Vienna Lunking, 16, didn’t know she was laying the groundwork for a business when she began “The Amazing Bake” blog two years ago.
“It started out as a fun recordkeeping thing for me,” said Vienna, a junior at Providence Day.
Vienna has many interests, but she calls baking a creative outlet and guilty pleasure. Her freshman year, she challenged herself: Make 26 different cupcakes, one flavor or theme for each letter of the alphabet, in a year.
It hasn’t been easy: “For ‘Q’ – I was stuck on that one for a while.” (She went with Quatre Épices cupcakes, or Four Spices, per her father’s suggestion of researching recipes in different languages.)
Vienna is on the tail-end of her challenge now – she’s deciding on a vegan recipe for ‘V’ – and said the goal she set for herself was a little steep with all of the other activities (and classes) she’s involved in.
Her school adviser, Joe Grabenstetter, said Vienna is a conscientious student. “She keeps chiding herself for not getting done with the alphabet, when no one is making her do it,” he said, smiling.
But on her journey so far, from A to V, Vienna said she’s learned about herself and the art of baking.
Her posts quickly gained a strong word-of-mouth following, at least within the Providence Day community, as she documented her experiments, among them lemon cupcakes with lemon butter-cream frosting, mint cupcakes with chocolate ganache centers and mint frosting, and Nutella blondies with Nutella ganache drizzle.
Most of her cupcakes have emerged from her family’s kitchen beautifully, she said, but some recipes haven’t fared as nicely. “The eclair cupcakes did not turn out well.”
But making mistakes is part of the experience, she said. “It’s not like I’m a professional baker, and I’m fine if my friends see that.” She said mess-ups are frustrating in the kitchen, but when she writes about it later, she hopes her mistakes help other novice bakers learn.
Vienna said she’s always enjoyed cooking and baking, and that a penchant for making sweet treats runs in the family.
“My grandfather – he’s the best baker I know,” she said. “Even if it wasn’t our birthday, we’d ask for his chocolate cake. It’s just the best.”
Despite her grandfather’s expertise, Vienna said she started the project with little experience. She focused on cupcakes, she said, because of the numerous flavor and decoration possibilities. “With brownies, there aren’t that many flavors. With a vanilla cupcake, you can make it the coolest thing ever.”
Case in point: Vienna transformed her latest big order, for a Providence Day senior event, into Alice-in-Wonderland-themed cupcakes, complete with bows and Mad Hatter hats and striped cupcake wrappers.
Her most popular orders, she said, are red velvet and tiramisu cupcakes. The tiramisu – also her favorite – almost didn’t happen.
The project “makes me more adventurous,” she said, adding she was torn between toffee and tiramisu for T. “I might not have tried tiramisu, but I’m glad I did.”
And while Vienna says if she could bake all day she would, she doesn’t: Her schedule keeps her busy. She makes costumes for school theater productions, and serves on the school’s honor council, which hears student discipline cases. She’s serious about academics too, as Grabenstetter attests: Vienna is in the global studies program at Providence Day, will attend N.C. Governor’s School for social sciences this summer and recently earned a perfect SAT score.
She’s a member of the Students of Service Club, and she recently took a service trip to South Africa over spring break. Vienna is a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Teen Court too.
So what’s her dream job? “I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up,” she said. Maybe something in international affairs or foreign relations. She’s thought about being a lawyer (“I don’t know if it’s because I like arguing or not”), and has considered becoming a veterinarian after volunteering at an animal shelter. And there’s always business, which she’s gotten a taste of with the cupcake sales.
The experience and fun of baking, she says, always takes priority over business. But she is beginning to think about what to do once she finishes with Z.
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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