Jessica Hollifield wasn’t going to let COVID-19 spoil her fun of teaching others how to decorate cakes.

Hollifield, a baker in Strasburg who has been baking cakes for area residents for the past 14 years under her business Lemon Tulip Cakes, transitioned her in-person cake decorating classes to a monthly cake box format when the pandemic hit in March 2020. She’d been doing the in-person classes for about a year when the pandemic came along.

"Everybody was stuck inside, so I was thinking about how I could still do my cake classes,” she said. “I thought about doing an all-around virtual class, but I use a lot of fun tools and things that typical bakeries might not use. So, I wanted attendees to still get those things.”

Hollifield said she had the idea of doing a cake box class called YouCake. It’s similar to a subscription box, but it’s not done on a subscription plan. Every month there’s a new class offered and anyone can buy the box that month, or they can sign up for a year. They can even buy shirts and aprons with the YouCake logo.

Boxes include the materials needed to make icing and to add decorations, which includes a video tutorial. Bakers must bake their own cakes or cupcakes.

“The idea behind it is similar to a paint night class where everyone paints the same picture, but it’s unique for everyone,” she said. “It’s really fun. We have a group on Facebook where everyone shares their projects, and everybody’s looks different and unique.”

The class is suitable for bakers of all ages, Hollifield said — kids can do it with their parents, couples can use it as a date night and other professional bakers have even used the class to use new techniques or try out new tools.

“It can help take a boring cake to a really fun custom cake,” she said.

Hollifield said she is getting ready to launch more advanced classes called Tier Two for those who want to expand their skills.

What originally started as a plan to keep her local class attendees involved has grown into a product that’s making its way across the United States.

“We’re still small, but we’re still growing. It’s been so much more than I thought it would be,” Hollifield said. “I just thought it would be for my local people, but we’re shipping boxes all the way to California and Washington state. It’s kind of unreal in eight months where we’ve sent boxes to.”

Hollifield got her start in baking cakes thanks to her mother-in-law, who had always baked cakes and taught her as a way to make some money on the side.

She said she wasn’t really interested in doing it in the beginning, but then she got into watching baking shows where professional bakers and decorators were making extravagant cakes and she decided she wanted to learn how to do that.

That was a little out of her mother-in-law’s range at the time, but her mother-in-law taught her the basics of making her own icing and the skills that go with it. Hollifield took those lessons and began making wedding cakes and advanced from there.

“I’ve gone from making customers’ Sweet 16 cakes to their graduation cakes to their wedding cakes to their baby shower cakes. Now, I’m making their kids’ birthday cakes,” Hollifield said. “I’m the cake lady. That’s what my chef coat says.”

While she still will always love creating cakes for special moments, Hollifield said she’s fallen in love with teaching others.

“This is where my heart is, teaching and showing people how to do these things. Even saving on your own kids’ birthday cakes every year is huge for someone like a stay-at-home mom. And it’s just fun,” she said. “It’s a good way for people to have fun together. They’re always amazed at how good they actually look when they’re finished.”

Hollifield said she hasn’t tracked exactly how many states she’s sent boxes to but said she might start doing that. She hopes to one day ship her cake boxes internationally.

For more information, visit You Cake By Lemon Tulip Cakes, LLC on Facebook or online at https://youcakemonthly.com.

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com