Tiffany Lightfoot has been baking for over 11 years on the weekends. She transitioned to full time in September 2019 and found an opportunity to open her first shop despite the pandemic.
By: Melissa Montalvo
Opening a food business during the pandemic might seem unthinkable, with reports estimating that as many as 60% of restaurants are out of business since the pandemic started. But not for self-taught baker and entrepreneur, Tiffany Lightfoot, founder of My Cake Theory. In February, she started looking at properties to open her very first bakery after leaving her job last fall to bake full-time. And then COVID hit. “We were on the verge of backing out,” explains Lightfoot, “and [then] the lessor says, ‘Well, what do you want?’” Lightfoot was able to secure a deal on the space that she couldn’t pass up.
My Cake Theory is a Black woman-owned bakery. “The pastry industry is really like a man-driven, Caucasian arena,” explains Lightfoot, who taught herself to bake by watching Youtube videos and Food Network baking shows. “So it’s going to be interesting bringing me to the area. There’s only one other bakery in that area right now and we’re doing completely different things.” Lightfoot uses her background in fashion to find and create new trends in baking. She hopes to attract new audiences with her innovative approach.
This fast-casual, “flavors to frills” model is the first of its kind in the DC bakery space. My Cake Theory will allow customers to completely customize their cupcakes. “Just like any other fast casual restaurant–let’s say names like Chipotle or Subway or like in our area &Pizza–you’ll be able to go in, pick a naked cupcake, and then go down the line. Pick your filling, frosting, and frills [toppings],” explains Lightfoot.
Lightfoot has the unique challenge of opening a food business during the new normal. “We’re going to be COVID-friendly to start,” she explains. She was able to design her space to accommodate the needs and challenges of the pandemic. For example, she had originally envisioned communal tables in her bakery, but changed her interior to fit social distance guidelines. The bakery will also have outdoor patio space and a walk-up window for easy ordering and pickup. “So, those kinds of things that we probably would have never even thought about were able to arise during this pandemic.”
Home baking has been one of the most popular quarantine activities. And Lightfoot thinks this is a good thing. “More than ever, people are counting their blessings,” she explains. She sees them celebrate their loved ones with baked goods any chance they can. “On Wednesday, they’re celebrating [ie a friend’s birthday] because Thursday’s not promised.”
While waiting for My Cake Theory to open, Lightfoot traveled to Los Angeles to film an upcoming baking competition. The show will air on a major TV network in November. She insists this would have never happened without COVID forcing her to slow down. Lightfoot is using the pandemic to invest in her personal and professional growth. And she encourages us to do the same. “People should not let this deter them.”
My Cake Theory is set to open by December 2020 on Capitol Hill at Eastern Market’s Main Street located at 325 7th St. SE.