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CEDAR GROVE, N.J. — When Veruska Samanez was furloughed last March from her position as pastry cook at the Park Hyatt in Midtown, she says she looked at it as an opportunity.

“It was definitely scary, I knew that I had to go all in,” Samanez said. “There was just no in between, you go big or go home.”

The New Jersey-based baker took advantage of her newly open schedule and invested all her time in building up what was just a side hustle for her, an online-based custom cake and cookie shop called “Cake & Flourish.”

She honed in on her craft and started churning out masterpiece after masterpiece.

“I always hear this cake looks beautiful but it tasted terrible, wedding cakes especially which breaks my heart because you should have a great cake at your wedding,” she explained. “I wanted to make sure that my cakes taste great and they’re gonna look great too.”

As business picked up, the stars continued to align for Samanez.

The baker got a call to be a contestant on The Food Network’s popular Spring Baking Championship series. It was an opportunity that would’ve never been on the table if she still had her full time gig.

For this entrepreneur, the pandemic proved to be a blessing in disguise.

“It’s really hard to find a balance you know,” she said. “Like the world is burning and you’re like does anyone want cookies? anyone want cake?”

Samanez is now taking orders and expanding her business, and looking into opening commercial space later this year.

And when it comes to advice she has to other budding entrepreneurs chasing their passion.

“Ask for help. It takes a village just like it takes a village to raise a baby, it takes a village to grow a business.”

To learn more about Cake and Flourish, and to put in an order, visit their websiteor follow them on Instagram.