Kristina Lavallee has baking in her blood. The owner of the Tampa-based bakery The Cake Girl was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and raised in Vega Baja by her mother, Margarita Perez, a chef and caterer. Perez would teach her how to use her imagination and creativity to make beautiful desserts. When they weren’t in the kitchen, Lavallee would beg her mother to take her to the grocery store to gawk at the baked goods.
Growing up, Lavallee’s mother instilled in her a love of cooking and a commitment to use high-quality ingredients — practical knowledge that would serve her well throughout her career. Perez also taught her principles that would form the culture at The Cake Girl: do the right thing, give A+ customer service and treat everyone like family.
Moving to Orlando at 15, Lavallee’s passion for baking intensified, and so did her drive. After completing high school, she studied at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, where she obtained bachelor’s degrees in hospitality management and restaurant and foodservice management. For Lavallee, it was her hands-on experience that further allowed her to hone her craft.
“At school I learned the science behind baking, recipes and techniques,” Lavallee says. “But my true education took place outside of the classroom. In my first job, someone took a chance on me and I learned through practicing in the kitchen.”
Since then, Lavallee has continued to merge her innate talent with her love of learning the latest trends and techniques, often from researching on Google and YouTube. After working in small local bakeries, custom high-end bakeries and a wholesale bakery, Lavallee decided to pursue her dream of having her own business.
“It wasn’t called The Cake Girl back then, but I was doing cakes for family and friends and I gained a bit of traction,” she recalls. “I eventually met Kirby, my husband, and he came up with the name The Cake Girl.”
After getting married and moving to Tampa, Lavallee went all-in on The Cake Girl. She sold her baked goods at a farmers market, a dessert truck and a smaller store before landing in her current location in Carrollwood.
Today, The Cake Girl is a full-service, award-winning cake and cupcake shop specializing in mini cupcakes, custom cakes and wedding cakes made from scratch daily. The Cake Girl features a daily rotation of 10 flavors of mini cupcakes, which amounts to 62 flavors weekly. The shop also offers eight flavors of Florida-made premium ice cream, made with butterfat, making it creamy, indulgent and perfect to pair with fresh brownies or cookie dough.
If You Can Dream It, She Can Bake It
Lavallee’s delicious, beautiful creations have propelled The Cake Girl to national popularity. Her cakes have been featured on Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS and Telemundo. She has won WeddingWire’s Couples Choice Award, Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Business Woman of the Year and also has been nominated for its 40 Under 40 for two years in a row.
Additionally, The Cake Girl has amassed a sizable Instagram following of 92,000 accounts. Her creations range from hyper-realistic cake renditions of characters and objects to grandiose, larger-than-life creations made with incredible intricacy and attention to detail.
Lavallee says Instagram has helped her reach new Tampa clients for custom birthday and wedding cakes and has contributed to the success of her signature Crave’n Cups, of which 14,000 have shipped nationwide.
“Working with Kristina sets the standard for some of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted,” he says. “In particular, I loved the custom dinosaur cake she made for my son’s birthday, as well as her staple Crave’n Cups cake jars.”
Lavallee never shies away from a tall order.
“I enjoy the challenging cakes the most – a 3D cake, a difficult shape like a plane, you name it,” she reflects. “I love getting lost in that kind of work. We just made an 8-foot-tall cake; it was our biggest, most grand cake yet.”
Behind the scenes, Lavallee’s business partner and biggest supporter is her husband, Kirby, who works hard to help make the magic happen.
“A lot of people wonder how we haven’t killed each other yet working together,” she jokes. “But we love it. Kirby is so good at the marketing side of the business, with social media, customer relations and communications.”
Although Kirby mostly works on the business side, he can also be found dabbling in the creative.
“Sometimes, when it’s busy you can even find him decorating,” she adds. “I work best when I’m hands-on, so it’s a perfect partnership.”
Kristina and Kirby have turned their perfect partnership into a thriving business. Their clientele includes several Buccaneers and Lightning players, large companies like Beasley Media Group, Outfront Media, Ashley Furniture, Baycare Health, Tampa International Airport and more.
“Working with my wife, Kristina, is truly a blessing,” Kirby reflects. “We have been best friends for years and have learned to support each other and work together to crush our goals. There’s no one else I’d rather navigate the business world with than my wife, and we push each other to be better every day.”
“It’s been amazing to see the growth and passion Kristina has for her beautiful craft,” Andrade notes. “As my family grew, she’s been with me every step of the way. She’s made me baby shower cakes, birthday cupcakes for my daughters and so many others.”
She adds, “Kristina goes out of her way to listen to every detail you want and just like magic her cakes turn into a masterful work of art. I’ve been blessed to meet her family members who are all such sweet, kind and very charitable individuals who go out of their way to help the Tampa Bay community.”
With the continued success of her bakery, what has remained foundational to Kristina are the family values, passed down from her mother, that are at the heart of her work at The Cake Girl. Although running a business full time keeps both Kristina and Kirby busy, they savor rare time off with family and their two fur babies.
“The Cake Girl is my life, so I feel like I eat, breathe and sleep cake,” Lavallee gushes. “I look back at how things started, and I still can’t believe where we are today.”
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