Most college students find themselves struggling to cook basic meals, but Hailey Shuster spends her time turning out mouthwatering desserts.
Shuster, a marketing senior, has been baking and decorating pastries for the past seven years and has even created her own business. She’s mastered everything from cakes to cookies and uses her Instagram account @cakesbyhayshu, which has gathered more than 1,000 followers, to show off all of her ingenious designs and decorations.
“It’s always a great talking point,” Shuster said. “I get to meet new people and make them happy.”
Shuster said her Italian mother’s homemade biscotti was her first introduction to the joys of cooking. Shuster’s mother allowed her to help out in the kitchen and eventually encouraged her to try decorating after she showed promise in baking.
“She taught me how to move through a kitchen,” Shuster said.
Shuster said she also took inspiration for her business from her current boss, Lucky Lab owner Courtney Hutton. Shuster called Hutton a role model because of her incredible work ethic.
“She values hard work and efficiency,” Shuster said. “She would never ask an employee to do something she wouldn’t.”
In addition to her own business, Shuster undertakes a myriad of jobs for Lucky Lab, from making drinks to baking and even completing UT-related marketing projects.
“She is one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever worked with,” Hutton said. “She’s a hustler. She makes it happen, (and) she has a very strong work ethic.”
Shuster said that of all the difficulties of being a baker and decorator, pricing tends to be the most troublesome aspect of her business. Shuster’s cakes typically start at about $40.
“Pricing is always difficult,” Shuster said. “Adults will think it’s worth the moon and stars, and students will always disagree.”
Shuster said that balancing school, her job and baking can sometime be a struggle, but that school and work typically have to come first. Despite her busy schedule, Shuster said the reaction to her creations always makes it worth it.
Loyal customers such as Crystal Taylor, who has been ordering cakes from Shuster for the past four years, tend to agree that Shuster’s designs are worth the price and definitely more than just pretty.
“(The cakes) are always fresh,” Taylor said. “They always taste amazing, and they always look beautiful.”
Taylor, who was Shuster’s science teacher throughout middle and high school, said Shuster is her go-to for any event she hosts and has made all of the birthday cakes for her three children.
“I can just trust that she’s going to do an amazing job no matter what,” Taylor said. “I actually don’t have to even give her that much guidance; I can tell her the theme or the color palette I want, or if I want them to be fun, or whimsical or romantic, and she just does her thing, and it’s always amazing.”