A $25 course in cake decorating turned into a 33 year career with a talent one baker never knew she had.
“I guess you just have to love it. I just do love what I do, if not I wouldn't be doing it for 33 years. You know...,” said Merida Mata. “God has given me this talent. He closed one door and he opened another one for me. I didn't know how big this door was going to be when I first started.”
Mata started her business after she was let go from her job in 1985 due to a misunderstanding. After a talk with her family, she signed up for a course through the Alice Community Education Classes given at a local company. Her father paid the $25 fee for her and her sister.
“I really just took it to keep myself busy and to make cakes for myself, my kids and not have that added expense,” Mata said. “So I'd make a cake, I'd go to a party and people would say, 'Um, I love your cake. Do you think you could make me one?'”
She never thought that anyone would want her to make them a cake for their special occasion, but they wanted a cake and she made one and then another. Her business took off and all from her home alone with one double oven and three refrigerators.
“I never thought people would be asking me to make their cakes...So it started like that, little by little. I have no advertising, I have no (business) cards, I have no nothing...It's all word of mouth. It just grew and grew and grew. It's all by word of mouth,” Mata said. “but I stay very busy.”
The community keeps so busy that she has to keep a calendar to keep track of all her orders.
She works from home and sets her own hours which really helped as her kids grew up.
“Really loved the creative side of it. I love for people to give me a challenge and for me to create something. It keeps it exciting,” Mata said.
She caters to the needs of Alice and surrounding communities, but she has also traveled to San Antonio and Lubbock to deliver cakes.
Throughout the years, Mata has learned the tricks of the trade and what to prepare for.
“People think I shop, bake and decorate in one day. That's impossible. It takes me seven to eight hours to make 30 pieces of cake,” she said. “My simplest cake takes 15 minutes to decorate.”
Mata's cake process starts on Sunday with a look at orders and make a list. She shops and makes her cake boards.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, Mata makes the extra decorations that may go on the cake and she begins to start to bake on Wednesday. By Thursday, the cakes are ready to frost and that gives her time to decorate each cake.
All her cakes are in buttercream and she only uses fondant on her decorations. Her fillings and frosting are made from scratch. Her cake mixes are what she calls a “doctored recipe.”
“It takes experience to do and make it look easy,” she said. “If I need to know how to do something I just YouTube it. I just YouTubed how to make a standing donkey pinata cake.”
Mata doesn't plan to retire anytime soon. She'll continue to make cakes piece by piece for the community whose been nothing but a blessing to her and her family.