Ahna Valach turns passion for baking into a business

Eight-year-old baker Ahna Valach poses with samples of three of her cakes – blueberry almond with vanilla bean frosting, lemon and her signature hot chocolate cake. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

She may be only eight-years-old, but Ahna Valach already has the drive of an adult when it comes to pursuing her passion for baking.

The daughter of Mingo residents Mikey and Tracey Valach, Ahna showed promise in baking at a young age, and continued support from her parents and community has led her to create her own business – Ahna Fresh.

Ahna’s love for baking began at her mom’s side. It didn’t take Tracey long to realize Ahna had skills in that department.
Tracey said she and Ahna always baked together, but it wasn’t until Ahna made a birthday cake for Mazie Monico’s birthday that she realized just how much talent her daughter had.

“She made the cake, and she did so good,” Tracey said. “I was kind of like, ‘wow.’ She’s always liked to cook and bake – mainly bake. She loves to make fancy bread and stuff.”

“I love making baguettes, but it takes sooo long,” Ahna said. “I just like that I can play around with the flavors and have fun with baking.”

In the summer, Ahna sold lemonade and baked goods at the Linwood Farmers Market where she got a lot of repeat business.

Ahna continued to explore her craft and entered several competitions. With the monetary awards and money from the farmers market, she was able to fund her little business.

“I did the Avocados from Mexico thing where I just made a couple dishes with avocados in them,” Ahna said. “Then a couple months later, Denise [Spiker] asked me to make bread for her, and I’m going to do it again this year.”

“Denise Spiker has Spiker Springs at Silver Creek,” Tracey explained. “She’s the one that said, ‘if you make it, I”ll buy it and sell it,’ about Ahna’s bread. That was the first time she ever sold her [baked goods]. She won $800 from Avocados from Mexico. They paid per video that she uploaded – plus she won a challenge.”

Ahna also baked a unicorn cake for the Pocahontas County 4-H competition and cakewalk.

“I loved that cake,” she said. “I even played in the cakewalk for it.”

Her most recent competition was The Omni Grove Park National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville, North Carolina. The competition, which is televised on the Food Network, sees hundreds of youth and adult gingerbread house makers seeking to win a top award.

Both Ahna and Tracey entered the competition, and Ahna is the first to joke that her mom didn’t rank in the top 10. Ahna, on the other hand, did.

“This year, I’m going to do another gingerbread house,” she said. “I’m going to buy a bunch of gingerbread houses on clearance and then I’m going to grind them up into ginger flour and then I can do anything with it.”

With all the accomplishments and orders coming in, Ahna decided to create her own small business and named it Ahna Fresh. An official homebaker, she is able to make breads, cookies, cakes and other items that do not include raw eggs or custards.

Although she’s only been in business for a couple months, Ahna has already made quite an impression with her flavors and cake designs. Most of her cakes are one layer, either covered in fondant or decorated with buttercream frosting, but that doesn’t mean she shies away from the big items.

Her latest cake was for a surprise birthday celebration, and it was a whopping three-tier cake, with fondant and each layer was a different flavor.

Ahna’s flavors are what sets her baking apart. She has her favorite – lemon – but she is able to steer her customers to a flavor she thinks they may like, including blueberry almond with vanilla bean frosting or her signature hot chocolate cake.

“Momma found the recipe [for the chocolate cake] and didn’t see that it said coffee,” Ahna said. “I decided to use hot chocolate instead of coffee.”

The moment Ahna starts talking about her product, it becomes obvious that she knows a thing or two about baking as well as the ingredients she uses.

She prefers marzipan over fondant, and she is a natural when it comes to making fondant bows.

In fact, Ahna is so ahead of the game, she is ready to take it a step further with an audition for the Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship. She submitted an audition last year, but she was too young.

“I’m positive I’m going to be on Kids Baking Championship,” she said. “This year, I’m old enough.”

Her lofty goals don’t seem so out of this world when you witness her talent. It’s easy to forget she is just eight years old when she talks about the special fougasse bread she bakes or the way she stacks her tiered cakes.

The question is – does she want to be a baker when she is older?

“Yep,” she said. “Although I want to be [ski racer] Mikaela Shiffrin.”

“Those are her two dreams,” Tracey said. “To be a professional ski racer and to bake.”

Ahna finds time to do both, and even incorporates her love of skiing into her baking.

She recently made life-size ski poles out of chocolate covered pretzels and sent them to the Vice President of LEKI – a ski pole manufacturer.

“They were ninety centimeters which is my size pole,” she said. “He sent me pink poles as a thank you.”

Now that she has more than 18 cake orders under her belt and a growing customer base, Ahna is excited to continue to explore her natural talent in baking, and continues to set high goals for herself.

“I want to make a unicorn cake,” she said. “I want to do a whole unicorn.”

For more information on Ahna Fresh, visit the Facebook page of the same name.

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