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The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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Meet the owner of Gingerhead Bakery

Courtesy of Maddie Howton

Maddie Howton began baking for a school bake sale in middle school. Four years later, she is running a full-fledged bakery out of the comfort of her home.

A native of Florence, Howton has been in the Shoals for most of her life. She attended Mars Hill Bible School, graduating in 2022. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, she only had one “normal” year of high school. 

She started off making cake pops, which she found relatively easy.

“I started baking in middle school,” Howton said. “We did bake sales at school and I’m super competitive so I wanted mine to be better than my brother’s.”

After the bake sale, students still wanted the cake pops. Realizing that people were willing to purchase them, she began selling them at her school. On some days, she would sell up to 200, which was impressive for a school with a graduating class of 30 people. 

She originally called her business Maddie’s Cake Pops, but after brainstorming with her friend she changed it to Gingerhead Bakery. 

The next year, COVID-19 hit and her school sales came to a halt. Howton found herself needing a release of all of her creative energy.

“I got super bored,” she said. “I’m an artsy person, and I have to be out of the house. I have to have something crafty to do… Someone asked me if, since I make cake pops, I could make cakes. Could I do it? No, but I watched a YouTube video for it.”

From there, it took off. Cakes are her biggest sellers, ranging from smash cakes for first birthdays to wedding cakes for peoples’ special day. 

Throughout high school, she only invested in her business part time, as she had previous commitments to her basketball team. Once graduated, she devoted all of her time to it.

At the urging of her mother April, she applied for a television show. 

“I filled out the most sketchy application you’ll ever see,” she said. “I thought it was a scam. Turns out, it was real.”

In July 2022, Maddie and April received a call from the producers of the Peacock Original, “Baking It.” As prospective contestants began getting eliminated, the mother and daughter realized they would appear on the show. A week after getting confirmation, they were bound for Los Angeles.

The pair made it through four out of five episodes, and were the last eliminated before for the runner-ups. Howton described her mom as the personality out of the two, bringing the energy they needed for the television show.

Howton has stayed in contact with the other contestants from the show, and frequently collaborates with them. She still finds herself learning from them.

Her favorite part of being on the show was the chance to meet people from around the country. Living in Florence her entire life, she found herself interacting with the same people daily. “Baking It” gave her the chance to know bakers from areas she had never even been to.

Since appearing on “Baking It,” Howton’s business has boomed.

“My parents told me I could go one year without college,” she said. “So if [the business] didn’t go great, I would just go back to school. It’s safe to say I’m not going to college.”

Now, nearly a year after her television appearance, the momentum gained has only continued. She makes roughly 27 cakes a week, dividing the work throughout the week and taking breaks on Wednesday and Friday. Her top seller is her custom cakes, but she occasionally travels in a trailer that sells gourmet cookies and mini cakes. She has visited UNA’s campus on a few occasions.

Since finding her style of baking, customers now trust her to design their cakes. When she first started out, clients would provide her with a reference image. Her growth as an artist has built a trust between her and her customers. She also paints and occasionally sells homemade sourdough bread, which usually goes quickly.

At only 19 years old, Howton has been able to buy a house with the profits from her business. She is also investing in renovations for a cake studio in the back of her home. One goal she has for the studio is to make videos for social media of her cake decorating process.

She operates under the Alabama Cottage Food Law, which permits people to sell non-hazardous goods after taking a test. Howton’s business falls under that umbrella.

“My philosophy is ‘homemade is healthy,’” she joked. “That’s what I tell everyone.”

Howton sees herself as a spontaneous person. While she would love to keep baking, she also has other ambitions of traveling and starting a family. She would not mind trading baking for those.

“I can always come back to [baking],” she said. “And if I don’t want to work for myself anymore, I can work in a bakery. For right now I’m going to keep doing it, but who knows.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Tanner, Editor-in-Chief
Emma is Editor-in-Chief of the Flor-Ala. She is a senior from Killen, Ala. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in journalism and digital media. She was previously Managing Editor for the spring 2023 semester. She also served as News Editor from Jan. 2022 to Dec. 2022. She was previously a volunteer writer. Her favorite topics to cover are profiles and local news. Tanner has written since her childhood and grew a passion for journalism during high school. Aside from working on the Flor-Ala, she was also a research assistant for a psychological study at UNA and served as CASE ambassador president for the Fall 2022 semester.

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