Emma Oliver thought pictures of her cinnamon rolls would look good on her Instagram feed. She had no idea it would lead to a startup baking operation!
Look up @maple_bakin_memphis on Instagram and you’ll be hit with delicious-looking cinnamon rolls that will have you watering at the mouth. Emma Oliver, a grad student and Memphis Teacher Residency educator, runs this account out of her Crosstown apartment where she is serving up sweet treats available by contact-free delivery.
“This whole thing actually started by accident,” Oliver said. “Shortly after the safer at home order was issued, I made some cinnamon rolls for my family and decided to take some pictures of them and post them on my personal Instagram. When a friend asked me to make and deliver some, I thought, “Why not?” I posted them on my Facebook, not expecting much, but the interest just continued to grow.” She’s made delivery runs almost every weekend since.
The transition from in-class educator, to virtual educator, to now virtual educator AND business owner has had its challenges, but Oliver has embraced them and found ways to blend her new roles together. She’s been using TikTok to share baking videos with her students that she then uses to drive her math lessons. They ask her about the business during their weekly Zoom calls, giving her a great chance to talk about small businesses and ways to earn money by doing what you love.
“The great thing about teaching middle school math is there is a lot of real-world content that is applicable to what we are learning,” Emma told me. “We recently worked on solving two-step equations, so I was able to incorporate things like the costs of ingredients, delivery costs, and more to demonstrate how the math my kids are learning has valuable applications in something that is important to me.”
Even better than a cinnamon roll inspired math equation is the mission behind why she makes them in the first place. Maple Bakin’ started as a way to support local businesses during the pandemic: “Memphis is baked all into this business,” Oliver said. She uses local ingredients in her products, and plans to continue incorporating as much of Memphis as possible as her business grows.
I sat down with Emma to learn more about Maple Bakin’ and why she started a new cottage bakery right in the middle of a pandemic.
COVID-19 has disrupted a lot of local businesses—it might seem strange to some to launch a new business right now. Why did you decide to start Maple Bakin’? What kinds of challenges have you faced?
I think something that people are craving right now is comfort and familiarity. My goals in selling these cinnamon rolls are to bring people a taste of home and try to continue to support local restaurants during this time. My cinnamon rolls feature Muddy’s vanilla extract in the icing and Dr. Bean’s coffee beans in the filling. Some of the proceeds have gone to buying merch and tipping extra at local restaurants, and we support Edible Memphis’s Food Industry Emergency Workers Assistance Fund. As the business grows, I am excited to keep partnering with the Memphis community in new ways.
My biggest challenge right now is managing being a home bakery and having to share the space of my baking materials with our everyday groceries. I am definitely a SMALL business and might need to keep it that way for a while. My husband and I have dreamed of opening up a coffee shop/bakery concept for a long time, and I hope this is a launching point for us to do that in the future.
A lot of people are using their time in quarantine to learn some new skills, like baking! What are you baking currently? Are you experimenting with anything? Do you have any tips for people just getting started?
I’ve done several versions of my cinnamon rolls and tried out a few different products during this time. Orange rolls have recently been added to the menu (they are a personal favorite of mine), and I am trying out a strawberry roll recipe using my mom’s homemade strawberry jam.
One of my favorite things to make are different renditions on cookies. I have been working on a maple chocolate chip cookie recipe that I plan on adding to the lineup as a take-and-bake item soon.
When trying out a new recipe, I look for a similar recipe online that I could easily adapt to the items I already have in my kitchen. Sugar or peanut butter cookies are a super simple place to start, as most of the ingredients are staples in the home pantry.
With social distancing guidelines still in place, how are you making deliveries? How can someone order from you?
I have set up an Instagram and Facebook page (@maple_bakin_memphis on both) where I post when I will be making deliveries, and the menu for the week. I can take special large orders by request, but I do need 2 weeks’ notice to ensure I can get all the materials. My standard delivery days have been on Saturday mornings, although this may change coming into the summer, and I offer contactless porch delivery.
For those of us looking for a good quarantine bake, would you share one of your recipes with us?
The first recipe I ever learned to make when I was about 10 years old is still my favorite: no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies. My mom learned to make these in home economics when she was in high school and passed the recipe down to me, which I have adapted and made my own over the years. They are a go to in our family and so simple to make.
Maple Bakin’ No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
What you need
- ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (this is a must in my opinion)
- ½ cup whole milk
- 3 cups quick cook oats
- ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (kosher or iodized salt will work in a pinch)
- In a saucepan, mix the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and milk over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and cool for 1 minute.
- After the minute has passed, add the oats, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt and mix until well combined.
- Using a metal tablespoon, spoon the cookies onto wax paper (laid over a kitchen towel for best results). Let the cookies cool to room temperature, then enjoy!