Christy Vance isn’t your typical home baker. Though she runs Muffin Top Cake Design from her home in Plymouth, she has leveraged her relationship with Beth Sogaard, the owner of Amador Vintage Market, to offer her baked goods through the Market as well. I talked with Vance on September 1 about her baking business and what she plans to do both for the holidays and in 2022.

Christy Vance Muffin Top Cake DesignVance is a lifelong Amador County resident who was born at Marshall Medical Center in Placerville. She grew up on a family ranch, so it’s no surprise that her family started feeding her responsibilities when she was 8 years old. And it’s probably no surprise that she worked in 4-H and FFA, too.

When Vance was 16 years old, she got her first job as a busser at Marlene and Glen’s Diner. After she graduated from Amador High School, she went to Sacramento State but soon discovered that it wasn’t the right fit for her. “It wasn’t my thing, so I moved back home and just worked different jobs,” she explained. Those jobs included retail, deli, pizza, and event coordination.

Baking as Art

Work in the food and retail industries helped Vance prepare to run her own business, but it’s her interest in art that prepared her for running a bakery. “In 2006, I completed my digital design diploma at the Art Institute Online,” she said. “I used to be very into desserts myself—eating them,” she laughed. “And since I’m really into art, that’s why I really got into baking and decorating.”

Muffin Top Cake Design pretzel cake truckVance started Muffin Top Cake Design 11 years ago as her side hustle. “When I first started, I baked for family and close friends as gifts, weddings, birthdays, and my family was very supportive,” she said. “They helped me get ingredients, and my mom and dad helped me get equipment.”

The first cake she baked was a birthday cake for her father. “I did a little log truck which was one of my first 3-D cakes with little pretzel logs,” she said. “I was also doing little cakes here and there that weren’t my own recipes, but I was decorating them because they were more my thing at that point.” As her baking prowess improved, Vance took on bigger projects including baking her aunt’s bridal shower cake and her brother’s wedding cake.

Going To (and From) the Market

Vance started working with Beth Sogaard and the Amador Vintage Market in 2011. “I met Beth through one of my parents’ friends,” she explained. “I was looking for a career change and she had an opening. I met with her, and she hired me on the spot.” She started out working as her deli manager, and in five years she became Sogaard’s wedding and events coordinator.

Muffin Top Cake Design wedding cakeOne of Vance’s past jobs was working in her parents’ parents’ fire cleanup business doing billing, dispatching, and payroll. Three years into coordinating Sogaard’s catering events, her family needed help managing their fire cleanup business because their trucks were managing the Camp Fire in Paradise.

Two years later, the fire cleanup business was in good shape and Vance returned to Amador Vintage Market as the market’s sous chef. She said the reason she returned was simple. “She’s wonderful—she supports me, and I support her. She has taught me so much about cooking over the years,” she said. “I love to have a challenge, so I’m always learning new things.”

What’s more, Vance said, “She also lets me do my baking out of here and promote my business, too, but it’s more through the market right now.” She bakes cupcakes and desserts both to sell in the market as well as for parties held there.

Art You Can Eat

Muffin Top Cake Design fox and owl cupcakes“Throughout the years, I’ve taught myself how to build these cakes and make them look pretty. I really love to do the decorating part.” Vance mostly works with buttercream, but she noted she works a bit more with fondant now to create figurines. She added that she needs other people to taste her creations for her. “Recently I’ve had to change my diet and I don’t get to eat them much, which is pretty sad,” she said wistfully.

With the holidays fast approaching, Vance has already been working on new holiday treats including baking mini pumpkin tartlets and vanilla spice chiffon cupcakes for the Labor Day weekend. She’s already planning for the holiday season. “We’re talking about doing a plum cake and cake pops, and there are a lot of other options I want to try,” she said. She’s also thinking about going beyond cakes: “I’m thinking about doing caramel apple slices for the deli.”

Always Hustlin’

Muffin Top Cake Design unicorn birthday cakeMuffin Top Cake Design isn’t Vance’s only side hustle. She’s a personal trainer who was certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine last year. “I wear many hats,” she laughed. She currently works at Mueller’s Elite Training in Martell and teaches a couple of classes per week.

Vance is also involved in the community, including as the treasurer of the Rotary group Passport to Amador. Like many business owners, Vance has seen that a lot of businesses have struggled during the pandemic but, she noted, “I have noticed that they do support each other. Our community really does pull together, and I love that.”

And what of the immediate future with Muffin Top Cake Design? “I’ll work here for now because we’re helping each other out,” she said. “I’m training people in the deli, doing catering, and helping out in the office,” she said, “and she’s letting me do my baking here.” But eventually, she said, “I’d love to have my own business.”

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