As a teenager in Sherborn, Massachusetts, Maya Kaplan spent her Saturdays pacing the baking aisles of her local A.C. Moore, clutching the company’s weekly coupons and hunting for new additions to her ever-growing collection of cookie cutters, frosting tips and cake pans.
“If you walk into my room, it’s just baking supplies,” said Kaplan, a 2020 public relations alumna.
Kaplan founded Maya’s Bites, a baked goods business, in 2017 after friends and family repeatedly asked her for custom-made orders. Maya’s Bites specializes in three-layer cakes frosted with Italian buttercream and adorned with intricate designs for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
In the past year, Kaplan sold more than 1,500 cupcakes, cookies, macaroons and other baked goods, she said.
A three-layer cake with two layers of filling and buttercream frosting typically takes her between two and four hours, but more intricate designs can take her days to complete, she said.
Most of her sales are in her hometown of Sherborn, although recently she has been reaching out to Temple University students to sell more in Philadelphia, she said.
Kaplan’s love of baking began with her mother’s affinity for making “really fun birthday cakes” when she was growing up, she said.
“The first thing I probably sold was to my mom’s best friend,” Kaplan said. “I made like, a cupcake bouquet. That’s actually one of the things I’m most proud of.”
Last year, Kaplan churned out nearly 100 baked goods ranging from cakes to brownies using 20 pounds of butter, 35 pounds of sugar and 100 eggs during her busiest Christmas season to date, she said.
Arnie Marcus, 69, Kaplan’s family friend and customer who lives in Boston, Massachusetts, praised her talent and “amazing peanut butter brownies.”
“[Kaplan] has certainly found something she’s really enjoyed and is very good at,” Marcus said. “You can tell just from talking to her how excited she is about what she’s doing.”
Kaplan is mostly self-taught and spends a large amount of time studying baking techniques from YouTube videos, she said.
“One day I was watching YouTube videos, and then I was like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna start making cakes,’” Kaplan said.
After starting Maya’s Bites, Kaplan worked at Guilty Bakery in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Clara’s Groovy Deliciousness on Manning and 20th streets.
“It was clear Maya was interested in [baking],” said Amy Cotter, co-owner of Guilty Bakery and one of Kaplan’s former employers. “We could throw any project at her that we might not be able to throw at other people.”
Kaplan accepted an offer to study baking and pastries at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, for the Fall 2021 semester, she said.
After completing her associate’s degree, Kaplan hopes to expand her online baking business and open a year-round storefront or food truck in Philadelphia, she said.
Kaplan studied abroad at Temple University Rome in Spring 2020, where she baked tiramisu with her mother during a trip to Florence. Although her time abroad was cut short due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the experience inspired a love of travel, she said.
Kaplan dreams of retiring to South Africa to explore the country’s landscape and wildlife, but she doesn’t think she’ll stop baking and eventually wants to open a bed-and-breakfast.
“I definitely want to keep baking in my life because I love it,” Kaplan said.
For now, Kaplan is focusing on growing her business’s clientele and perfecting her baking skills, she said.
“I don’t care if I’m on my feet from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” Kaplan said. “Baking is really fun, and it calms me down. I get lost in it.”