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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Food

Student’s sweet treats make a splash


Katie Jefferies shows her school spirit with her UH-decorated cupcakes. | Courtesy of Katie Jefferies

When you ask most students about the key to managing their personal and academic lives, you’ll get anything but a short and sweet answer.

But for elementary education junior Katie Jefferies, her advice meets both criterions.

“Have two ovens,” Jefferies said with a smile.

That’s because Jefferies moonlights as Galveston Island’s up-and-coming queen of all things cupcake. And while the 40-minute drive south is not short, the treats you’ll find at KJ’s Bakeshop are all sweet.

Jefferies, a 26-year-old mother of two with an admitted sweet tooth, started whipping up her colorful concoctions nearly a year-and-a-half ago, initially as a treat for friends and family. But she quickly realized that the demand for her tasty treats gave her another career option that doesn’t require a degree.

“I really like cupcakes,” Jefferies said. “I started making cupcakes and giving them away as presents, and people were like, ‘Oh, you should start selling them,’ and so I did.”

Before opting for an education major, Jefferies had her sights set on becoming a graphic designer, but a chance employment opportunity quickly swayed her.  Given her new major, having a knack for sweets can only be a plus when dealing with elementary school students.

“I got a job at Garden Oaks Elementary as a teacher’s aide, and I loved it so I decided to become a teacher,” Jefferies said.

And when it comes to her kids — Dade, 9, and Aiden, 7 — she says they can serve as inspiration sources and her official taste-testing board.

“Sometimes, the boys will give me good ideas and (my husband) Andy will help as well. I like to get everyone’s input,” Jefferies said. “Dade drew me a picture of what my bakeshop should look like — it’s a giant cupcake. And Aiden does not like cream cheese icing at all, which I don’t understand.”

When she’s not mining her family for ideas, Jefferies turns to a more traditional source for her next project — shows on the Food Network.

“I’m addicted to all of them,” she said. “They have cupcake wars now; kind of like cake wars. Maybe I’ll go on it one day. But I did see an episode where they had to use chili peppers, and I wondered what would I do with that?”

So far, she hasn’t had to deal with anything too unusual, but has had her share of stressful assignments.

“Most people keep them wholesome. They’re my friends, so nobody has asked for anything too crazy,” she said. “This weekend, I had to make a wedding cake for 150 people, so I was freaking out about that a little bit. For the wedding cake, I had to mentally wrap my head around the (occasion’s) moment.”

As rewarding as owning her own business has been, Jefferies admits that juggling it with a family and school can be trying at times. She also said that following in her footsteps might not be the best idea for most students, but it’s an experience she hopes she can combine with her degree.

“I would totally avoid (having a business) until you’ve graduated,” she said. “For me, it’s so much fun, and I get to relieve my stress baking. I don’t want to stop because I really love it.

“Juggling everything is the hardest part. When I have an order to fill, sometimes it’s hard to mentally separate ‘study now, cake later.’ I love teaching, and maybe some day I can have pastry classes at my bakery, but no master’s degree for me.”

Jefferies may not want to extend her stay at UH past next year, but it’s not because she hasn’t enjoyed her time here. In fact, she says that one of her lasting memories will be of watching mascot Shasta do push-ups at football games.

“I have met some really great people that I just love,” she said. “And the football games and tailgating — I love it. As long as there’s parking for games, I’ll be there.”

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