Philanthropic pastry chef donates to epilepsy research and advocacy group

By Victor Carno

Kevin Montoya sorts through a fresh batch of his signature Carley Cakes carrot cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Photo by Victor Carno
Kevin Montoya sorts through a fresh batch of his signature Carley Cakes carrot cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Photo by Victor Carno

Armed with a sweet tooth and a sweet heart, a young local pastry chef is making his dream career a reality while helping to fund epilepsy research.

Kevin Montoya, 24, of Dana Point has embarked on a culinary endeavor, Carley Cakes, creating fresh pastries every morning and donating 2 percent of his annual earnings to the Epilepsy Foundation.

After attending high school at Dana Hills and graduating from Capistrano Valley, Montoya entered the Institute of Culinary Education in New York where his proclivity toward pastries was sparked during a pastry module of the program. From there, he returned to Southern California and interned at Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine in Irvine before heading to San Francisco for a year and a half to attend the San Francisco Baking Institute.

Montoya returned to Southern California a fully-trained pastry chef with plenty of experience under his belt and quickly found work as a barista at Hidden House Coffee in San Juan Capistrano.

This is where he met Lori Eissman, a regular at the Los Rios Historic District coffee shop, who lost her daughter, Carley Eissman, to epilepsy in 2011.

After getting to know Eissman and being touched by her daughter’s story, Montoya came up with a business model. He would combine his passion for baking with raising money for the Epilepsy Foundation. Montoya started his own bakery, Carley Cakes, in October of 2011 and vowed to donate a portion of his annual earnings in Carley Eissman’s name.

“I was so happy she allowed me to use her daughter’s name for my business,” he said.

Initially, Montoya baked all his pastries in the kitchen at Capo Beach Church and business was—as many new businesses experience—slow. After a year of struggling to keep things together, Montoya started receiving more and more calls. Customers came out of the woodwork and asked him to provide everything from fresh pastries for coffee houses to creative center pieces for weddings.

Carley Cakes finally got off the ground.

A Carley Cakes creation, carrot cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Photo by Victor Carno
A Carley Cakes creation, carrot cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Photo by Victor Carno

Today, Montoya’s business has moved to Hidden House Coffee, where he bakes from sunrise to sunset. He currently supplies pastries to a growing group of clients including Hidden House and Five Vines Wine Bar in San Juan Capistrano, Grant’s Marketplace in San Diego and Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen and Laguna Coffee Company in Laguna Beach.

Now a full-time pastry chef, Montoya wakes at 5 a.m., and heads to Hidden House where he scales and mixes the ingredients necessary to fill up the coffee shop’s pastry case, before completing his other orders.

After concocting a cornucopia of treats, he loads his car and sets out on daily deliveries all over Orange and San Diego counties. He finishes out his day back at Hidden House, filling orders and prepping for the next busy day. His long work hours are testament to his passion for baking.

What are Montoya’s goals for Carley Cakes?

“I hope to someday open my own bakery in Dana Point or San Clemente,” he said.

The realization of his goal could be just around the corner as his reputation spreads like wildfire. Thanks to popular creations such as a carrot cupcake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting and salted vanilla caramel tart topped with chocolate, business is thriving.

Montoya said his favorite creation is his signature pumpkin muffins filled with cream cheese and topped with a pepita streusel.

To find out more, visit Carley Cakes online at www.carleycakes.com or swing by Hidden House Coffee, 31791 Los Rios Street, just behind the San Juan train station, and discover your favorite.

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