Made with Love: Alumni Duo Share Recipe for Baking Success

Above, Kristina Lavallee, “The Cake Girl,” shares her story with Manny Martinez from Fox 35. Lavallee is from Puerto Rico, and loves talking and sharing about her culture and. especially, her food.

Kristina Lavallee ’13 and her husband, Kirby Lavallee ’09, recently returned to the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management for a special event. The reason? Kristina aka “The Cake Girl” was interviewed by a Fox TV affiliate as recognition for her incredible success in business, and as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Lavallees live in Tampa, where their sweet business, “The Cake Girl,” has been cooking up delicious cakes, cupcakes, brownies and Crave ’N Cups since around 2008, when Kristina began her concept.

The idea had been baking for much longer, however. Kristina grew up in Puerto Rico, where she learned the joy of serving delicious, heart-warming food from her mother, Margarita Perez.

Margarita, a professional chef, not only shared her love of cooking and baking with her daughter, but also trained her how to properly hold a chef’s knife or offset spatula.  Kristina also perfected the Puerto Rican cake, a buttery confection traditionally made with brandy, rum or almond extract. Kristina’s recipe is glazed with a simple syrup infused with almond extract, which has been fine-tuned through the years since her childhood.

Chef Margarita Perez and Kristina Lavallee. “She is my hero,” Kristina says.

The cake is then topped with a rich, fluffy buttercream frosting composed of butter (of course), powdered sugar and Madagascar vanilla.

Truthfully, Kristina’s masterpiece looks like a regular cake. But just take a bite. No matter where you’re from, the Puerto Rican cake will become your go-to celebration or anytime cake, we promise.

Kristina puts the finishing touches on her tray of Puerto Rican cakes

“I get calls all the time about this cake,” Kristina says. “People need this cake all the time for a special holiday, or no holiday at all. It’s something that really can take people back to the first time they had the cake in Puerto Rico, or wherever they first tried it.”

Kirby Lavallee didn’t like cake, he says. “I think it was just because I had never had any really good cake.”

Kirby Lavallee and Kristina Lavallee reflect on their growing success as entrepreneurs. The Lavallees will soon begin franchising their tasty concept.

That all changed one day at Target. The two had met there, and Kirby had noticed that Kristina regularly brought in home-baked treats. She always tried to get Kirby to try something, but he declined.

Until the day of the Puerto Rican cake. Kirby walked into the break room, where the employees were gobbling down Kristina’s cake, exclaiming between mouthfuls that it was the best cake ever.

Finally, Kirby relented. Then, he realized what a good cake was supposed to taste like. He began calling her “Cake Girl,” and the name stuck.

Kristina Lavallee baked a custom-designed 45th birthday cake for former NFL football quarterback Tom Brady. The cake was a simple vanilla cake with a vanilla buttercream. Kristina said that she heard that Brady said it was delicious.

Since the Lavallees began focusing on their business in 2013, they graduated from selling their tasty creations at farmers markets and food truck events, to opening their first bakery in Tampa. They recently shared that, beginning in 2024, they will begin expanding their concept through a franchise model.

One of the reasons for The Cake Girl’s unprecedented, continued growth over the years is tied directly back to Margarita Perez’s training, Kristina says.

“My mom is my hero,” Kristina says. “She obviously taught me a lot of things in the kitchen, but especially to put love into everything that I do. She pushed me and taught me that we only live once, and I just really wanted to pursue what I really love doing, and just did it. And that’s where we are today.”

In the photo slides below, Chef Margarita Perez can be seen teaching cooking classes, with an attentive Kristina always watching and learning. Kristina learned from her mother how to infuse dishes not only with deliciousness, but also with love.

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