rotate weekly, including red velvet, carrot cake, cinnamon maple, chocolate sprinkle, and some mystery flavors.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSY MORALES

No cartoon character cakes. 

“I can do it. I won’t do it. I didn’t want to be stuck making a Mickey Mouse cake every weekend. It would have driven me crazy,” she said. 

Instead, Morales had a whimsical, colorful look she wanted to craft and make her own. 

“I use a lot of bright colors. I don’t do any fondant. It’s all more kind of artsy. You would just look at it, and know it’s me,” Morales said. “I don’t do anything that looks like it’s going to come from the grocery store bakery. ... I don’t do sheet cakes.” 

That’s because the cakes that she crafts at her shop in Lompoc, Sweet Baking Co., are made to order, fresh, and hand-decorated. She doesn’t have cakes stored in the freezer waiting for that next order to come in. 

Instead her round, layered cakes are lush and beautiful, made with that Morales panache. Classy and stylish, with a certain flair. Frosting painted on the sides of a cake with golden luster brushed in. Drips falling down the sides of an almost naked sponge. Purples, pinks, whites, and blues marbled together.


COLOR AND PANACHE
Although Sweet Baking Co. makes custom cakes to order, there are some lines that owner Missy Morales will not cross. She won’t decorate anything with cartoons. Her style is all about art—like a beautiful watercolor painted in frosting.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSY MORALES

It’s exactly what Morales wanted from the second she started pushing toward her dream, about four years ago. She wanted to build a recognizable brand, a loyal customer base, and creations that express who she is. 

Pre-baking life, Morales was selling insurance. Prior to that she was a bank teller. She would work those office-job hours, from 9 to 5, and then go home and bake. She would dream about baking while she was at work, Morales said. And then, one day, she just couldn’t take it anymore. Luckily, she said, her husband has a steady job in the military, so Morales was able to quit her job even though it was a risky move.

“I needed to have a change in order for something to change, and it did. So things worked out,” she said. 

However, before Morales even thought about opening a shop, she needed to figure out the recipes in her own kitchen. 

“You can’t master everything. I just want to do one thing and get really good at it. Cakes, macarons, sugar cookies, cupcakes,” she said. “And I wanted to perfect those. ... I worked three months to perfect my macaron recipes. ... If it’s mine, it’s mine. I’m just comfortable that way.” 

Once she felt comfortable with her following and building her specific brand, she opened the storefront. But even after tracking down a space, it took almost a year to get the shop perfected and up and running. Morales said it was basically a shell that needed to get filled in with all the parts and pieces that make a bakery. 


PERFECTION
Before opening her bakery in 2018, Missy Morales took the time to perfect her recipes. It took her three months to get the macarons she whips up just right.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSY MORALES

They built a floor, installed plumbing for sinks, and she funded it all with the custom orders that she was doing on the side. Once Sweet Baking Co. flung those doors wide open to let the public in, Morales said it’s been nonstop.

“I really didn’t want to start out with having to pay back a loan,” she said. “The shop’s changed so much since then. And it’s been really good. The community’s really supported us.”

Two years later, Sweet Baking Co. is dealing with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like so many other independently owned businesses, Morales had to make some rather weighty decisions quickly. And the pragmatism that she showed by waiting to open the shop is evident in the route Sweet Baking Co. is currently traversing. 

As things started to unfold, Morales lost her assistant baker. They mutually decided it would be best for her to quarantine at home. With a small team before the pandemic, Sweet Baking Co. essentially became a one-woman show, with Morales prepping, baking, decorating, selling, cleaning, administrating, and fielding calls from customers new and old. 

Plus, she now had three children home from school. Morales has a first-grader, eighth-grader, and a senior in high school. She said they are pretty self-sufficient and are old enough to figure things out, but the fact is, they still need a parent around. Her husband works with the Air National Guard and Cal Fire, so he’s home every other weekend.

“I took a week off from the shop. I had to figure out my kids’ school, all the Zooms and everything and get them organized, and then I needed to figure out what I was going to do at the shop,” Morales said. 


VEGAN DELIGHT
In addition to selling vegan doughnuts from time-to-time, Sweet Baking Co. always has Morales’ famous edible cookie dough in the display case. Yes, that’s vegan, too.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSY MORALES

She decided to shorten the hours and days of the week that Sweet Baking Co. was open—now Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.—and make a smaller menu of items people could pick out from behind the glass. While customers can still find cheesecake slices, cookies, and vegan cookie dough regularly, Morales has turned her focus to cupcakes. What was more of a sweets shop has kind of become a cupcake shop. She said she still does custom cake orders, too, but that people should be patient. With one person on the cake assembly line, she’s hoping customers will understand that they need to allow her the time to turn around those made to order cakes. It’s not something she can do overnight. 

The store’s counter is now pushed almost all the way to the door, so customers can’t really step more than a foot inside the shop. That way, Morales can ensure people aren’t crammed into the store, rather they’re social distancing outside before they step up to order. 

The crazy thing is that Morales feels like she’s busier than she’s ever been. On Mother’s Day, she said Sweet Baking Co. sold out of cupcakes in an hour. 

“It’s just kind of out of control with the amount of cupcakes that we’re selling right now,” Morales said. “It’s been really good. I always wanted a cupcake shop, and it just wasn’t happening before.” 

The cupcakes that customers will always be able to find include Oreo and confetti. The rest of the flavors rotate, and there’s always a mystery creation that Morales dreams up. That way, people who come for a dose of treats get a nice surprise on the menu. Plus, Morales said she’s contemplating bringing her vegan doughnuts back into the regular rotation because of all the requests she’s received for them. 

Although the transition has been difficult, and she’s bringing work home with her now—something she’s done her best not to do in the past—Morales said the support she’s received from her family and friends has been invaluable. Many of them volunteer their time to help out on the weekends, Morales said. 

“Without that I don’t think I could have done it. Because I just couldn’t have done it all by myself,” she said. 

Editor Camillia Lanham thinks she could eat a cupcake in one satisfying, uncomfortable bite. Send tips to clanham@santamariasun.com.








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