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Mapleton teen finds sweet success with baking, selling homemade pies

MAPLETON, Maine — Alison Sweetser has ridden horses for as long as she can remember and has enjoyed baking pies at her home in Mapleton just as long. But it wasn’t until three years ago that Alison, now 14, turned that second hobby into a rewarding way to earn money to support her love for riding.

“My aunt owns horses and I’ve been riding them since I was really young. Three years ago I needed a new saddle, but it cost around $420,” Alison Sweetser said.

When Alison’s father, Aaron Sweetser, told her that he wouldn’t be able to afford the saddle, she decided to begin baking and selling apple pies to earn the exact amount she needed for her saddle.

Though Alison originally looked up an apple pie recipe online, it didn’t take long for her to make the recipe one that had her own unique flavor.

“I thought that the sugar and cinnamon in the first recipe were a little too pronounced, so I lowered the amounts of both and it tasted a lot better,” Alison Sweetser said. “I don’t remember anyone in particular teaching me how to cook. It was always just something that I enjoyed doing.”

Alison began advertising her services on Facebook and would bake pies in bulk whenever she received orders. Instead of freezing the pies once she baked them, Alison and her father would deliver the pies fresh, soon after taking the sweet treats out of the oven. She originally charged $10 per order but later raised her price to $12 and in a year saved all the money she needed for her saddle. She estimates that she baked around 150 to 200 pies during that year.

To celebrate her accomplishment, Alison and her father took a trip to Gass’s Horse Supply and Western Wear in Orono to purchase the saddle, where her story received a memorable reaction from the store’s owner, Barry Gass.

“When he told Alison the price of the saddle, she reached into her pocket and pulled out this big wad of cash. He was taken aback by this 11-year-old having so much money, and so she told him that she had baked and sold pies,” Aaron Sweetser said. “Now Barry buys her pies. We try to bring one to him whenever we go downstate.”

In recent years Alison has begun to share her talents with the community by taking part in the apple pie contests at the Northern Maine Fair. Last year she received third place, but this year earned a blue ribbon for placing first.

She said the most pies she has ever made in one day was a 20-pie order that her grandmother helped her with when she was still saving money for her saddle.

These days Alison still accepts pie orders on her Facebook page, but usually only bakes for family and friends and holiday gatherings. She has baked strawberry and rhubarb pies before, but apple pie is her favorite. Later on, she said, she might like to bake Tiramisu soup, a dessert made with cream cheese, curd cheese, grated chocolate and sponge cake. She has even thought about possibly going to culinary school after she graduates and one day opening her own pastry shop.

But for now, Alison plans to continue improving her dessert baking skills and occasionally selling her pies to save money for another saddle. Both she and her father agree that she has come a long way since she first began cooking and that her endeavors have given her an even greater work ethic.

“Alison has always had a good work ethic. Even when she was a small child you didn’t have to ask her to do something. She just did it,” Aaron Sweetser said. “I think over time the more she baked the more confident she became. She has the recipe (for apple pie) in her head by now.”

“I don’t even know where I put the written recipe,” Alison replied, smiling. “People tend to say the pies are really good and they’ll give suggestions if they think some part of the recipe should be a little different. I think having to work for what you need or want has definitely taught me a lot.”

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