CO Cake Bill 1027: Let Them Eat Cake (No, Seriously)

If the Colorado legislature passes a “cake bill” (1027) to legalize cottage bakers, Mande Gabelson of Ava Sweet Cakes can bake me a cake, just as fast as she can.

Otherwise, she’ll get a $1,500 fine for it.

My dad and I are working up a column for Grand Junction Free Press on the story. However, according to Mande, the bill may be heard as early as next week (it already passed through its first committee), and our column doesn’t pop until Friday. Thus, I asked Mande if I could release her interview early here, and she said I could. (She also said I can release the images seen here, two of which were distributed in a Republican media release.)

Mande said she used to rent space at a commercial kitchen for $100 deposit, $135 monthly rental, and $12 per hour for usage. “I had to leave the commercial kitchen due to the cost.”

But, she said, “I knew the law, I knew I could not sell out of my home, but I knew that other states would allow it with a cottage food law. I wanted to figure out a way to get it done.”

And so she contacted her local legislators. “Rep [Laura] Bradford gave me a call over the summer, and we talked about cottage food bills in other states… and here we are.”

Mande said that, while professional kitchens work great for large-scale caterers, “If you’re someone like me, who just wants to make a cake every once or a while… it just doesn’t work.”

Right now, you “can’t bake a cake and sell it to your neighbor. If the money goes to a school [at a bake sale], that’s okay, but they [bakers] can’t put the money in their back pocket. I couldn’t even sell a cake to my mom. That would be against the law.”

The bill, Mande said, “would let me sell from my home. So I could take orders, and people could pick it up at my home… I could sell at farmers markets and roadside stands.”

I asked whether she could deliver cakes under the bill. “Yes, you can.” But you “cannot sell to say a restaurant, it has to be sold directly to the consumer.”

Under the bill, she said, counties can set up a registration process and charge a fee: “It’s up to each county as to whether they want to enforce licensing. I’m suspecting that each county is going to go ahead and do that, because they get income from it.” However, counties “cannot prohibit individuals from participating in this bill.”

Mande said that the bill applies only to “nonhazardous foods” (as defined federally) “that can be left out at room temperature for several days without harboring any harmful microorganisms.”

Mande opposes attempts to restrict the revenues of cottage bakers: “The reason there is no cap on that, if I make a wedding cake every weekend, a wedding cake typically sells for $2,000. Not that I would bake a wedding cake every weekend, but that’s just an example. You have to think about the man hours that go into something like that. I’m an artist. The typical wedding cake takes between 15 and 20 hours, and I should be paid for my skills. People come to me because of my abilities, and they want to pay me that much, and I should be able to take that. If they put a cap on that, I’d be able to bake only one cake a year? Only two cakes a year? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Why did she name her business “Ava Sweet Cakes?” “That’s my daughter. When I was 7 months pregnant with her my husband got laid off from Halliburton.” Mande took baking classes, and “that’s when I discovered I have this talent. When Ava was six months old I decided to name it after her.”

From Ava Sweet Cakes
From Ava Sweet Cakes

Update: Check out my 22-second video on the theme, in which I adapt “Patty Cake.”

Update: Westword posted something about this and embedded a nice segment from 11News on it.

Update 8:23 pm: Grand Junction Daily Sentinel explains that there are two “cottage foods” bills in the works. The alternate bill would allow more types of foods but cap sales to $5,000 per year. In other news, Representative Laura Bradford has lost her position as committee chair after getting pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, reports Fox31.