Piece of cake: A 13-year-old turns passion into profit

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Eighth-grader Ally Miller is already a captain of industry. Photo: Matthew Burke Eighth-grader Ally Miller is already a captain of industry. Photo: Matthew Burke

For a young teenager, Ally Miller sure has a lot on her plate: She’s an eighth-grader at Henley Middle School, a student at the Wilson School of Dance and the CEO of her own company.

In May, the then-12-year-old founded a custom cake pop company, called Pop Art By Ally, and has so far sold more than 2,000 cake pops in a variety of flavors and designs.

Miller says she has always had a knack for baking sweet treats from scratch, so it didn’t take long for her to turn her hobby into a business.

“I learned how to make [cake pops] from my cousin and I started giving them to my friends and family and they really liked them,” she says. “Then my sister’s friend’s mom asked me to make them for a birthday party and that’s how I got the idea.”

Standing in her kitchen in Crozet, Miller demonstrates the trade she’s mastered. With half dollar-sized balls of cake, which she has already rolled and chilled in the freezer, she skewers each one with a lollipop stick. Holding the pops by their sticks, she dips them one by one into a vat of melted milk chocolate, gives them a swirl for optimal choco-coverage and, holding her creation in one hand, repeatedly taps her hands together to knock off excess chocolate for a smooth, rounded finish. Miller then pokes her lollipop stick into a holding block and reaches for the next cake pop.

Photo: Scott Miller
Photo: Scott Miller

While they’re still warm, she sprinkles the chocolate pops with pearly white sprinkles. This batch is separate from a 60-unit order she’s working on for an upcoming wedding party, but on display on the kitchen counter behind her is a plate of pops with chocolate buttons and a bow tie drawn to resemble a tuxedo, and others crafted with a white chocolate lattice pattern and a ring of pearls that look like a bridal gown.

Miller’s cake pops, which have been sold locally and shipped across the country, come in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and lemon flavors and range from $2 to $4 depending on their design and place of purchase. So while Green House Coffee, on Crozet Avenue, always has a bundle of Miller’s most basic pops in-house and sells them for $2 each, some of her more time-consuming creations may cost a couple dollars extra.

Miller says one of her favorite pops she has designed so far has been a frothing beer mug for a 40th birthday party. She has also made kittens, puppies, frogs, apples, strawberries and even Pokeballs, just to name a few, and she’s currently working on design ideas for the upcoming holiday season and the Super Bowl.

“I think Ally’s very creative and detail-oriented,” her dad, Scott Miller, says. “She has a lot of patience and she’s a hard worker.”

While her dad may help if she has a gigantic order to fill (like the 200 pops requested for the 40th birthday party), she does most of the work on her own. And as for the money she’s earned?

“I haven’t really spent it on anything yet,” Miller giggles. “I’ve been saving it.”

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