Mandie Miller has got what is takes to be a stay-at-home-mom, business woman, and friend. She is charismatic and creative. Mandie’s personality and talent fills a room. Three years ago she innocently offered to bake a groom’s cake for her brother. That resulted in a very happy bride and groom and the start of couture cake company.
“Got What is Cakes” is the name of Mandie’s awesome cakery. Mandie has worked with countless local celebs such as Fantasia Barrino, Matt Harris, Ramona Holloway, & Colleen Odegaard. In addition, she has been featured on Charlotte Today & Fox News Rising, and in Carolina Bride magazine. With the chaos of a home based bakery AND raising two kids, Mandie also makes time to support local charities through the donation of her awesome creations!
Charlotte, meet a true “slice of heaven” and our Smarty Mom of the week!
Mom to: Isabella Grace Miller (4 ½) & Lillian Paige Miller (2)
Married to: Joshua Miller for almost 7 awesome years! We’re still crazy in love!
Years lived in Charlotte: 25!
When did you decide to start your own “couture bakery”?!
My brother’s groom’s cake was done around 4 years ago, and I did free cakes for family and friends for two years after that. I decided that it was a very expensive “hobby” and that I could probably make a good living off of doing it! So I researched our state’s laws and found out that I could have a home-based cakery, if I did all of the right steps (getting inspected, licensed, insured, tax id, formed LLC, etc.), so I did! I officially started my company in April 2009, so I just celebrated two years!
How did you learn to bake and decorate such lovely and YUMMY cakes?!
YouTube!!! Seriously! When I launched my company, I had never taken any formal decorating or pastry classes. I started watching the cake shows and thought, ‘I can do that!’ Haha! Little did I know! So I started watching you tube videos on all things cake, and when I didn’t know how to do something, that’s the first place I would go (and still do!). I also joined a website called Cake Central, and I learned so much there too…not just about the cake, but about the business side of running a company! My parents instilled in me an entrepreneurial spirit, mixed with a ‘figure it out’ mentality, and it’s helped me greatly through life! As for the taste of my cakes, because I did free cakes for a few years, I was able to test out recipes, finely hone the ones people loved, and develop a list of flavors that are mouth watering. I will guarantee that my cakes taste as good, if not better, than they look!
How do you keep your kids (and you) from tasting every batch of cupcakes and cakes?
Due to the fact that I work out of my licensed and inspected home kitchen, my minis are with me all day long. They’ve grown up watching me make cakes and they just know not to touch certain things when mommy’s working. I only decorate the cakes after they’ve gone to bed so I can truly focus, so that helps. As for the cake scraps, every bit of them are used for cruffle pops, so those aren’t up for grabs, and they know that. They do like a little taste of icing here and there, but for the most part, they may be a little over cake at this point. LOL I do take tiny bites of the scraps, and tiny tastes of the fillings to make sure they taste perfectly. My husband and sister are my buttercream taste testers and let me know if it tastes like it should!
What is your favorite cake you have made since you started your company?
Wow…good question! My mini’s cakes are so special to me b/c they see me do cakes day in and day out and ask, “is that MY birthday cake?!,” and most times I have to say, “no, it’s not.” So when it’s finally their turn, I go big! The cake I did for Fantasia (former American Idol winner) was very special too because it was soooo big, such a challenge for me, and because I knew it was going to be on her television show. But I’d also say the announcement cakes (gender reveal cakes) are pretty special to. For those who haven’t heard of these, basically the expecting couple goes to the ultrasound and gets the doctor to write down the sex of the baby in an envelope. The couple gives the envelope to me and I then make them a cake (decorated in a baby theme typically). In between the layers of cake will either by pink or blue icing depending on the gender. The couple has a party/get together with their family and friends and when they cut into the cake, everyone, including the expectant couple, finds out what they’re having at the same time!!! I’m so honored and humbled to be a part of such a major moment in someone’s life.
I know you are very interested in “giving back” to the community. How do you incorporate charity events into your company profile?
Yes, giving back is what I’m all about!!! My mom is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, and she taught me that one should use their talents to help whenever possible. I give to just about any charity/person that asks me for something. Most times it’s with a gift certificate, other times it’s a cake, and sometimes it’s both! I often get moved by stories and contact people and say, “what can I do for you?” For example, I read a story on CSP about a mom whose child passed away. I knew that she was putting together a charity event and I contacted her right away and said, “let me make a huge cake for the event!” So I’ll be doing the cake for the Nic of Time event to help raise money for Levine’s NICU! Other charities that I support are Team in Training (LLS), St. Jude, Susan G Koman, Toys for Tots, Ronald McDonald House, YMCA, & MS just to name a few! I also am a NC volunteer for Icing Smiles, which is a charity that provides custom birthday cakes for critically ill children and their siblings. I also find it extremely important to give back to our Armed Forces, so I offer a military discount of 10% for all of their orders.
What kind of birthday cakes do you make for your children?!
Well, I kind of go overboard for their birthdays when it comes to throwing them. I want them to have awesome memories associated with their birthdays, and since I can make so many different desserts myself, and I find the decorating and setting up part so much fun, I go for it! I usually start with a theme…for example, Isabella’s 4th birthday party was a rainbow/pot of gold themed party. So her two tier cake was quite simple on the outside with a rainbow going up the sides, leading to a pot of gold on top. But the real surprise was within…I did the cake layers to look like a rainbow too! Lillian’s 2nd birthday was an ice cream social, so I did the two tier cake to look like ice cream cones topped with swirly ice cream and then cherries on top. The inside once again was a surprise, with the bottom tier being layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry (Neapolitan) and the top tier was sprinkle filled cake! I’ve also done volcanoes that “steamed” (dry ice), outer space/rocketships, candy everywhere, and under the sea cakes for them.
What is your favorite cake recipe?
Hmmm, if I do eat cake, I like a good white cake with chocolate buttercream. But a very close second is my key lime cake, which is white cake, and in between the layers of cake, I put a layer of graham crackers and key lime filling…it literally is the best of both worlds…key lime pie and cake!!! I also love the chocolate with mocha filling b/c I live for Starbuck’s mocha frappuccinos.
You have created fun “sampler” cupcake boxes. What was the inspiration behind these and what are some of the fun flavors you have worked into these yummy bites?
I have a friend named Mande (it’s like it was meant to be right?!), who owns a cake company in Colorado, and she was offering these cupcake samplers because she, like me, doesn’t have a store front where people can just walk in and taste our stuff. And I often times get people asking me, “can I sample your flavors?” It’s just not possible for me to have all of my flavors ready to go at a moments notice. So I started offering monthly cupcake samplers and people can now purchase a box of half a dozen gourmet cupcakes…each one has the same variety of flavors, for $15!!! I pick a theme and run with it…this month’s sampler was inspired by what one would find in an Easter basket. So for example, one of the flavors is a Snickers bar, so I did chocolate cake, with nougat filling, caramel buttercream and honey roasted peanuts on top…YUM! I offer these Samplers for pickup only once a month, and I announce it on Facebook, so “like” me to get in on the action!
How do you balance work and home life, especially when they are in the same place?
That is by far the hardest part about this business. And to be honest, I’m not doing the best job balancing. I’m working almost 80 hours a week, and it’s too much, especially when I’m a one woman show. I’m the accountant, the website developer, the baker, the decorator, the cleaner, the advertising and marketing agency, the photo editor, and the list goes on and on. I don’t have any hired help, so it’s getting tougher and tougher to balance it all. But I do have an amazing family (my sister lives right behind me, and my mom and dad are 15 minutes away) that helps me so much. My sister makes the 40-60 pounds of buttercream for me every week, and my mom often comes by and does my dishes and cleans my kitchen. My dad builds all of my cake structures, and if you’ve seen my cakes, he’s a busy guy! I get few hours of sleep…luckily I don’t require a lot…and many nights are all nighters. But I’m so blessed to have a thriving business in this economy that I try to not complain. I also believe that life is all about perspective…and if staying up late and working too much is hardest thing I have to encounter right now, I’m still extremely fortunate!!! I also have a very supportive husband, and he jumps in and takes the girls out of the house so I can work. When I haven’t slept in days, he gets the house quiet so I can nap. He drives the car for deliveries, so I can sit in the back with the cake! And luckily, I have two very good, little girls who I know see me as a good role model. They see what it’s like to work hard…they help me shop for ingredients and materials, edit pictures, and most importantly, they make me laugh when I need it. Sure, it’s crazy around here on a daily basis, but I’m with them day in and day out, and that’s why I started this business!
What is your favorite kid-friendly restaurant?
Peppers Deli in Baxter Village!
What is your favorite activity with your kids?
Riding the light rail uptown on a Friday or Saturday morning, going to the Farmers Market and vendors that are on Trade and Tryon, seeing all of the water fountains sprinkled throughout the buildings, & eating a picnic on The Green. For less than $10, you have a fabulous, family-filled activity!!!
What is your favorite date-night spot?
Well, I’m ashamed to say that we haven’t been on a date in years…I literally work every single night. But I’m trying to get better about it, so that we can go on a date! If we did, I’d love to go to a nice dinner (I’m a huge foodie!), and then grab a drink uptown, and then stay the night at The Dunhill (uptown).
What is the funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?
Well, Isabella never stops talking, and I find everything she says to be hysterical…I love her reasoning on things. Right now she’s obsessed with all things wedding, so she says to me, “mommy, can I get married when I’m 15?” And I say, “no baby, that’s too young…how about 25, or some where in that range?” And she said sighing, “okaaaaay, I’ll wait til I’m 40.” Her father is plenty happy with 40…LOL
Minivan or SUV?
Favorite thing about being a mommy?
When they’re playing with their blocks or dolls or whatever, and one of them stops what they’re doing, completely unprompted, and walks over to me to give me a hug and a kiss, then resumes what they’re doing. It’s almost like they just HAD to show me their love right then and there, without being asked, or they were going to burst…it’s so profound. Makes me feel like I’m doing a good job in showing them that same kind of love.
Could not live without my…
Reality tv, facebook, gossip mags…just kidding (sort of)! I seriously couldn’t live without my family, especially my husband and girls. My hubby is so in love and proud of me, and I feel it everyday from him. And my girls are what keep me chugging along, and make all of the hard work worth it. I’m just blessed I get to call Joshua, Isabella and Lillian “mine.”