Being an 18-year-old who just graduated high school in May 2019 and already owning a successful baking business sounds a bit far-fetched, I know.
Throw in the facts that this 18-year-old also works a part-time job at Wonder Works in Mount Pleasant and just started college courses at the Culinary Institute of Charleston.
This is all a reality for Cora Hanak of McClellanville, who said her baking business really started taking off two years ago.
“Most of my business comes from the Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island areas, but we can deliver anywhere,” she said.
And they do. With the help of her mother, Juliet Hanak, they deliver cupcakes, pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, tortes and chocolates to wherever her dessert-loving customers require.
Her aspiration is to become a baker, but her inspiration comes from somewhere quite different.
Hanak explained that her family had the privilege of adopting her sister Charlotte, who is now 3 and has a rare developmental condition called septo-optic dysplasia. Charlotte has delayed brain development, underdevelopment of the optic nerves and pituitary hypoplasia.
“I started this business to promote awareness for my sister,” Hanak proclaimed. “She is amazing to me and she is honestly my best friend.”
Hanak realizes that many children with developmental disabilities grow up with little opportunities in the workplace. “That is something I want to change because they have so much to offer,” she said.
“My business will hire people like my sister, and we’ll all do this together. It will be an accepting environment where we will all encourage each other’s strengths.”
For now, Hanak said she is focused on school. She is excited to learn the fundamentals of cooking. “It’s exciting to learn the science of it all and to focus on my technique. I am learning how to stray away from strict recipes and be creative.”
As the holidays approach, Hanak will be filling orders for pumpkin tortes and Christmas peppermint cupcakes (with or without chocolate). “The holidays are definitely a busy time for me.”
But with Charlotte by her side, Hanak is sure to succeed.
Her mom, Juliet, who also has a 15-year-old son, Connor, said with pride, “Sometimes doctors will ask me what Charlotte’s favorite toy is and I always say, ‘It’s Cora, that is her favorite thing to play with.’ They are truly best friends.”
And her taste-testers at Wonder Works agree that Hanak is quite special. “She is always doing things for others and is super talented,” Christine Osborne, owner of Wonder Works, beamed.
But when it comes to her biggest fan, Charlotte, Hanak concluded, “I am so lucky to have her as my sister. I just want the best for her.”
Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes Recipe
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1-2 tablespoons of milk
- Optional crushed peppermint sticks
Chocolate ganache filling
- 2 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare one or two pans with cupcake liners (this recipe yields 12 – 16 cupcakes).
In a microwave-safe dish, microwave the butter and chocolate together in 30-second increments, stirring between each time until smooth. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, add the eggs, sugar, vanilla and sour cream. Whisk on medium speed until smooth.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined.
- Add the cooled butter and chocolate to the stand mixer and whisk until smooth.
- With the stand mixer on low, slowly add in the flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time.
- Mix in flour mixture until combined, being sure to not over-mix. The batter will be thick.
- Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes.
- Cream butter in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla.
- Add 1 tablespoon of milk and mix. You may continue to add milk until you get your desired consistency. If it gets too wet, add more powdered sugar.
Chocolate ganache filling:
- Place chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds each until melted, mixing in between each 30 seconds.
- Allow to cool completely.
- Once the cupcake is fully cooled, cut out a small hole in the middle, being sure not to cut to the bottom.
- Fill the center of the cupcake with ganache.
- Top with peppermint buttercream and crushed peppermint sticks, if desired.