Katahdin athlete bakes some out-of-the-park cheesecakes

10 months ago

PATTEN, Maine — Not only can Jayden Stevens hold her own on the basketball court or the softball field, but she can also bake a mean cheesecake.

And this summer, in addition to working in her parents’ Patten restaurant North Gate Grill, the 16-year-old started her own business,  Specialty Sweets by Jayden, after discovering how much she loves baking just about anything. 

“She is a natural in the kitchen. She cooks for me,” said Jessica Stevens, her mother. “I buy her cheesecakes and resell them here.”

Stevens, who will be a junior at Katahdin High School in Stacyville this fall, is part of a growing trend of teen entrepreneurs. 

Sixty percent of high school students say they have started their own business,  according to a Junior Achievement survey. Inspired by social media influencers, about two out of three teens surveyed are more interested in starting their own business rather than working in more traditional roles. Stevens said she has seen so many young people starting their own businesses online and it’s exciting. 

“It’s really hard for high school students to get out and find a job that they really enjoy doing because you have to have certain qualifications,” Stevens said. “I think students starting their own little businesses don’t have to have those qualifications and it’s something they love doing and they make money.”

Just recently she sold a raspberry pie for a 70th birthday surprise. Another customer who ordered 24 Oreo cheesecake bites said she loved them and wished she had ordered more.. 

This Aroostook Softball All-Star said she bakes cheesecakes, pies, any flavor whoopie pies, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, coffee bars, no-bake cakes, bars, lemon squares and so much more for customers. But cheesecakes are really her specialty despite the five-hour baking time.

As Stevens explains, after making her own graham cracker crust, she mixes the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, eggs and the long baking process begins. 

She can bake two at a time using the commercial ovens at her parents’ restaurant. The cheesecake takes 30 minutes on one temperature, 45 on another and 45 on a lower temperature. Then the cake sits in the oven with the door open for 40 minutes and another two hours cooling on the counter.

Katahdin’s Jayden Stevens (right) is guarded closely by Southern Aroostook’s Cami Shields during a Dec. 21, 2022, game. Southern Aroostook won 77-25.  (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Half of what the Katahdin High School junior earns from her business goes back to ingredients and the rest for personal expenses for school, she said.

Stevens, who lives in Sherman, cooks four days a week at the North Gate Grill. She’s had years of cooking and restaurant experience, she said. She started helping her grandmother who owns Brenda’s Restaurant in Sherman when she was 10.

In addition to her business and working at the North Gate Grill, Stevens will play fall softball with a new traveling team out of Brewer. Last fall a basketball injury led to knee surgery and she had to sit out most of the spring softball season. 

Katahdin’s Jayden Stevens fires a pitch to the plate during a recent game against Southern Aroostook. (Photo courtesy of Jan Vose)

She’s still undecided if she will play basketball this upcoming season or just rest her knee for spring softball. She hopes to go on to play college softball, she said.

But no matter what, she said she will continue growing her business.

“It’s really cool to have my own business and I’d love to do more,” Stevens said.