Meet your merchant: Family of three redheads founded a successful baking company from their home kitchen
When Brianna McKinley was in the sixth grade, her mother decided it was time for home school, as she wasn’t impressed with the public schools in southwest Florida.
But spending more time at home proved to have its perks, as Brianna, or “Bri” would soon discover. Known for her baking skills, Bri’s mother spent many hours a week baking for the family and various church groups.
“There was always something in the oven,” said Bri. “My mother taught me everything she knew about baking and cooking, then I took it from there.”
Additionally, the family would routinely host international exchange students, many of whom brought with them recipes from their home countries.
“I remember one of my favorites was brigadeiro, which is a traditional Brazilian dessert,” said Bri. “I had a lot of fun experimenting with unusual recipes.”
Bri fell in love with Nevada County while spending summers with her mother’s sister in Lake Wildwood. It was a welcome change from the humid, buggy summers near the canals of the Gulf Coast. Therefore it was no surprise that, as a young adult, she would opt to move here.
In 2000, Bri arrived in Nevada County as a single mother with no credit, no car and no job. But there was one thing she’d always had: ambition. She launched her own home day care in Penn Valley, which ran successfully for seven years until the recession hit and parents began to lose their jobs. While she went on to work a variety of odd jobs and struggled to get by, she held on to her dream of someday opening a cupcakery.
“I had visions of making beautiful cupcakes,” Bri said. “But at that point it felt like a pipe dream.”
CHALLENGES LEAD TO INSPIRATION
The struggles continued, as her home went into foreclosure, and, in 2012, within three months of being diagnosed, her father passed away due to cancer associated with Agent Orange. The only thing that made sense was for Bri and her two children to move in with her mother, who by then had moved to Lake Wildwood.
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” said Bri. “We had room for creative projects and we were able to add on to her house.”
But the family was on a tight budget, and when Bri’s daughter, Kierney, needed an expensive dress for an Irish dancing championship, they knew there was only one way to raise the money quickly: bake.
“We started making small pies by hand — I found out that my son Kelton could make a mean pie crust,” said Bri. “We sold them on Facebook, then at Holiday Market and in front of Kmart. They started to become really popular.”
The demand was impressive, and it became clear to Bri that it was time to apply for a business license and begin making the family kitchen in Lake Wildwood into a commercial one.
By fall of 2016, the business was fully licensed under the name, “Three Gingers Baking Co.,” inspired by Bri and her two children, all of whom were born redheads. In addition, their logo is accompanied by an image of three foxes, which has since become instantly recognizable by regular customers.
Today, in addition to taking orders online, going out on deliveries and catering, Three Gingers Baking Co. booths can also be found at a variety of Nevada County venues. Larger seasonal events include the three Nevada County Growers farmers’ markets, the Nevada County Fair and the upcoming Foothills Celebration on March 2, which features chef specialties and sweets from some of the area’s finest restaurants and confectioners, along with wine from more than 50 foothill wineries.
Three Gingers’ mission is to “take baking back to basics and in the process, rid our ingredients of the processed, the artificial and the fake flavors that are so rampant in our foods today. Nothing but the best for our bodies and souls.”
No artificial flavors, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup is used in anything they make. They use organic ingredients whenever possible and make an effort to buy from local farmers.
Three Gingers’ impressive menu includes specialty cupcakes, mini pies, French macaroons, cookies, barks, cakes, wedding cakes and fresh baked artisan breads. Favorites include the “Amazing Autumn” cupcake, which boasts a sweet apple mini cupcake with caramelized brown sugar frosting tucked inside a spicy pumpkin cupcake topped with creamy cinnamon buttercream; the “Pink Lemonade,” a tangy and tart cupcake made with organic lemons; the 49er Miner cupcake made with vanilla spiced rum filled with fresh blackberry compote and topped with cinnamon spiced rum buttercream and chocolate gold nuggets. Some gluten free options are available.
A small sampling of mini pies for sale include the classic apple, made with organic Granny Smiths and Three Gingers’ signature 100 percent homemade butter crust; The Razzleberry, made with Nevada County blackberries mixed with juicy raspberry coulis and a touch of fresh lemon; the Caramel Apple, which is doused in sweet homemade caramel sauce with a touch of salt. Breads include rosemary garlic, sourdough tomato, sourdough wheat, cranberry orange, orange apple, cinnamon raisin and deli dill.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Having finally realized what was once a “pipe dream,” Bri is now hoping to expand beyond her home commercial kitchen to open a Nevada County cupcakery, bakery, ice cream and sandwich shop. She is now raising funds on Kickstarter.com, where potential investors (ranging from $5 to $10,000) can pledge money and get paid back in baked goods. Top donors will get coffee and a pastry free every day for life, she said.
“My vision is to have a place where people can come and get a great cup of coffee and freshly baked treat anytime,” said Bri. “They can meet and hang out with friends, curl up with a good book or study while enjoying the romantically warm scent of coffee brewing. It could be a warm and cozy spot in the winter and a cool refuge for a frozen treat in the summer.”
It’s clear that Bri doesn’t shy away from hard work, and her attention to detail shows. In addition to making edible, artful creations, Bri said she also cherishes the opportunity to work alongside her daughter, Kierney, who is now almost 16, and son, Kelton, who is 21.
“We go together to work at all these events — it’s always a crazy bonding adventure,” said Bri. “I love being able to work with my family. When it comes to food, I’m a perfectionist, but it comes back to you in the best possible way.
“I love seeing people’s faces when they taste our food, it’s like an endorphin rush. It feels good to do something for someone else knowing they’re getting joy from it.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.