What do you do to relax if you’re a full-time hospital ICU nurse during a once-in-a-century global pandemic? If you’re Rocklin resident Martella Reynoso, you start baking. Once you start baking, you find yourself fielding requests from friends and co-workers and eventually strangers. And then, when you start posting your creations on Instagram, you end up with a successful side hustle that takes up most of your free time.
“At first, I didn’t think I wanted to make it a business,” says Reynoso, who makes custom-order macarons, cookies and cakes from her home kitchen. But at her husband’s urging, she applied for a cottage baking business license last September under the name Petite Miette (French for “little crumb”).
A self-taught baker, Reynoso started making French macarons as COVID-19 began ravaging the country. Their sheer finickiness—you must measure the ingredients precisely and get the oven temperature just right so the delicate cookies rise, forming a skin on top and little “feet” on the bottom—was the chief draw for Reynoso. “They are complicated,” she says. “There’s an adrenaline rush when you get them right. Every time I make macarons, I’m having the most fun.”
At a customer’s request, Reynoso began decorating her macarons, using food-grade coloring mixed with Everclear to add impressionistic splashes of color or tiny watercolor designs to the already-colorful cookies. (Everclear, a grain alcohol, evaporates quickly, allowing her to paint the macarons without ruining them.) She then experimented with edible luster dust, adding rich touches of gold to the macarons.
Eventually, Reynoso expanded into lavishly decorated sugar cutout cookies that are miniature works of edible art. It can take her three hours to create a single icing color in the different consistencies needed to outline a design and “flood” the cookie’s interior with icing. “Cookies are a different sort of beast,” she explains. “Macarons are a little easier to whip out. Cookies are always time consuming.” She provides cookies for baby and bridal showers, birthday parties, holidays and other special events.
Reynoso recently started making special-order cakes that are as pretty as her smaller sweets. For a daisy-themed birthday party, she made a cake with palest pink icing dotted with tiny white-and-yellow icing daisies. A sophisticated Amalfi Coast-inspired cake featured a graphic blue-and-white-icing stencil design on the bottom layer and a gold-leaf collar around the top tier, enhanced by a sprig of fresh white flowers and bright yellow lemons.
Everything Reynoso makes is by special order, and she’s booked out months in advance. Recently, she had to close her calendar through the first half of September. “I have such a problem saying no,” she confesses, “especially when a cute theme comes in.”
And when does she find the time to bake? Reynoso has a 2-year-old, so she does it while her little one naps in the afternoon, and in the wee hours, when her baby is asleep for the night. “My work hours are very unique,” she says. “Sometimes I’m up till 4 a.m. It’s definitely an obsession.”