This is Vegan? No, way!
Duy Nguyen, owner and baker of Baking for Twelve, is a valley boy, born and raised. It’s not surprising that 818 is his luckiest number. By day, he’s a space system’s engineer, working on exploring the final frontier but when the moon rises, he transitions all that “nerd energy (his phrase)” into baking–a passion of his since Food Network captured his attention at age thirteen. In 2014, he decided to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. It was then he started baking exclusively vegan goods. Being an engineer, he relishes a good challenge and vegan baking does just that. “I can’t believe it’s vegan!” is the reactions he loves getting from people.
I had the opportunity to chat with Duy and find out more about his journey as a baker and an entrepreneur. Read on as he shares his story.
What’s the story behind the name Baking for Twelve?
Baking for Twelve was named with two thoughts in mind. The first thought was straightforward: our signature cupcake mixes make a dozen deliciously vegan cupcakes in each bag. The second thought is a bit more heartfelt: the business started during the height of the pandemic, and I wanted to send a blessing to everybody who bought our cupcake mixes that they had twelve good people in their life they could share them with. The world is hard enough as it is, and loneliness does not need to add on top of it.
When did you start selling your baked goods?
When COVID restrictions began sweeping the country, I found myself regularly harassing my best friend, Vincent, on Skype to play games or watch Netflix. It was fine for a while until he realized I suck at video games, got fed up, and said I should do something I’m good at, like my cupcakes. That was the seed that started it all. Baking for Twelve launched June 18, 2020, with four flavors of cupcake mixes available on our website for local delivery. It started as exclusively an online cupcake mix business and then transitioned to monthly pop-up events at various coffee shops, boba shops, and venues. At our pop-ups, I get to sell the cupcakes in fully frosted glory, both the mix flavors and some creative spur-of-the-moment ideas.
What are some of your bestsellers?
Our best sellers are Vincent’s Vinfetti, a vegan vanilla birthday cake flavor, and Cinnamon, which surprisingly was the most unassuming contender. I would have never guessed Cinnamon would win so many hearts! I try to challenge myself to think of fun out-of-the-box flavors. If you ever stop by a pop-up of ours, be sure to taste our fun concoctions like Pink Lemonade, Chai, Lemon Raspberry, and Spicy Chocolate. An upcoming flavor will be Kat’s German Chocolate (named after a very dear friend of mine).
What are some of the challenges of being a baker?
It is such a labor of love when baking becomes a business. Any baker can tell you the pints of sweat it took to figure out a recipe, scale it appropriately, and make the process efficient enough in order to make it profitable. Specifically for Baking for Twelve, our current stretch goal is to figure out how to sell and deliver our freshly baked cupcakes throughout the week in a manner that totally satisfies our supportive fans while still returning a profit to keep us growing. With that being said, as an engineer I do like a challenge.
List a couple of collaborations and events you’ve done.
I am so grateful for Abby and Reggie of Café Aficionado in Northridge. They carry our cupcakes weekly as part of their pastry rotation and collaborate with them weekly on fun flavor rotations, so be sure to grab their signature ube latte with one of our treats. I also have done extremely fun seasonal markets at Teapop in North Hollywood, a shop that regularly showcases local art and musical talent.
Are there any future events or collaborations you’d like to share with us?
Our cupcake mixes are making their rounds to more shelves throughout Los Angeles, and I cannot wait to announce on our website and social media when it happens! We’re also working on getting our cupcake online ordering system up-and-going in 2022 to let anybody in the 818 get that vegan sweet tooth craving dealt with immediately.
What advice do you have for aspiring bakers or someone who wants to start their own business?
The best advice I have gotten has come from author Cathy Heller: stop waiting to be perfect and just get started! Get comfortable with the mess, do not overthink it, and just get it out there. You being your own worst critic is what is holding you back from doing something great.
Where do you see your business in a year or two from now?
I see Baking for Twelve in a commercial kitchen pumping out a ton of fun vegan mixes and cupcakes onto store shelves sharing the love of vegan sweets and baking to even more folks who have yet to be convinced that vegan desserts can be better than their dairy-laden kin.
Follow and support this local business on Instagram @bakingfortwelve.