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Worthington’s ‘Cake Boss’ to expand business to Heron Lake location

WORTHINGTON -- Yolanda Barahona has run her own personalized cake business, Nena's Cakes, out of her Worthington home for three years. A Texas native, Barahona, 40, moved to Worthington at age 18 and has lived here ever since. Making custom cakes...

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Pictured is Yolanda Barahona, owner of Nena's Cakes. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Yolanda Barahona has run her own personalized cake business, Nena’s Cakes, out of her Worthington home for three years.

 

A Texas native, Barahona, 40, moved to Worthington at age 18 and has lived here ever since.

 

Making custom cakes for friends and family was always a fun hobby, but Barahona never thought she could make money on it. That was, until she made her first sale, and word of her cake-making talent spread like wildfire.

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“I sold one cake that week and the following week I had six people asking for cakes,” Barahona said. “From then on, I’ve never had less than seven cakes a week.”

Each week, Barahona got more calls, and the assignments piled up. At one point she was missing nights of sleep while trying to balance her job with the task of making 10 to 20 cakes each week. So she quit her job to make cakes full time, and she hasn’t looked back.

 

“I really love what I do, so that makes a big difference,” Barahona said.

 

Barahona sees herself as an artist first, baker second. Everything is made by hand and, in most cases, everything is edible.

 

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Barahona makes her own edible fondant to craft elaborate-themed cakes. The idea is totally up the customer - she can make a classy five-layer wedding cake or a completely-edible Hummer.

 

“I like when people come with fun ideas, so I can be creative,” Barahona said.

 

Barahona credits much of her success to her prices, which she said are significantly cheaper than other local options.

“It’s part of why I started it, because I saw what places were charging and I thought, ‘I can do everything they’re doing but I charge way less,’” Barahona said.

 

At this point, the business has outgrown Barahona’s Worthington home. She plans to open up shop at the former Hotel Whiskey Bar & Grill in Heron Lake before the end of the year.

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The bigger store, which features two ovens and several freezers, will allow Barahona to make more cakes. But it’s also a launchpad for an expanded, diversified business.

 

“Right now, I sell cakes to people far away, like in St. James and Sioux Falls, but I want to get this out on the internet and sell to people all over the country,” Barahona said.

 

Custom arrangements of cookies, cake pops and cupcakes - some of Barahona’s favorite treats to make - will be a focus of her online business.

 

Barahona’s husband, Carlos, has been a key part of getting the new building ready. He works nights, but still wakes up at 1:30 or 2:30 p.m. most days to renovate the building.

The Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) has also been a big help. The nonprofit helped Barahona purchase the building in October 2015 through its microenterprise loan program. SWIF also provided Barahona with a loan from the DEED Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Program to pay for plumbing to get the kitchen up to code and has provided her with technical assistance.

 

“We’re very proud of her tenacity to keep pushing and pushing to get her business started,” said SWIF Program Officer Jackie Turner.

Eventually - perhaps next summer - Barahona hopes to transform the cake shop into a bar and grill with some sort of cake theme.

“It’s going to be something different where people can enjoy themselves, have something nice to sit around and have fun,” Barahona said. “I just want to bring something unique, because we do need more stuff to do around here.”

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