A sweet gig: Woodstock teen entrepreneur starts cupcake business

Emily Burner, 14, of Woodstock, recently opened "Emily's Cupcakes." Ashley Miller/Daily

WOODSTOCK – When Emily Burner opened her baking business, she had a little more than spending money on her mind. She’d set forth a plan to share her love of baking with her town, while hopefully setting aside funds for college. What she didn’t expect was to fall in love with helping her community one cupcake at a time.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a love for baking,” Emily said. “Some of my earliest memories include helping my grandmother make Sunday night or holiday dinners or baking cupcakes and cakes for fun.”

In January, Burner became one of the youngest bakers and business owners in Woodstock when she opened “Emily’s Cupcakes” out of her home kitchen. Burner has sold over 1,000 cupcakes for birthdays, weddings and community fundraisers since then.

“I never expected it to become this big this fast,” Emily said. “It all started because I wanted to make cupcakes. It really was that simple,” she said. 

“Emily’s Cupcakes” serves up eight flavors – with more coming. All are made from scratch and include lemon blueberry, strawberry cheesecake, Reese’s peanut butter and banana cream. Emily said she finds her inspiration in her grandmother’s recipe box along with recipes she discovers on Pinterest. She makes the necessary changes to meet her standards but enjoys messing around and getting her hands dirty.

Emily Burner displays a sampling of her cupcakes that include strawberry chessecake, Reese's peanut butter, lemon blueberry and banana cream. Ashley Miller/Daily

“Because I make everything from scratch, I can be as creative as I want,” Emily said. “If a flavor doesn’t work out – I simply move on to the next or find a way to make it work.”

When cooled, each cupcake is topped with a made-from-scratch icing and a piece of fruit, a cookie or candy pertaining to its flavor.

Jennifer Burner, Emily’s stepmom, joked that she’s one of Emily’s taste testers. Others include her classmates, teachers and friends from church. 

“It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it,” Jennifer Burner said laughing. She added that so far the lemon blueberry is by far her favorite. She wasn’t sure about the combo before trying it but said she was pleasantly surprised.

“Sometimes you come across cupcake flavors, and you think to yourself ‘why’?” Jennifer Burner said. “But with Emily’s, there’s always a little something extra. A little something special.”

On many nights and weekends, Emily can be found in her home kitchen whipping up dozens of orders of cupcakes. From start to finish, an order takes her a couple of hours.

“I’m still learning,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure out what techniques work best for me and which ones don’t.”

When orders are too large for her home kitchen, Burner said, Woodstock businesses have offered up their industrial kitchens and ovens for Emily to complete her orders.

“It’s pretty cool to know the community supports me,” she said.

In turn, Emily has done her fair share of community cupcake service. Recently she auctioned off cupcakes in honor of Harper Gouchenour, a 3-year-old who was recently diagnosed with upstream binding transcription factor (UBTF), a rare neurodegenerative condition in young children that is caused by a single mutation in their DNA. When the bidding was over, Emily had raised over $250 to donate to Harper’s cause. Her stepmom said she couldn’t believe how much they had raised.

“When Emily first started her business, she said the one thing she wanted to do was help her community in any way possible,” Jennifer Burner said. “Who knew the community would rally behind her – making her an overnight success. This is her way to say ‘thank-you.'”

She said that when her stepdaughter approached her about opening her own cupcake business, she agreed with one condition: school had to come first.

“There’s nothing Emily does that she doesn’t succeed at,” Jennifer Burner said. “I told her as long as she kept up with her studies and maintains her grades, I’m OK with her running her own successful cupcake business. I mean, how many 14-year-olds can say that?”

In August, Emily will be a freshman at Central High School where she hopes to try out for the volleyball team. When she’s not baking, she’s attending church, giving back to her community or spending time with her family. Upon graduation, she said she wants to attend James Madison University.

“Right now she’s not making a whole lot. And that’s OK,” Jennifer Burner said. “She’s fulfilling a passion and helping the community all at the same time. But whatever proceeds she makes down the future, Emily said she wanted to put into a college fund.”

When she returns to the classroom, Jennifer Burner said Emily’s busy cooking schedule would have to be limited to weekends and special occasions. 

This summer Emily said she’ll be making cupcakes for her first wedding. She’s excited and not the least bit nervous.

“One hundred and fifty cupcakes is really no big deal,” Emily said. “I have it down to a science.”

When asked if she plans on opening a bakery in the future, Emily said she’s unsure. But for now, she has no plans on throwing in the apron. Instead, she’ll be mixing the dough and expanding her menu to include new flavors and possibly cakes until classes start in the fall.

On the net

For more information, search for “Emily’s Cupcakes” on Facebook.