Archive | February, 2013

Baking for the Pasadena Civic Ballet

26 Feb

As many of you know, I have started my own pop-up bakery business for my high school Senior Project. I recently “popped up” at The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse for the opening weekend of Peter Pan presented by the Pasadena Civic Ballet. It was a beautiful show, and the environment around the auditorium was joyful and bustling.


I decided to use a green and purple theme to match the colors of the performance. I loved the way the plush green tablecloth made everything pop. Various shades of green and purple ribbon dressed up basic cellophane bags and differentiated products from one another. My mom’s flower arrangements really completed the look of my table; I love the freshness and ease that they add to the spread.

These chocolate friands with mirrored chocolate glaze are a French take on a traditional American cupcake. Rich and decadent, they resemble flourless chocolate cake in flavor and texture. They looked absolutely adorable in mini liners, perfect for popping into your mouth during a few minutes of intermission. 


My chocolate soufflé cakes have become something of a signature item. How could you resist a cloud-like chocolate dessert served in one of these mini baking molds? I loved watching little kids jump up and down at the sight of them, pointing excitedly and tugging on their parents’ arms to ask for money. So cute! 


I made zimtsternes for my first event at the Summer Opportunities Fair. After receiving such a positive response from customers, I had to bring them back. A traditional Swiss cookie made with ground almonds, honey, powdered sugar, and cinnamon, they are barely crunchy on the outside and soft in the center. Other items included grapfruit-olive oil loaf cake, and oatmeal raisin, lemon shortbread, and chocolate chunk cookies. 

The event was a great learning experience for me, because I branched out to an unfamiliar venue and catered to a unique crowd of people. It is important for me to adapt my presentation and tweak menu offerings based on where I am and who I am serving. After this event, I appreciate the expression, “It’s all about the customer.” While I have to stay true to my aesthetic, I must also be aware of my audience’s desires. 

It is exciting for me to learn new lessons with every project I take on. Follow Let’s Live La Vida on Facebook to see where I’ll be popping up next. If you have any inquiries or would like me to cater a private function, please email me at maral.lavida@gmail.com. 

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Senior Project: My Own Pop-Up Bakery

3 Feb

At my school, every senior pursues a project about a topic she is passionate about and wishes to explore further. For my Senior Project, I have started my own pop-up bakery, and will chronicle all my experiences on this blog. My first event was the Summer Opportunities Fair at my school, where I set up my own table filled with homemade, “rustic French desserts.” 

Chocolate soufflé cakes and brownie drop cookies with walnuts, by far the two most popular items of the day. 

I came up with the idea for my project during the middle of my junior year, but have fantasized about opening my own bakery for a while now. I daydreamed about designing a space and baking dozens of beautiful goodies, but never thought about the hours of meticulous planning and labor required to open up shop for a day. 

After a week of deliberation, I decided to make rustic, French-inspired goodies because they felt the most natural to me. I baked until 2 a.m. the morning of the fair, and woke up at 6:30 to finish up some last-minute items and package everything. The final menu included heart-shaped chocolate soufflé cakes, citrus-glazed poppyseed mini loaf cakes, chocolate pecan torte, brownie drop cookies, zimtsterne cookies, lemon shortbread cookies, and big-cluster maple granola. 


I learned so much from this experience, and everything sold out within a few hours! It was so satisfying to tell people about my project and to see their genuine interest in my baked goods. I felt great when customers returned to my stand two or three times to buy additional items or to tell me how much they enjoyed something. I love to bake for family and friends, but receiving genuine compliments from complete strangers elevated my excitement to a new level. 

One major lesson I learned is that presentation is key. Many people stopped at my stand because of how aesthetically pleasing and professional it looked, with a vibrant yellow tablecloth and bouquets of flowers fresh from the farmers’ market. Investing time and care into packaging products and arranging them on beautiful platters really paid off. 

Zimtsternes are traditional Swiss cookies made with ground almonds, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and honey, and topped with a simple glaze.


For my first pop-up bakery, I was thrilled with the outcome of the day and everyone responded so well to my desserts. I also recognized many aspects that I can improve upon, mostly related to the business side of things. I’m still figuring out appropriate pricing, and would like to optimize my time in the kitchen by prepping certain recipes in advance. My sister and my mom helped me with every step of the process, from brainstorming menu items to assisting me with baking, and I could not have succeeded without them. 


Starting in March, I will pop up at various locations in the Los Angeles area. Follow Let’s Live La Vida on Facebook for specific details about location and time. If you would like more information about my project, or would like me to appear at a private event, please email me at maral.lavida@gmail.com. I cannot wait to see how my business grows in the coming months!