When Trista Ross found out she would have to stop selling the beautiful and scrumptious specialty cakes she had become known for, she was crushed.
“That was part of my identity – Trista Ross, who baked all the great cakes,” said the young stay-at-home mother of three. “Honestly, I cried for a few days once I found out.”
Last June, the county told Trista and her husband Jeremy that she was operating Sugar and Spice illegally by baking and selling from their home.
“I felt terrible that I had let down my customers and that I had been doing business ‘illegally’ for so long. I didn't really understand why I couldn't bake out of my own home, but I had to respect and honor the law. But then I prayed that God would give me a peace about it all and He did.”
Like so many amateur bakers, it had never occurred to the Rosses that this activity, which only produced a small supplemental income, would be prohibited.
But now, Trista may be able to bake again thanks to recent changes in the state law.
In response to a growing Cottage Foods movement, part of the wave of do-it-yourself crafters and artisans that fuel online marketplaces like Etsy and shows like Cupcake Wars, Georgia approved regulations for a Cottage Foods license this August.
It’s regulated by the Department of Agriculture but local counties and municipalities would still have to make it legal in their jurisdictions to take effect.
The Rosses brought the changes to the attention of the county, which is drawing up a draft Cottage Foods ordinance and license application.
At Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, Jeremy Ross spoke about the new state regulations. “It’s a great opportunity for people like ourselves,” he said. “It’s a little bit of side income. I feel like it’s a long-needed legislation.”
Commissioners Oz Nesbitt agreed. “It’s listed as Cottage Foods, but I’m calling it what it is – home baked goods… This is an old-school habit a lot of grandmothers and aunties have been doing for many, many years,” said Nesbitt.
“We know these things go on now,” said Commissioner JaNice Van Ness, who introduced the legislation proposal. “I don’t think our manpower allows us to police all the people that are taking items to events or selling cakes.”
“I’d much rather make it across the board so they can participate in a legal manner. It’s a safer thing for the environment. I think it’s a win-win situation,” said Van Ness.
Planning and Development Director Marshall Walker explained the proposed regulations would allow people to sell directly to consumers but would not allow them to take their products to convenience stores or grocery stores or wholesalers.
The county’s license fee for home based businesses is $85 and the state’s application fee is $100. Going through the standard procedures for approval, the law might be adopted by mid-December, according to Walker.
Items covered include: loaf breads, rolls, and biscuits; cakes and cupcakes (except those that require refrigeration due to cream cheese icing, fillings, or high moisture content such as tres leche); pastries and cookies; candies and confections; fruit pies; jams, jellies, and preserves (not to include fruit butters whose commercial sterility may be affected by reduced sugar/pectin levels); dried fruits; dry herbs, seasonings and mixtures; cereals, trail mixes and granola; coated or uncoated nuts; vinegar and flavored vinegars; and popcorn, popcorn balls, and cotton candy.
The new ordinances might open doors for some budding amateur bakers.
Trista Ross picked up on making cakes as a hobby five years ago after baking for family and friends and finding out she had a knack for it. She began baking and selling them to other people in earnest about three years ago. At the height, she would have three to six orders a week, just by word of mouth, which was all the workload she could handle.
“That’s why I’m just so excited that I can finally do this… I don’t want to own a shop right now. Maybe years down the road when the girls are grown. But my priority right now is to be a stay at home mom,” she said.
Covington resident Kristen Parzych, who works in Rockdale and whose mother works at Rockdale Medical Center, said she began making cupcakes the past year after watching Cupcake Wars and after her husband, a Rockdale firefighter, requested red velvet cupcakes for his birthday. Other popular flavor requests include chocolate with salted caramel, Key lime, pina colada, and one request for Mountain Dew and burrito flavored cupcakes.
“It is definitely a passion. I wish I could do it more... I would love to evolve into a full time baker,” she said.
Tameka Badiane, who owns Cupcake Palace at the Corner Market shopping area, at Flat Shoals and Parker Road, said she had been selling cakes for about three years from her home before making the leap to open a store. “I had a passion for baking. My birthday is two days after Christmas. I didn’t get a birthday cake until I was 18. I don’t feel like anyone should go without a birthday cake.”
Makeba Mathews, who recently opened Cakes and Desserts Café by Divas Delites in Olde Town, said she made the transition from home baker to storefront cake shop because she knew she couldn’t operate out of her own home.
“I had been storing up equipment for three years… It’s been a hustle.” But, she added, “There’s nothing like working for yourself. It’s worth it in the end.”
For more information on Georgia’s Cottage Food Law, go to