Lydia Ron Extein started as an accountant, crunching numbers and working on budgets. Now she has a sweeter gig, owning her own cake business called “Lydia’s Cakes and Confections.”
It all started in 2011 when her friend decided to have cupcakes at her wedding.
“I was just like, ‘Well what about the cutting of the cake?’ And she didn’t care about that, but I was like ‘Let me try and make you a cake.’ So I did. I practiced, and practiced,” Extein said.
That was the first cake of many to come as making cakes became a passion for Extein. Not only a passion, but she found she had a talent for baking and decorating cakes.
“I started watching YouTube. Like when it came to the flowers, I watched YouTube and they just didn’t look real to me. So I actually would go and buy a real flower if I could and try and copy it. And if I couldn’t find that same flower, I would just pull it up online and look at all different angles,” she said.
Her flowers and other creations are usually made from a product called “gum paste,” which is sugar-based. Extein described it as working with clay, but a little more delicate.
Her flowery creations last a long time. Some of the flowers she has made in the past have lasted her three years or more. The hardest flower to make is the peony because it has so many petals, Extein explained.
“But once it’s done, it’s huge and it’s beautiful,” she said.
Flowers Extein makes for cakes can run anywhere from $5 to $200, with peonies being the most expensive because of the amount of time it takes to make them. Extein said it can take up to four hours to make a peony.
Although Extein is just opened a physical cake shop, her baking business started in 2013.
She rents a kitchen in Kent from another cake artist. She thinks about 98 percent of her business is wedding cakes. Part of that is because her prices don’t change based on the type of cake someone orders.
“A cake is a cake. It takes the same amount of time if I do a birthday cake or a wedding cake,” Extein said. “It all depends on the details that go into it. And that’s what drives the final pricing, the details.”
While running her cake business in Kent and from home, she was also working her full-time job in accounts payable. That all changed just a couple of years ago.
Extein’s company where she worked full-time went through a merger and laid her off, but she didn’t start looking for a new job. She decided to start doing cakes full-time instead. As of 2019, she will have been creating cakes professionally for three years. Now that cakes and baking is her full-time job, Extein and her husband decided it was time to have a daily income come from it.
While cakes are a large part of her business, Extein said when it comes to planning a wedding, the cake is usually the last thing people get. Now Extein makes brownies, cookies, tarts and other baked goods for customers.
Everything she makes, from cakes to cookies, are made from scratch.
“I don’t use any boxes for recipes. I make them fresh,” Extein said. “Even when it comes to a wedding cake. I don’t bake it until like two or three days before the event. A lot of places will freeze their cakes, which I think that takes away from the moisture that’s in it. I do a lot of waiting. I have a wedding cake this Saturday, I’m waiting. I don’t do anything on Mondays or Tuesdays. And most of Wednesday. That means I have time to do the storefront.”
A lot times she will find recipes online, try them out and then tweak them to her liking. She said she changes them so she can call them her own.
“If I don’t make it, I shouldn’t put my name on it. That’s just my opinion,” Extein said.
Working out of Kent to make all of her homemade goods was starting to wear on her. Extein had to take her baking supplies to and from the kitchen, so there was a lot of dragging stuff back and forth. So, she started looking for a space in Maple Valley.
She said it took a couple of months to find, but when she did it was perfect. Her new location will be at 23330 Maple Valley Hwy, Suite B. Next to Crown Donuts.
Extein has already met with the owner of Crown Donuts and talked about teaming up on weddings.
“I told her, ‘People have donuts at weddings now. It’s pretty popular. I’ve actually delivered a wedding cake where they had the donuts as well. I said, ‘We can team up,’” she said.
Unfortunately, Extein can’t open up her new storefront quite yet.
She said while she has signed the lease for the space, she is now waiting on the county and the city. She’s already submitted to the health department, so once she hears back from there, she will be able to submit to the county and the city.
Once that process is done, she can finally start remodeling and buying equipment. Her goal, she said, is to open her storefront by September or October. Waiting for this all to happen has been the hardest part of this whole process, Extein said.
Her biggest fear is negative feedback.
“Which I know I’ll get some, I understand, but I don’t like doing that negative feedback to other people. I just leave it at, it’s not for me,” Extein said.
While become a cake artist and baker came as a surprise to Extein, she said she’s happy this is happening.
“I call them art pieces, I don’t call them cakes because it is an artwork,” she said. “I do have that artistic ability, but without my friends and my family, and now the community, none of this would be happening.”
For more information on pricing and on Lydia’s Cakes and Confections, go to lydiascakes.net.
She has gotten a lot of community support.