ELLINGTON – Life is a walk in the park. Well, almost for Mackenzie Helbig, a 16-year-old high school student from Ellington High School who founded a local baking company, MH Bakes.
With the help of teachers, family and friends, Helbig seems to have found her footing in baking. And so far the feedback has been good, says the teenager.
“In particular, people really like the frosting,” which is buttercream, Helbig said. “It’s their favorite thing about cakes.”
On Wednesday, Helbig proudly showed off her adorable and cute, yet very professional, blue Cookie Monster and pink Peppa Pig cupcakes, detailed with frosted eyes, ears and bodies. Of course, Cookie Monster eats a crispy chocolate chip cookie.
“I’ve always cooked with my family and taken all the cooking classes they have here at Ellington High School,” Helbig said as she displayed her confectionery creations in the school’s cooking classroom. . She credits most of her talent to her grandmother and the school’s culinary arts program run by Professor Dave Helmin. “I learned a lot here, just cooking for fun.”
In just three hours on Tuesday, Helbig whipped up a Reese’s Pieces Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake topped with chocolate-covered strawberries, a green Irish Leprechaun Hat Cake and plenty of character cupcakes.
In February, MH Bakes went live and Helbig started taking orders to sell.
“I manage the whole account. I personally posted all the photos. My mom will occasionally help out, but most of the time I do everything myself,” she said of the webpage.
The beautiful photos of decadent dipped strawberries, cakes, cupcakes and cookies paid off.
So far, “I’ve had just over a dozen orders for MH Bakes. It’s usually one cake every other weekend, or two cakes a weekend. It all depends,” said Helbig Most of the orders are for birthdays, but she said she had an order for Valentine’s Day and a call for “wellness” cupcakes.
She hasn’t ordered a wedding yet, but says she knows how to make a layer cake.
“I have a bunch of different sized pans. If need be, at anyone’s request, I hope I can make it happen,” she said.
The challenge is timing, she said, adding that she likes to plan her cakes in advance and make sure she has all the necessary ingredients, pans and materials.
“I have this ongoing anxiety, wondering if I’m going to get everything I need, because right now I just don’t know,” she said.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, bakery supplies quickly ran out, as many were strapped onto aprons to fill hours of isolation at home.
Helmin, her cooking teacher, admitted that there was a shortage of yeast and some other supplies at the start of the crisis. And then the prices of everything went up, he said.
“But whenever I had the chance, I had to buy in large quantities. I took the opportunity. I think I’ve been to Big Y a few times and searched the shelves,” Helmin said with a smile.
Helbig, or “Mackie” as she is known in the class, is a teacher’s aide who is currently helping other students in the baking class, her instructor said.
She’ll even star in a school cooking show, Helmin said.
“We have the opportunity with our video production class to air a cooking show, maybe for local channel 16 and Youtube,” Helmin said. “We built a real kitchen there. Mack is going to be a real chef behind the camera with classmates starting pre-production on March 28 and having their first tour the first week of April.
After graduation, Helbig hopes to pursue a career in baking and possibly attend Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island.
“I also want to do football in college and balance that out with eventually getting a scholarship,” said the defense football player who is recruited for her skills on the pitch.
But although she loves her sport, baking cakes remains her favorite activity, she said.
“I really like baking cakes. I can do a lot with them. My favorite thing to decorate are cupcakes because there are so many things I can do with them. I feel like I can add so much character to something so small,” she said.
And I hope she can take this much-loved hobby and turn it into a career, she said.
Although for now, she is not focusing on her recent successes. Cooking just makes her happy, she says.
“Pastry gives me joy when people give me orders,” Helbig said. It’s “something new to try.” That’s what I like to do.