'The Cake Girl' relishes Hispanic heritage, Central Florida past

Kristina Lavallee is "The Cake Girl."

It’s a nickname she’s proud of, and it’s also the name of her successful business.

"To know where it came from to what it is now because it started as a joke because I was always baking for friends is pretty wild," Lavallee said.

The brand started in 2008 and has grown into a brick and mortar bakery in Tampa with nationwide reach online. One of Lavallee’s cakes went viral in 2022. It was a G.O.A.T. cake for superstar quarterback Tom Brady.

"Sometimes I want to pinch myself and be like, ‘Oh my God, we’ve done cakes for celebrities, or very important people, or just whichever customer we’ve had,’" Lavallee said.

Lavallee grew up in Puerto Rico before moving to Orlando 20 years ago. Her Hispanic heritage shows in her Puerto Rican cakes. Lavallee said they’re top sellers at the bakery.

"I feel like it’s in my blood, so I have to kind of like, show it," Lavallee said. "I have to kind of like to do it."

The recipe has been passed down through generations.

Lavallee’s mother, Margarita Perez, was a professional chef who specialized in gourmet foods. Lavallee called her mother her hero.

"Everything that she went through and everything she taught me is just very humbling, so I’m just very proud to have her as a mother," Lavallee said.

Perez said she’s very proud of her daughter’s accomplishments. She said she told Lavallee to never leave her Puerto Rican identity behind and never stop speaking Spanish.

Lavallee said that lesson proved useful one time at work.

"I was told not to speak Spanish at work," Lavallee said. "I was like, ‘But how?’ It's my first language, and all I was doing was helping a coworker translate something she didn’t understand."

Lavallee said that experience served as motivation to start her own business. 

Lavallee also credits UCF for laying the foundation. Lavallee is a 2013 graduate with degrees in hospitality and food service.

UCF is also where she met her husband and business partner, Kirby, and it’s even where the two got married.

Lavallee’s interview with FOX 35 UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management was her first time back inside the school's kitchens since she was a student.

"I still remember it like it was yesterday that I was just back here in the kitchens just having a great old time," Lavallee said. "I would never change it for the world."

She said the school helped her get a sense of the science behind baking and the business side of it, too.

Expansion across Florida is on the way for The Cake Girl. The company will begin franchising in 2024, and a shop in Orlando could be on the way.