As a child, Ariel Ryberg insisted she was going to be a candy maker when she grew up. And just two years ago, 30-year-old Ryberg found a way to implement sweets by creating an at-home bakery known as Coterie of Cakes.
“People always ask me about the name of my bakery. A coterie is basically a group of like-minded individuals with a common theme,” Ryberg said. “So basically, I make cakes, but I love everything sweet. Cakes or cookies, I love them all.”
At first, Ryberg had no idea about her passion for sweets. The cake expert used to work with wine and beer at World Market, and she says she loved every second of it. Little did she know, the cake she made for a coworker kickstarted her drive for all things confection.
“This all happened randomly. I baked a cake for one of my coworkers. It was a chocolate-espresso cake,” she said. “At World Market, we had these huge Toblerone’s, and I used the big chocolate chunks as decoration with drip on the outside. Then, you know, someone said, ‘You should do that again.’”
Once COVID-19 entered the scene, Ryberg needed something to fill in the time, so she turned to her grandmother’s kitchen with flour and frosting in hand.
“I lost my job, and I had to do something. So, I decided to make a cake. Two years later, and it’s growing. I wanted to slowly grow my following to have a real connection with each person that comes on my page,” Ryberg said.
Not only is she slowly building her baking empire, Ryberg is also enrolled in Escoffier’s online pastry school. She hopes to make the bakery a full-time gig after graduation.
Cakes may be Ryberg’s first love, but she also found a passion for cookies. She even made her own recipe: chicken scratch cookies.
“I love chickens. I have like 10 at my house, and for all of my cakes I use fresh eggs. I notice that people wanted chocolate chip cookies, and I didn’t want to use the same recipe everyone else was using,” she said. “Instead of doing all chocolate chips, I do chocolate and butterscotch chips.”
The mixture of melted chocolate and butterscotch gives the cookie the chicken scratch look, she said, and she also sprinkles on honey granules to top it off.
“They are to die for. It’s the one thing I’m so confident in,” she said.
Along with cakes and cookies, Ryberg also makes scones, muffins, biscuits and pies. She’s open to any challenge if someone needs a specific order.
For cakes, Ryberg offers four different sizes: 4-inch, 6-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch cakes. Prices range from $35 to $70, but she also explained that she’s flexible for people in need.
“If anyone needs to meet a budget, literally give me a number. I’m still practicing, and I really want to help people out. Everybody in the whole community helps me, so I want to help them,” Ryberg said.
While Ryberg isn’t technically an Opelika native, she’s lived in the city since she was 11. The community and support she’s received continue to help her grow into the baker she’s meant to be.
“I’m not a native, but they still love and treat me like one. I love that. My heart was meant to be here,” Ryberg said.
At this point, Ryberg explained the relationships and connections she’s made make work feel like leisure.
“I have a few regulars, and almost all of them became regulars because I did cakes for them last minute. I love seeing them. Every time I see little Miss Brandy I’m happy,” she said.
Brandy Helms feels the exact same way about Ryberg.
“She is amazing. I can send her a picture, and she makes exactly what I show her,” Helms said. “She always goes out of her way on everything. She made my son an awesome poster for him to ask a girl to homecoming. It was just what I asked for.”
Ryberg just wants local folks to know that she’s here for everyone.
“I just want to be the unique cake person that uses local ingredients. I want people to know that right now this is a loving hobby for me, and I want to grow it into a business. This is about love,” she said.
Right now, Coterie of Cakes runs under Alabama Cottage Food Law. This means Ryberg can make any good that does not require refrigeration.
To place an order, Ryberg works directly through Coterie of Cakes’ Facebook page. She also has an Instagram account, @thecoterieofcakes.
“I want to thank the community. I’ve never heard of such a strong-knit community like the O-A area. All I want is to be the extra bag of sugar you need from your neighbor,” she said.