EL PASO — Teenager Naomi Gil’s colorful and carefully mastered pieces of confectionary art and other gooey baked goods leave customers in amazement when they see these artistic pastries inside the display cases at an East side bakery.
As each cupcake leaves the oven, fresh and hot, she uses sugary icing and creativity to turn the small cakes into works of art, decorated with all sorts of characters, sports team logos and other artistic designs.
The 17-year-old Montwood High School student began baking at age 10. Her teachers were her mother, a nanny, and her grandmother.
“I remember being really small and really short and my mom would look down on me and say ‘here help me with this empanada’ or I would just watch her make apple pie and carrot cake,” says Gil. After that, she routinely helped her family bake pies and other confections in what became a serious hobby.
When she became a teenager she began using her artistic skills to make and decorate cakes with figurines and other decorations. Her first cake decoration was the figure of Yoshi, a video game character from Super Mario, for her brother’s birthday.
“I was in eighth grade and I told my cousin to come over and help me because I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Gil, “I had bought a bunch of food coloring and fondant (an edible icing), and as we went along it all just came together naturally.”
Gil is in the Montwood High School Co-op program which allows students to attend their required core classes in the morning along with a Career Preparation class and then work at an approved job-training site in the afternoon.
“Co-Op teaches them how to manage multiple priorities, balance school and work loads, financial literacy and budgeting, and gives them real world, hands-on practical experience,” said Patricia Arrelano, a career technical education teacher at Montwood High School.
A year ago, on St. Valentine’s weekend, Gil was hired as a cake decorator at Bake Me Happy, a local bakery.
She and the other bakers create nearly 350 cupcakes during the work week, and on weekend as many as 500.
The store takes special orders and is even busier on special occasions such as Valentine’s, Easter and other holidays and special occasions. The store’s cupcakes and baked goods are made fresh daily.
“I never really watched videos on YouTube or anything; I just did it by myself,” explained Gil. “I learned how and then I got really good and I started posting pics on twitter and Facebook and I remember my aunt had told me of this lady who she knew and they showed her my work.”
The lady who saw the pictures of Gil’s work was Roseal Greenwood, who was about to open a bakery. She immediately hired Gil.
“She’s awesome, she is self-motivated and I never have to get on her,” said Greenwood. “Her artistic skill helps and she makes quick decisions when using it with her baking ideas. She has a great future”
Gil says each Facebook picture she posts of her confections gets over 100 likes and positive comments from viewers.
Gil especially enjoys making 3-D figurines such as cartoon characters, letters, and other toppers for cupcakes and she sometimes concocts special orders for family members. She says each of her decorations improves with practice.
“I’m 17 and I’m already doing what I want to do for the rest of my life,” said Gil, who plans on attending culinary school in Austin, Texas and one day hopes to open and operate her own bakery franchise.