If you suddenly find yourself in need of cookies depicting, say, your favorite hip hop star, Frida Kahlo, or a Simpsons-esque doughnut, Jennifer Salazar is your girl. The founder of Auntie Apple, an Alhambra-based home business, Salazar’s medium is the humble sugar cookie, which she shapes and painstakingly frosts into pop culture figures like Biggie Smalls, members of N.W.A., Madonna, Selena, and the cast of Star Wars to name a few.
In the span of just a couple of years and with no traditional advertising, Salazar has grown Auntie Apple into a full-time venture via word of mouth and a popular Instagram account (@auntieapple), where she regularly posts shots of her latest creations. She has also enjoyed the occasional boost from celebrities like Kevin Smith, who once Tweeted a photo of Jay and Silent Bob cookies she made for him—a client who happened to be working on Smith’s film set was kind enough to leave the package in the director’s trailer.
“It was seriously the best day ever. He didn’t technically order the cookies, but I stalked him a bit and got him the cookies,” says Salazar, laughing.
Along with music, art, and film influences, Salazar is inspired by foodie culture. She does a hamburger cookie with all the fixings and others shaped like conchas (the popular seashell-shaped pan dulce variety), ice cream cones, pizza slices, tacos, and all the picnic treats that the hungry caterpillar eats through in Eric Carle’s classic children’s book. Salazar’s edible works have a colorful, Pop-art feel to them, making for irresistible eye candy.
“If you give me a piece of paper, I could draw you a stick figure and that’s pretty much it,” insists Salazar. “Pencil and paper are not my medium, but for some reason, icing and a pastry bag is. I don’t know why. It’s crazy.”
Also crazy is that Salazar didn’t actually develop her passion for baking until just a few years ago when she decided to take a cake decorating class at Michael’s with her eighty-year-old neighbor. Salazar ended up loving the experience so much that she continued taking the subsequent levels of the course available at the arts and crafts superstore.
“I was like, ‘I really dig this,’ so I started buying more equipment, doing a little more baking at home just for friends, myself, family,” says Salazar, who inadvertently turned her hobby into paying gigs after volunteering to make cookies as party favors for a friend’s wedding. The treats were such a hit that she booked two more orders on the spot. After that, the requests just kept coming, and thanks to the Cottage Food Act, which was signed into law in 2012 to allow individuals to prepare and package food in home kitchens, she’s been able to build what she calls a “legit” business.
Fielding multiple orders a week, Salazar says she’s now at the point where she should hire an assistant, and having outgrown her own kitchen, she plans to begin looking for a professional kitchen/studio once she graduates from L.A. Trade Tech’s Professional Baking program in the fall. She says her ultimate goal is to one day own a dessert-focused cafe since plated desserts have become a new obsession.
Though she’s recently started to attract a few famous customers—she just cookie catered a Fourth of July party for model Kerrueche Tran—Salazar says she’d like to remain affordable and accessible to everyone.
“I want the cookies to be good work, good quality, and affordable. I want everyone to be able to order,” Salazar says. “Not just something celebrities can order–I don’t want that. I want everyone to be able to enjoy them.”