She practiced making alfajores (Latin-American dulce de leche confections) in her home kitchen and selling them to friends. But the numbers, Herrera, says, “weren’t adding up.” She moved on to decorating cakes she put together from scratch.
“I’m completely self-taught. I didn't even know I could bake,” the Peruvian-born Herrera tells New Times. “When my mother worked at a restaurant in Peru, I would sit at the pastry area playing with my sister — that was about as far as my experience with desserts went. But I knew I could make my business profitable. I did recipe research for consistency and kept on testing.”
Herrera started going to markets and giving out samples to build her brand. The name, T’antay, is inspired by a word from the Quechua language spoken in the Peruvian Andes, meaning “fresh from the oven.”
The orders kept coming in and the novice baker eventually quit her job to pursue the venture full-time.
Her initial investment, $10,000, was all the savings she had at the time.
She makes simple and monogrammed celebration cakes in five flavors: Peruvian chocolate, buttery vanilla, lemon olive oil, coconut, and strawberry. Larger, multitiered cakes can also be ordered. Prices start at $175 for a standard-size cake that serves 12 to 15 people.
Herrera takes a limited number of orders a week — “to ensure quality,” she says.
“Our flavors are very local, natural, and not too sweet, and cakes are made clean and simple with Swiss meringue so they are easy to enjoy,” says Herrera.
For some cakes, the process starts a month in advance.
“With every cake, I’m starting from zero. I have to do my homework and interpret the client's vision,” Herrera explains. “I never know what the end result is going to be, I just jump in and do it. It could take up to six to eight hours to put a customized cake together.
During the pandemic, clients couldn't come to her shop for consultations, so Herrera launched an online store. She also started offering a monthly flash sale of $35 jarred cakes customers could take home to taste different flavors. Preorder is available via T'antay's website for the next edition, June 28.
Becoming your own boss isn’t easy, notes Herrera, but it was the best decision of her life. Her husband, Ryan Vando, left his managerial role at Coyo Taco last October and is now in charge of T’antay operations.
“When we moved to this country, we went through a lot. Working for myself has given my family stability and allowed us to spend more quality time together,” she says. "Between social media, baking, and cleaning, I never stop working, but I keep on wanting to learn more and do more — I see it in myself that I'm capable of becoming a staple in the Miami community. This is where I love to live. I don't want to go anywhere else.”
T'antay Cake Studio. 1900 SW Eighth St., Miami; 786-710-1963. tantaymiami.com, @tantaymiamicakes. Cakes and baked goods available for takeout and delivery by appointment.