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Studying what you love is a piece of cake

Last fall, Audra Brewer woke up craving a warm cupcake. Just one problem: She didn’t have any butter and couldn’t make it to the store due to the terrible weather.

“Do not fear,” Brewer thought to herself. With her knowledge of food science as well as baking, Brewer knew the ingredients to an identical substitute to butter.

“Let me see if I have plant-based margarine or canola oil in my cabinet,” the senior food science major thought. “Ah, yes. Now I can make myself a cupcake.”

As a high school student in Batesville, Indiana, Audra Brewer had dreams of working in the food science industry while starting her own baking business.

“I love the process of baking. There is so much importance in each step to get you to where you want to go,” Brewer shared.

Audra Brewer mixes ingredients in Purdue’s sensory evaluation lab Audra Brewer, a senior food science major from Batesville, Indiana, mixes ingredients in Purdue’s sensory evaluation lab. Brewer started her own baking business called Aud’s Bakes. Photo by Jalee Wondercheck.

She worked tirelessly to grow her baking business, which she called Aud’s Bakes, while working hard to get into college. Through hard work and determination, Brewer’s baking business took off.

Brewer said she has been asked to bake cakes for weddings, cookies for events, cupcakes for special birthdays, and pastries for farmers markets. She also dabbles in 3D printing to create her own style of cookie cutters. Soon, Brewer became interested in the business side of baking as well as the science behind the ingredients and technology.

“It only took me a while to realize that in order to improve and measure any sort of success, I had to become solid in how I was tracking expenses, orders, and marketing myself,” Brewer explained. “It is not always my favorite part, but it gives me diversity in where I spend my time, so I do not burn out.”

Studying food science at Purdue aligned with her love of baking and the food industry. Eager and ready to learn, Brewer dove right into the program. In addition to her courses, Brewer completed two full-time internships during the summers after her sophomore and junior years. At the same time, she was keeping up with peak farmers market and wedding season orders.

Brewer realized that her work and school needed to come first. She took on fewer weddings and parties and allowed herself time to prioritize school. Brewer, although sad her baking had to take a back seat, was excited by the science behind food, especially chemistry.

“I have always been fascinated with the chemistry behind baking.” Brewer said. “The differences between baking powder and baking soda, the changes caused by melted butter as opposed to softened, even mixing or chilling times have so much influence on the product. Understanding the changes and influences of different ingredients and processes helps me reflect on what went wrong or what I could do better next time.”

Brewer said she has learned how to improve her baking products and other important things, such as how to legally market food. To Brewer, her baking business succeeds when her academics are succeeding and vice versa. One cannot continue without the other. Brewer said there is one thing that helps her manage it all: planning.

“I complete my homework and whatever studying needs to get done while giving myself an hour or two a day to work on social media and responses for the bakery,” she said.

Brewer said that her Purdue experience has been valuable.

“My time at Purdue has been the start of so many adventures, opportunities, and relationships,” she said. “I cannot wait to see how my experience as a Boilermaker will continue to influence my life and career post-graduation!”

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Jalee Wondercheck is a student writer majoring in agricultural communication in Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication

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