Custom Sweets & Displays
BrieAnna Arteaga-Marcel started her love for baking in her teen years. After taking a family chocolate chip cookie recipe and tweaking the ingredients to make it her own, BrieAnna took her creations to her high school where she sold them to her friends. “I would have a Ziploc bag full of cookies, show up to school in the morning, and by the end of the day they’d be gone,” said BrieAnna. “People would pay me $1 per cookie, until I got in trouble for selling them at school.” However, the reprimanding didn’t discourage her. BrieAnna continued baking, taking her cookies to work for her co-workers and bosses, and even stealing the job as family cookie maker.
It wasn’t until 2017 as a stay-at-home mom that BrieAnna took the leap to further her baking career. “I was at home, battling depression and anxiety, with a knee injury so I couldn’t work, and just feeling like I needed to make connections with other people,” said BrieAnna. “I started The Speakeasy Baking Co.’s Instagram in an attempt to meet other bakers and makers, putting myself out there and slowly building a community with other bakers in the area.” BrieAnna continued to make her famous chocolate chip cookies for friends and family and began dipping her toe into the world of sugar cookies. Her first attempt was for her niece’s birthday party, and things didn’t exactly go as planned. “The frosting just melted off the sides of the cookies and the whole tray was full of sugar cookies with a sea of frosting.” BrieAnna threw that first batch away and didn’t put her apron back on for nine months.
After attempting a handful of other hobbies that didn’t stick, BrieAnna decided it was time to try her hand again at baking. Thanks to YouTube and hours of practice, BrieAnna mastered the sugar cookie frosting and made them for various family events. When her aunt saw BrieAnna’s talent, she encouraged her to keep going and insisted on being her first paying customer. “My aunt’s sister is Debbie Fields of Mrs. Fields cookies,” said BrieAnna. “My aunt saw my passion and having seen another family member flourish in this industry, she told me I had to pursue it. She really kickstarted me into selling my cookies.” BrieAnna kept baking for family and friends until she got her license and officially launched The Speakeasy Baking Co. to the public in 2021.
The Speakeasy Baking Co. offers more than just chocolate chip cookies. BrieAnna also offers custom sugar cookies for any and every special occasion, snickerdoodles, white chocolate cranberry cookies, holiday cookies, chocolate fudge brownies, cakes and a whole lot more. In addition to her delicious desserts, BrieAnna also offers dessert displays beautifully arranged on the back of her vintage mini truck, Delilah, imported from Italy. The truck can be used for weddings, corporate events, showers, you name it. BrieAnna also hosts cookie decorating classes for adults, as well as her kids’ club. One aspect of BrieAnna’s career that many may not know about is her recipe development. “I develop different cookie recipes over the course of a couple of months and then sell them to other bakers,” said BrieAnna. “I specialize in seasonal flavors like our Lucky Charms cereal melt cookies and our blueberry French toast cookies. We love fun flavors that are nostalgic. The recipe sales have been a huge part of our business, especially during the pandemic when everything shut down and people were at home baking.” BrieAnna’s recipe sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, reaching over 70 countries and almost 8,000 copies of her 21 unique cookie recipes sold.
In addition to increased recipe sales, the pandemic also brought out a multitude of bakers in general. However, BrieAnna is confident in what The Speakeasy Baking Co. offers. “The balance in our flavor profiles is key. Our cookies aren’t overly sweet, and everything we offer is very balanced. We also offer a soft shortbread style sugar cookie, which is a little different, and my decorating style is more modern and simpler.” The Speakeasy Baking Co.’s variety of available products also plays in their favor. BrieAnna has naturally progressed into other dessert areas, which opens up her reach to a broader customer base. “Most bakers stick to their one expert area, but I don’t have all of my eggs in one basket,” said BrieAnna. For customers looking to place a custom sugar cookie order, BrieAnna requires booking six to eight months in advance. As for dessert displays, she needs nine to 18 months’ notice. “We’re currently booked through June of 2024, fall of next year is almost completely booked for weddings, and we’re already booking for 2025.”
The popularity of The Speakeasy Baking Co. is not exclusive to Brentwood or even the Bay Area. BrieAnna is bringing her natural creativity to homes everywhere on The Christmas Cookie Challenge on the Food Network, HBO Max, and Discovery Plus. “I had told my husband that my dream was to be on this show but I wasn’t planning on applying until next year,” said BrieAnna. “The next day after having that conversation, someone reached out to me on social media saying that their producer had been following me for over a year and wanted to interview me. Of course, my natural response was to ask for proof.” After receiving an email with all of the details, BrieAnna agreed to have a Zoom call where she set up a live panel interview. She was given 48 hours to complete a baking challenge and have it ready to submit at the interview. “I had to make a 3D design, something I had never done, and it had to be built out of a minimum of seven cookies with specific parameters.” BrieAnna made her masterpiece the morning of the interview and then didn’t hear anything from the producers for weeks. Finally, after three weeks and assuming she didn’t make it, BrieAnna received news that she had in fact made it through and would need to do another interview with the network. A couple of weeks after the second interview, BrieAnna was given the green light to fly down to Los Angeles for filming.
Filming lasted for five days and was jam packed full of baking challenges and interviews. “I can’t give any spoilers for what I designed and what I did, but I can say that it was intense,” said BrieAnna. “It was also a lot of fun. All of my cast mates were so nice. There are four to five bakers per episode who battle it out in timed rounds.” Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman is the judge of The Christmas Cookie Challenge, and Chef Eddie Jackson is the host. “For the first round they tell you what to do, and you have 90 minutes to do it,” said BrieAnna. “You only have two minutes beforehand to walk around the studio and see where everything is and hopefully remember once your time starts. Everyone was flying around like squirrels trying to find nuts.” The studio doesn’t have any clocks visible, so contestants have no way of tracking the remaining time, except for the host shouting out random countdowns. “The judge and host come down and talk to you while you’re cooking, which is stressful.”
After the first 90-minute challenge, there are eliminations and then they move onto the next step which is a two-and-a-half-hour challenge. In the end, there is one winner. “There are no retakes on this kind of show, so it should be interesting to watch.” BrieAnna’s episode airs on December 14 at 9:00 p.m. on the Food Network and 7:00 p.m. on the other two platforms. “I’m hoping to find a location to host a viewing because I think it would be amazing to watch with my community.”
Being selected out of thousands of applicants to be on The Christmas Cookie Challenge would seem like BrieAnna had accomplished her ultimate goal as a baker. However, the bar does not stop there. “We’re working on a cookbook right now,” said BrieAnna. “That’s been in the works for a long time. We’re hoping to pitch it to a publisher next year. It will feature California cuisine with fresh vegetables and desserts sprinkled in.” BrieAnna would also love to have a brick-and-mortar location instead of working out of her home kitchen, and eventually would be open to franchising. “It’s a five-to-ten-year plan,” said BrieAnna. “Of course, I would love to be on the Food Network with my own show! I grew up watching, so making it onto the Christmas Cookie Challenge was a dream come true. My biggest accomplishment though is starting a whole new genre with dessert displays. Delilah is the first of her kind, and now we have copycats all around the world in places like Switzerland and India! It’s very flattering. We have started something new and amazing and are helping people start their own businesses. I never thought in a million years that all of this would happen!”
Photos by: Provided