Danaca Fiedler knows the way to her family's heart; and she has a big family.
All the 16-year-old has to do is go into the kitchen and bake up one of her sweet treats, be it a chocolate cake or a fruit pie, and her five siblings, ages 11 to 22, are happy.
"What really inspires me is thinking of what friends and family will love," she said. "When I'm baking, I always want it to be for my family and friends and hope they will like it."
Danaca, of Arlington Heights, first got into the kitchen at age 6 when her mom had her sixth child. Danaca said her mom encouraged all the kids to help in the kitchen, trying to make oatmeal, muffins and cookies.
"She encouraged us to do it on our own so we started out younger than other kids (in other families)," she said. "As I got older, I started seeing things my aunt would bake such as pies and cheesecake. It inspired me to keep baking."
Learning to bake has also meant learning patience.
"Our oven is strange, so I would end up making the same cake three times in one day because sometimes it would burn or would not come out of the pan or fall to pieces. It was a big learning experience balancing out the different ingredients," she said.
Danaca now can fill the kitchen with cookies, cakes and pies with ease. She said a family favorite is chocolate chips cookies; yet each member has their particular favorite.
"My mom really loves and requests banana cream pie. My sister likes this chocolate trifle I make which is a mixture of brownies, ice cream and pudding. My brother really loves french toast so I decided to try french toast cupcakes," she said.
Danaca said sometimes she does not get a chance to try what she's baked, which is fine with her. "I love seeing other people enjoying it and seeing the smiles on their faces when they are done with it," she said.
While learning to bake started at home, Danaca also has taken classes to build her skills, such as cake decorating.
"When you're decorating, you need more frosting than you can get in the store. We learned how to make frosting in the class as well. I've used the skills and ideas to help to get a smooth layer of frosting and make different designs," she said adding, "I would love to try more classes that specialize in baking and pastries."
A high school junior, Danaca said because she is homeschooled she has time to bake in the afternoon once schoolwork is done.
"Sometimes I'll go on a baking streak and in one week make five new things and sometimes I'll go for a while (without making anything)," she said. "When I do have the free time, I like using it to bake."
Danaca said there are many ingredients and treats she still wants to tackle, such as using dulce de leche and making root beer cupcakes. She even hopes one day to try molding sugar and learning to flambé.
"When I see something new and crazy, I think I'd like to try that and see how it turns out," she said. "Sometimes those crazy ideas can turn out really well."
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