One semester away from a teaching degree at Minot State University, Brekka Bloms-Hancock had a change of heart about her career path that has paid back some sweet dividends.
Bloms-Hancock said she had kicked around quite a few different majors while at MSU, including art and psychology. She truly thought elementary education was what she wanted to do, but at the eleventh hour decided to pursue her passion for baking. She switched her major to general studies so she could take business classes to learn about running her own business and graduated in 2009.
"I was pretty sure I wanted to be a teacher ... but I love baking," Bloms-Hancock said. "I thought it would be worth it to take the chance and see if I could turn my hobby into my career."
In November 2010 she fulfilled her dream and started Magic Morsels, a custom bakery with a wide assortment of cheesecakes, cookies, cupcakes, bars and pies. Bloms-Hancock, who runs Magic Morsels as her full-time job, makes everything from scratch with high-quality ingredients such as Ghirardelli chocolate, and bakes each order as she receives it so the confections don't have time to sit around and go stale.
Birthdays, retirements, showers and graduations are a few of the other occasions Bloms-Hancock bakes for. So far her business has been split about 50/50 between small, random orders and large orders for special occasions.
"You can order from a dozen cookies to, I've done 2,000-piece dessert bars for weddings," she said.
Baking has a rich tradition in her family, and it's something Bloms-Hancock has always loved to do. She kept baking while in college, and said the encouragement of family and friends to consider baking for a career is what convinced her to give it a try.
"I've always baked. When I was a little girl I was always (baking) with Grandma and Mom," she said. "I came from a family of bakers and it was kind of just a hobby during college. I would make birthday cakes and stuff for friends."
She spent the five years leading up to Magic Morsels' opening testing, and tasting, the dozens of recipes that would comprise her menu. Her only education in the art of baking has been personal experience, with lessons learned both from family members over the years and through her own trial and error.
"It's really just passed down through generations. The menu, a lot of it is my grandma's recipes from years ago. And then I just started trying to develop my own," she said. "Learn how to make a cheesecake, how can I make it my own recipe, and what can I do that you can't find somewhere else? I just kind of had fun developing it on my own but I didn't take any classes."
Cheesecakes have become one of Bloms-Hancock's specialties, and she has nearly 40 different varieties on her menu. Along with traditional recipes like New York style original cheesecake, Bloms-Hancock also has some other creations she has developed on her own. She said a lemon poppy seed cheesecake took a long time to get just right, and spicy ginger chew cookies have become a big favorite with many of her customers.
Other cheesecake varieties include banana split, seasonal fresh fruit, caramel brownie mosaic, mocha java, peanut butter and jelly, snickerdoodle and rocky road. Customers can even create their own cheesecake with any crust, filling and topping to get exactly what they want.
"A lot of creativity went into developing that menu," she said.
Customer favorites include turtle cheesecake and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, while good, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies have become a staple of Magic Morsels.
While there are items that are always on her menu, Bloms-Hancock takes every opportunity she can get to expand her offerings when the season changes and gives her new ingredients to work with.
"The menu changes a lot. I have my staple menu that's always there, but I try to use the seasonal fruits to come up with something for the season," Bloms-Hancock said. "A lot of fruit pies in the summer and when key limes are in stock."
Along with seasonal ingredients, the menu has also expanded through customer requests. Bloms-Hancock said she did dipped gourmet caramel apples at the request of a customer once that turned out so well they became a permanent fixture on her menu.
Along with individual items, Bloms-Hancock also makes dessert bars that can be comprised of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of items like cookies, cupcakes and bars. She will even help set up and decorate the dessert bar at whatever special occasion it's for, even color coordinating so the dessert bar matches the event.
"I have several meetings, just one-on-one, with typically brides, but also I did a 50th birthday," she said. "I can kind of come up with ideas for how to decorate the rest of the room, or they can tell me what they were looking for and we incorporate it into the dessert bar. It kind of becomes a feature of the celebration, a focal point."
Bloms-Hancock considers herself lucky that the business has gone so well up to this point. It was also perhaps fortunate she opened right as the traditionally busy holiday baking season was in full swing.
"I was very, very busy throughout the holiday season. Not so busy in January, but February's picking up," she said with a laugh. "I guess people don't eat cheesecake in January. They work out."
"It's been worth it," she added. "It was a good gamble."
Although she doesn't yet have a Web site, Magic Morsels is on Facebook, with dozens of mouthwatering pictures that will tempt even the most rigid dieting resolution. She can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 509-4794.
Bloms-Hancock will either deliver the order, or customers can come to her fully licensed kitchen to pick them up. As for mail order, so far only the more durable items like cookies, pretzels and candies can be done, as there are obvious obstacles that would need to be overcome before items as fragile as cakes and cheesecakes can be delivered through the mail.
While she has worked incredibly hard to get her business going, Bloms-Hancock has also received ample support from her family. Her husband, Tyler Hancock, has helped set up dessert bars on may occasions and her father, Jeff Bloms, has helped build the dessert stands.
"It is Brekka's business. Just when she needs an extra hand, we're available," said her mother, Gwen Bloms. "Whether it's loaning a vehicle out for her, that sort of thing. But we're not the ones doing the baking."
Bloms-Hancock feels blessed to have turned her childhood hobby into a full-time business, even more so because it's happening in the city she grew up in.
"I've been really lucky, I think. I really wanted to have my own business in the community," she said. "I love living in Minot and I wanted to support Minot somehow."