Meet Maura Fernandez, the owner of Whisk by Maura, a small-batch cottage bakery based in Dedham, Massachusetts. A nurse turned cake-making expert, read on to see how Maura has turned her passion for delighting friends and family with sweets into a business.
What did you do before starting Whisk by Maura?
“I am a stay at home mom, and I’ve been home for about 10 years now. I have a 6 year old and a 9 year old. Right now I’m just kind of an Uber driver, carting my kids around to play dates, but before that, I was working as a nurse. I started making cakes about three years ago,” Maura said.
What is the origin story of Whisk by Maura?
“My kids actually don’t like cake. Neither of them like frosting! My love for baking isn’t limited just to baking, it’s cooking in general,” Maura said.
“I love being in the kitchen — I don’t just make cakes, I make everything. I’ve always made my nieces and nephews their birthday cakes, but I made one friend’s birthday cake about three years ago and she said ‘You should think about selling your cakes.’”
“When both of my kids started going to school full time at that time, I had six or seven hours a day that I could use to bake,” Maura said. “I bake out of my house, I have one oven and one cake refrigerator. I’m producing between 10 to 13 cakes a week at the moment, which is about my max capacity right now. I wish I could spread out more, but I’m limited by kitchen space!”
How would you describe your products in one sentence?
“Homemade with love” is how Maura describes her cakes. They’re a work of art themselves, but she intentionally keeps them homemade-looking.
“Baking cakes is an art. If you follow cake people on Instagram, you know that there are some really amazing people out there who paint on cakes, do fondant work, it’s amazing. One of the things I love about my business is that it’s very much homemade — it has a homemade quality to it. While I try to perfect my lines and make things super smooth, what I love the most about my cakes is that they come from a mom who just wants to make a cake to help you make your kids happy on their birthday.”
While Maura specializes in cakes and cupcakes, she’s also dabbled in other party-ready desserts and bites. “I don’t do cake pops, but I’ve done a couple of wedding cakes, I’ve made hand pies, individual fruit mousse cups, holiday items, things like that,” she said.
What's your favorite way to enjoy your products?
“I’m gluten and dairy-free, so while I do try my cakes, I can’t eat them all the time,” Maura said.
The treat she loves the most, though, is the so-called scrap sandwich.
“I love making a scrap sandwich — scraps of the cake, leftover frosting, into a sandwich. It’s breakfast! There’s just something about it. The top of the cake that you slice off to make it even is the best part.”
Who is another food entrepreneur that you follow and support?
“I follow a bakery in Texas called Hive Bakery, it’s all women-owned. They are a traditional bakery with a daily inventory. They do custom cakes and they are amazing — it’s real art.
“While I don’t make decorated cookies, there’s a local cookie business called Coco Butters Cookies that does absolutely amazing work. Decorated cookies are a specific skill set and patience-set that I don’t have, and hers are amazing.”
What's the best thing about this job?
“I love the cake design ideas that the kids come up with,” Maura said. “I get thrown some ideas where sometimes I’m just stumped. There are lots of characters who I haven’t heard of, or they want 12 different colors, or a combo of something unique. I love the artistic challenge of incorporating all of their must-haves to make their special days extra special.”
What do you think has been your key to success?
“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, my business wouldn’t be as popular as it has been. Dedham is a city, but it has a very small town, community feeling. My kids are in school, and I’m always chit chatting with everyone. That truly helps a lot. Being out there in the community helps spread the word about my business — I don’t walk around with samples, but I find common ground with my customers and community. I’m kind of to the point now where I’m known as the cake lady.”
Are there any marketing tips that have worked really well for you that you’d like to share?
“I’m awful at social media. The rules are always changing,” Maura said. “I am on Instagram and Facebook, but I’m just doing the basics when posting. Reels are great some days, and some days they tank. But word of mouth is the best thing you can do. Posting pictures helps, but chatting with the community is really how you find customers and grow your business. People are going to buy from you if you’re nice and friendly. That goes 100 times farther than just seeing photos on Instagram.”
What advice would you share with food entrepreneurs who are getting started?
Maura’s biggest tip for new bakers? Save all of your receipts.
“Get a big box and save all of them. And if you want to make it a business, and you want to make it more efficient, get every tool you think you’ll need. Get the right tools, because if you have all the right stuff, you’ll spend less time on every little task and be more efficient. Get the nice, big sheet pans. Get the right tools for your fondant.”
“Also, set a schedule so you can set yourself up for success,” Maura said. “For me, I bake Tuesdays, crumb coat Thursdays, and finish my cakes after that. I make all of my fondant toppers on Mondays so they can dry in time for decorating. By Friday, you’re just placing things on the cake and it’s not so overwhelming.”