For nearly a decade, Julie Johnson had been whipping up her buttery goods for friends and family until word-of-mouth transformed what started off as a simple hobby into a full-blown brand. Her tasty cakes became a hot topic as she catered event after event, building a loyal clientele along the way. Working at a major law firm in Downtown Newark, NJ for 10 years, it wasn’t until this past February that Julie finally got the gumption to leave her job and open up her own shop located on a strip populated by indie businesses in Montclair’s South End, which is a predominantly Black middle class neighborhood.
In this in-depth interview, June’s cake-obsesssed hustler gives us the rundown on how she started, the deets on some of the sweet treats her shop has to offer, and advice for anyone looking to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit.
CM: I’ve been eating your cupcakes for years, and I know you’ve always done a lot of catering for family and friends, before you opened your shop. But how did you get into baking?
Julie: So this all started because I wanted a hobby. J’Lah [which is my daughter] had track and cheering; [my son] Mekhi had basketball; [my husband] Jonathan was playing in some league—everybody had something to do on some day and then I was like, ‘Well I don’t have nothing to do. Like, where’s my outlet?’ So I was already baking, but I never knew how to do anything to it—like I would bake and put some sugar on it and [it was like], ‘Here you go, pound cake finished!’ So then I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I should take a class.’ So I started taking a lot of [different baking] classes, and then it was me making cakes for family, and then friends of friends of friends—
So that ‘s when you started realizing you were good and this was something you should seriously pursue?
Well, yeah. And I had done something for someone and they were like, ‘Where’s your business card?’ And I was just like, ‘Well, here’s my cell, just call me.’ And she was like, ‘Well no, I wanted to put it out so everyone could know that you did it.’ And I said to myself, ‘Oh, maybe I should create some business cards.’
And this was all 2008?
Umm hmm. And then I created a blog where I was just blogging about my whole experience with baking. And the whole blog was about my obsession with baking and how it was like ‘I’m the doctor and I have the recipe—you know—your prescription, so come and place your order; I’m you’re supplier.’ It was like the whole blog was based on that. So fast forward two years later, I got my business cards, I’m doing more and more events, now I don’t know the people I’m doing events for. My daughter J’Lah would be like, ‘Mom, who is this?’ and I’d be like ‘I don’t know.’ Like I don’t know these people. It would be a friend of a friend now, so that was going fine.
A display of some of Julie’s cupcakes
You mentioned that you started baking because you needed a hobby, but I’m curious to know if you always had this passion within you since you were little?
No, no. Absolutely not. I had no passion for baking when I was little. Because here’s the thing: I did not know that baking [could be] a job; that it was something that I could actually do—
And make money off of it.
Right. And have a career. It was never sold that way. When I was in school, it was like, ‘You’re going to be an engineer, you’re going to be a doctor, a lawyer’—something along those lines. And I went to school and majored in computer science. So it was never anything that I even thought of. I mean, I used to bake with my grandmother but it was never like, ‘Oh, I could actually have a job doing this.’ Never thought of it. Never.
Well, now you have a booming business specializing in all types of buttery cookies, cakes and other treats, but your cupcakes are the stars. Which flavor is your best-seller?
Obsession. Obsession is a chocolate cupcake, filled with chocolate fudge, topped with chocolate frosting.
That sounds so fat.
But I think I’m going to try that next [laughs]. What’s your personal favorite?
Probably the Cookie Butter [cupcake]. The Cookie Butter Cupcake has become an infusion of Trader Joe’s’ cookie butter [and our cupcake batter], dressed with our signature frosting, which is sweet cream, and topped with their [Cookie Butter Sandwich] Cookie.
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