Katie Maschoff is a Minneapolis-based baker who specializes in custom cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. Her business, Mill City Cooking Company, was started in 2020 with the goal of sharing her love of cooking and creating delicious recipes.
Growing up, she spent a lot of time cooking and learning in the kitchen with family. Her career took her from the front of house to the kitchens in restaurants across the country, where she learned even more about food and hospitality.
What did you do before starting Mill City Cooking Company?
“My past work experience has revolved around restaurants. I started working in the restaurant industry when I was 15 — I fell in love with it. I started out as a hostess and throughout my career, I worked my way up to a regional manager role for a Chicago-based company. Most of my time has been focused on management, especially in the quick-service industry, and that meant spending a lot of time in the kitchen.”
“I grew up cooking. With my family, family dinners were always a priority. I would help make the salad as a kid, and as I got older, we made sure that I knew my grandma’s brownie recipe and other important family recipes,” Katie said.
“I fell in love with the people, the customers, hearing people’s stories, feeding them food, hearing them talk about the food,” Katie said. “I wanted to keep doing that, for me.”
What is the Mill City Cooking Company origin story?
“I’ve been baking on the side for a while. I always helped my mom and my grandma with Christmas cookie duty. Getting to know things like my grandma’s brownie recipe — her delectable brownie recipe with lots of sugar and a cup of Hershey’s syrup — it’s special. I’ve always loved baking,” Katie said.
“Then I made my friend’s three-tier baby shower cake, and it turned out that I was really good at baking cakes. My friends all told me that I should make them and sell them. I was going through a transitional time in my career and was ready to make a lifestyle change.”
“My first cake was really beautiful — I used live flowers as decoration, but it wasn’t anything fancy,” Katie said. “Then I was asked to make a friend’s 50th anniversary cake, it was still kind of basic, and again, I used fresh flowers to decorate it. Then I realized that I was actually good at this... and that it could be a real business. Things grew organically from there.”
“I had been thinking about naming my business something with Katie or Maschoff in the name. I live in Minneapolis across the river from the Mill Ruins, and that inspired my business name,” Katie said.
“In 2020, I had lots of free time on my hands because, well, I had been working full-time in the restaurant industry. I started making cookies, cakes, and cupcakes for friends and family. I decided that I was going to put some time, money, and effort into this and make it ‘real.’ I got my LLC, started a business bank account, all of that. I just started building,” Katie said. “I got my first non-friend order around Thanksgiving last year, and things have grown organically from there. I’m glad to be in a really supportive community that wants to support local makers.”
“It was scary to think about doing anything without support from my friends and family. I’m confident in myself and what I’m doing, but I need that little push to take the leap. My friends’ encouragement really helped me take the leap.”
How would you describe your products in one sentence?
“Custom, homemade goodies made right for every customer.”
“None of my work is cookie cutter, no pun intended. This isn’t cookie cutter food. This is made up of recipes that over the last year, plus family recipes, I’ve really honed. I put my spin on them for every customer, and I think you can taste it.”
What's your favorite way to enjoy your products?
“My favorite way to enjoy my products is to, if I can, enjoy it with the person I’m making it for. I think this comes from working in restaurants — seeing something I either helped to create or did create with my own hands, seeing the person I made it for enjoy it, and me eating it with them. When someone bites into something and it puts a smile on their face, that’s the best thing ever.”
Who is another food artisan that you follow and support, and why?
“I follow a woman, Liz Larsen, and her company is called Liz’s Macarons. She’s out in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Her main focus is macarons, but she does cakes and cookies too,” Katie said. “I worked with her to create some custom macarons to decorate a cake that I was making for a customer.”
“Her macarons were beautiful, colorful, and just perfect. She made them custom for me, and she was so easy to work with. They were amazing. My friend Helen, a self-described macaron expert, said that they were the best macarons she’d ever eaten in her life.”
What's the best thing about this job?
“It kind of goes back to how I enjoy my products. Getting to work making these special cakes, where I get to customize a lot. I don’t do a lot of cookie cutter cakes. I love working with the customer to find out what their needs are, who we are celebrating, and then having the freedom to let my creativity fly. I get parameters with colors or themes, but I love really being able to dig down and let my creative juices flow.”
“Eating cake or cookie leftovers here and there isn’t bad either,” Katie said. “I have a sweet tooth. A little dip of buttercream frosting here, a cookie there.”
What advice would you share with food entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
“Just do it, as Nike says! I think it’s a scary jump to make, but you’ll never know until you do it. Life is too short, so if you love something and you really want to provide that product or service, just do it,” Katie said.
“Starting an LLC isn’t difficult. It seems like a daunting task, but it really isn’t. Trust in yourself and know that you’re good enough, worth it, and just do it. You’ll be surprised at the level of support you’ll get from friends and family.”