21-Year Old Launches Vegan Cupcake Business in Fort Lauderdale
Manning her vegan cupcakes at a booth all by herself at the Yellow Green Farmer's Market, 21-year-old Ariel Silvers has been awake since before dawn and has already frosted seven-dozen cupcakes. She baked them all the night before. With her apron tied tightly around her waist and a shy smile, you'd never guess it. She looks more like a high school student with a weekend gig, than the baker chef and founder of her own vegan cupcake business, Half Baked Goods.
Working at the Yellow-Green Farmer's Market on the weekends, delivering to Green Bar & Kitchen in the week, and managing deliveries and catering events the rest of the time, Silvers admits that "it's definitely a full time job."
Using apple sauce for eggs, and preferring water to soy milk, Silver's cupcakes don't taste like they're vegan. While some figure it must be too-good-to-be-true, Silver explains that her focus is on keeping her desserts from tasting, well, weird and with grainy mouth feel.
"Those dairy alternatives like rice and almond milk create a sponginess to the texture that I don't want," Silvers explains of her cupcakes. "I want to bake these moist cakes that people will remember eating before they realize it's vegan and gluten-free."
Her chocolate and vanilla cupcakes are the most ordinary of the 25 flavors. From her PB&J cupcakes (vanilla cake filled with strawberry jam and topped with peanut butter icing) to her Banana Chocolate Chip Flapjacks (banana chocolate chip cake with a maple syrup frosting), Silver's menu proves that vegan baking isn't limiting.
"For first time visitors, I recommend the French Toast or the Mocha Mama [cupcakes]. They're everyone's favorites."
Silvers has been vegan baking for the last three and a half years, and touts that "it's the only way I bake now." After graduating from high school and hitting a quarter-life crisis about direction and college majors, she realized that baking was the only thing she saw herself doing and being happy while doing it. "I wanted to go to college, but, I mean, I love food. I couldn't see myself doing anything else," Silver says with conviction. "That's when I decided that I should go to school to further my [baking] practice."
Graduating in 2012 with an associates degree from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Miami, it was there that Silvers learned how to mold chocolate, pull sugar, and bake like a pro.
"Those two years [I was in school] I learned way more than I thought I would learn," Silver recalls. It was there, before getting her degree, that Silvers started her cupcake business.
Juggling a full-time course load while struggling to support herself financially, Silvers needed to start making money. She was distraught when no one would hire her because of her erratic itinerary.
"I started my own business in 2010 because I needed a job and money and since I was going to school, no one would work around my schedule," Silvers explains. "So I decided to just go for it."
Starting slowly by selling her animal-free treats to family and friends, she eventually started catering events (like Indie Craft Bazaar) and then developed a name for herself.
"So I needed a fun name that people would remember and I just thought up Half-Baked Goods and everyone seemed to like it," Silvers says with a laugh. "Don't worry, it's just something silly I thought up, everything is fully baked."
Baking under a culinary loophole known as Cottage Law, Silver can cook from home -- instead of an industrial kitchen where she would need a license -- since her cooking doesn't use anything perishable.
"There is no dairy, no eggs, nothing has to be at a certain temperature," Silvers points out. "I can sell at farmers markets without a license as long as I tell people what is inside the cupcakes and cookies and stuff like that."
Surprisingly, Silvers is not vegan herself. And like she said, the girl loves food. When she's not baking, you can find her at all the ethnic hotspots.
"I'm actually the least pickiest eater possible," Silvers clarifies. "I love Japanese, Thai, anything. Everyone always asks 'Are you vegan?' or 'Are you gluten-free?' but I'm not."
While Silvers tries to do everything by herself, her longtime friend since middle school has recently teamed up with her and "helps [her] when she really needs it." Now that they've become business partners, Silvers hopes to one day open up a bakery. But she points it out it wouldn't be your conventional bakery.
"I would want to open up a bakery that one would never guess was a bakery," Silvers says wide-eyed. "I want it to be awesome and anyone could go there. It'll happen eventually."
You can find Half Baked Goods at the Yellow Green Farmer's Market in Hollywood every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.-4p.m. In the week, her baked goods are sold at Green Bar & Kitchen. Call 954-681-0792 or visit the website to place an order.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.