This Pirate has baked up
her own cake-decorating business.
Ebony Johnson serves up sweetness with Ebby-Cakes
Ebony Johnson, a senior at East Carolina University, accidently discovered her talent for baking and cake decorating when she was 14.
“Usually people have tear-jerking or enticing stories about how they got their inspiration for their talents, but my cake baking and decorating talent came from out of nowhere,” said Johnson.
On a rainy fall day, Johnson’s mom and sister left the house and she was at home alone. Bored, she wandered around the house looking for something to do when she discovered a chocolate cake mix in her kitchen cabinet. “I decided that I wanted to make the cake special for my mom and sister,” she said.
Without any decorating experience, Johnson decided to mix different colored sprinkles into the icing and microwave it so that she could decorate her cake. “I put the colored icing into two plastic Ziploc bags,” she said. “Once the icing regained a manageable consistency, I decorated the cake in small pumpkins with green leaves and vines by cutting a very small tip off of each of the bags.”
Once Johnson discovered her talent, she decided to start selling her cakes as a way to make money during high school. Johnson and her business, Ebby-Cakes, have been featured on the “Steve Harvey Morning Show” and in multiple newspapers and magazines including “She Speaks” and “Sister 2 Sister.”
During Johnson’s senior year of high school, she was selected for the highly-competitive Disney Dreamers Academy. Partnered with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, the academy invites 100 high school students to stay at Walt Disney World for a four-day, all-expense paid trip to pursue their dreams. During her stay, she worked alongside award-winning chef, Jeff Henderson.
Disney invited Johnson back to the academy to serve as an alumna ambassador for the next group of students. As an ambassador, she was featured on Steve Harvey’s radio show to talk about the academy and Ebby-Cakes. “It was a surreal experience,” she said. “I was extremely humbled when I was asked to be on the show.”
Johnson started at ECU as a speech pathology major, but switched to hospitality management. “I realized my true passion is to serve people and make them happy,” she said. “I especially want to serve guests in the food and beverage industry and make sure that all food is safe for consumption.”
After Johnson graduates in December, her dream is to go back to Walt Disney World to work in the food and beverage operations at Epcot. “With the many different cultures and countries Epcot hosts in its park, I would enjoy being a manager over all the various ‘lands’ in Epcot since I would oversee the different types of food Epcot has to offer,” she said.
To learn more about Johnson’s cake decorating business, go to www.ebby-cakes.com.
Why did you come to ECU?
Out of all of the schools I applied to and toured when I was a senior in high school, ECU was the most welcoming, friendly and had the most pride. ECU made me feel like I was a Pirate before I was even accepted.
What would you tell someone who is having trouble deciding on their major?
I would tell them to think of something that they love to do or something that constantly holds their interest and find a major that is closely related to either of those things. When I decided to change my major, I thought, “I like cooking, cake decorating and people” and ultimately found that hospitality management was perfect for me.
What was your favorite part about the Disney Dreamers Academy?
During my time as an ambassador, my favorite part of Disney Dreamers Academy was networking with the many cast members who volunteered from the Walt Disney Company, especially the catering and conventions cast members and a manager from the Walt Disney World Foods Warehouse. The connections that I’ve established with them are irreplaceable, and I’m so glad that I met them; they not only give me great insight to the hospitality world, but they are all genuine people, who I respect and admire.
Share one of your cake baking secrets with us:
Always allow cold ingredients like eggs, cream cheese, sour cream and milk to become room temperature before baking them so that your baked goods can bake more evenly. This also allows baked goods to cook faster.
How has your ECU education prepared you for your future?
The course “Field Experience in Hospitality Management” with Dr. Weber, in particular, has prepared me for my future since the class teaches you how to write resumes and conduct effective interviews, while also allowing opportunities to gain experience in the hospitality field. I feel that all components of that class were essential to my growth in the hospitality industry.
Photography by: Cliff Hollis
Written by: Grace Haskin
College: Human Ecology
Major: Hospitality Management
Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina
Hobbies & Interests: Baking and cake decorating, space studies and anything Disney-related
Clubs & Organizations: Eta Sigma Delta
Hangout: The Galley
Place on Campus: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
Place to Eat: Wings over Greenville
Class: Principles of Classical Cuisine (Restaurant Management) with Dr. David Rivera
TV Show: Rob & Big and Fantasy Factory
Musician/band: Janelle Monáe or Smokey Robinson
Movie: Good Burger
Most Influential Professor: Dr. Mel Weber has not only been a great hospitality professor, but also has influenced me to strive to be a better person within the field of hospitality with his strict requirements on assignments that he sees as satisfactory.
Dream Job: I wish to hold a managerial position within the food and beverage division on the Walt Disney World property
You Can’t Live Without: Music
Role Model: My mother and Walt Disney
Words to Live By: Be you for you; never live your life for anyone else.
Advice to Fellow Students: Always go to class even when you don’t feel like it. The money has already been spent for you to go to school; why not get the most use out of it?
Something cool about ECU you wish you knew during your first year: I wish I knew more about the many organizations that ECU has to offer.
“Always go to class even when you don’t feel like it. The money has already been spent for you to go to school; why not get the most use out of it?”
– Ebony Johnson