While there aren’t official statistics to support this, cookies, cakes and brownies that are modeled after comic books, video games and pop culture automatically taste better. Don’t trust me? The GCE’s chat with 8 Bit Bakeshop proprietor Hannah Maldonado will convince you just otherwise. The Long Island City, New York bakery specializes in churning out delicious baked goods with some serious nerd cred.
Check out our interview with this amazing baker. Read more to find out how you can get your paws on the goods and how this amazing idea came to fruition.
Who do you work with?
At the moment, it’s just my fiancé (Matthew) and I. We started off with a small team of our friends who needed a way to pass the time as they began their own life journeys. Eventually, we watched our friends grow into their respective career fields and we are so happy for all of them. We’re currently looking for talented folks to join the team.
On the whole business association level, we work with The Entrepreneur Space and the QEDC to build ourselves into a self-reliant business. Without that help we wouldn’t have gotten this far.
How did you get into baking?
To be honest, it wasn’t my first choice for a career. I flirted between my lifelong dreams of being an archaeologist and a music producer. That or join the Marines. My mom, being overly protective, wouldn’t let me attend the schools that would have allowed me to become one or the other and she wouldn’t let me study abroad or enlist. I ended up at the high school down the street from our home because it was closest.
Baking was seriously just a hobby. I was the president of my high school’s Anime Club. I baked often for events and bake sales we’d host to raise funds. I kinda just fell into it as a career when I realized I had a talent for it. Given the life and love I have now, I’m pretty sure I’m happier as a baker than I would have been doing anything else. Haha!
How did you get into video games, comics and other pop culture/nerdy things? And what are your favorites?
It was always a treat watching my parents go head-to-head on old favorites like Klax, I.Q.:Intelligent Qube, Pac-Man, Tetris and more. They didn’t have the best marriage and through the daily hardships it was nice to see them smile once in awhile. That stuck with me. Games became a coping mechanism for my own problems as a kid, teen, and sometimes now as an adult. They are an outlet I use to forget my mortality for a while and enjoy an adventure I could never experience in real life.
Comics followed soon after. As a teen I was big on Japanese culture. By today’s standards I guess my teenage self would have been called a “weeaboo.” But I wanted to gain a respect for American artists and writing styles. So, I began to study American comic books and found myself swimming in this colorful world of Japan vs. America. I loved it!
Then, always being the black sheep of the family of course, I’ve always had a love for unusual styles, global cultures, and anything “weird”. These days it seems all the weird kids are the cool kids and it’s become this generation’s pop culture. I started cosplaying a few years back too. So, this black sheep seems to be fitting in perfectly!
My top five games in no particular order are Portal (1 & 2), Pitfall, Klax, Fallout (all of them), and a tie between Smash TV and Sinistar. I wish I could pick five comics. I seriously can’t!
When did you decide to combine the two?
When we met it was amazing how fast we clicked over our love of animated media. From games to comics and even obscure movies/shows, we found something in each other we had wanted in someone for such a long time.
And one day, a light bulb lit and 8 Bit Bakeshop was born!
How did that come to play?
I love telling this story!
Matt and I had been babysitting for the night but being broke 20-something year olds, we went for one of our wonderful long drives to nowhere. We chatted about so many things and eventually needed a snack. While looking for something fun to eat, Matt turned and asked me if I knew of any geeky bakeries in the area. After telling him they don’t exist out here and that most people just ask a regular bakery to make things like that for their kids, Matt asked me if I was capable of making nerdy and geeky things myself. Of course I am! And he thought about how cool it would be to run a bakery geared for people like us. We kinda just stared at each other for what felt like an eternity before we said “Screw it, let’s do this!!”
What is your favorite product to make?
Recently, I’ve really enjoyed making PETE’S BOX. We created this five-version box set of cookies for the show Pete’s Basement to help fund their costs. It’s been so much fun watching all the episodes for enough inspiration to make each box personal and unique to the shows flair.
Of all time, I have to say I thoroughly enjoy any and all the watercolor cookie orders we get. Something about painting is wonderfully soothing and doing it on a cookie is incredibly cool. I love seeing jaws drop when folks check out my artwork and cry because they feel bad for eating it. That’s the best compliment.
Tell us about your products, cookies, cakes and the Luna line:
When we started, our claim to fame was our sugar cookie recipe. We started off with small batch hand decorated cookies and slowly started moving towards more difficult to geek up things like brownies, mini cakes, and even ice cream in the summer. We carefully research the specs on all the geeky requests we get to make sure our colors, designs, and presentation match what a fellow fan would adore. People still referred to us as “the cookie people” for a long time despite our best efforts to showcase our expanding talents. That is until we landed a cake on Good Morning America. We worked closely with GMA and reps from Nintendo America to design, build, and create a gigantic Nintendo DS cake for a little boy named Colin who was given the biggest birthday party any kid could ever imagine.
That put us on the map! Using the newfound popularity to our advantage and working with KIVA ZIP, we pushed out two new product lines. Little Luna and The Bartender’s Oven. Bartender is a 21+ menu of boozy baked goods both geeky and not-so-geeky.
Little Luna is our pride and joy. My daughter, Luna, is a 5-year-old Type 1 diabetic who was diagnosed before her first birthday. I wanted to still be able to share my love of baking with her and create memories in our kitchen together. So, I sat and worked my food science magic to create three star shaped cookie flavors that were safe for her: Sweet Vanilla White Rice, Chocolate Coconut, and Cinnamon Apple Tea. When friends tasted the cookies they assured me there was a market for them. The treats are not just diabetic friendly; they’re also gluten and nut free too! Luna wanted the world to enjoy the special cookies mommy makes her. And that is what Little Luna is here for.
Little Luna inspired us to take a whole new direction with the bakery as a whole. We’ve begun the process of being an earth and small business friendly business. Many of our big brand name ingredients were switched over to those made by other small and local businesses. We research every ingredient we use and aim for healthier options. In the summer we plan on supporting our family’s favorite U-Pick farm by using their fruit and veggies in the summer menu options. We started the process of hiring local citizens in need and so much more.
Little Luna is more than a product line. It’s become a way of life!
Have you gotten any strange requests?
It’s not very strange for many but for us it was the order for a Goombah smash cake. That smash cake trend was on a rise and I had no idea what it was until about a month before the order. I never quite understood the idea of buying a cake for a baby to smash in a photo and no one eats.
As a baker, it’s like watching a baby smash one of my babies, haha! But as a mom hell-bent on snapping and recording every memory my family makes, I can totally see the appeal.
How long has 8 Bit Bakeshop been around?
Our 2-year anniversary is May 1st! We plan on doing something really big to celebrate!
How can someone purchase some 8 Bit Bakeshop goodies?
Shop.8bitbakeshop.com is where you can temporarily purchase many of our everyday geeky treats and have them shipped right to you. It’s full of cookies, bars, and more. We’re starting to move the webstore over to our main website 8bitbakeshop.com and you’ll then be able to get everything there.
If you need something custom made like a special cake or cookie set, we take all our custom orders via email. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your grand idea and we’ll work with you to design it into something incredibly tasty.
Have you thought about selling the products at conventions such as New York Comic Con?
We exhibited at NYCC for three years in a row plus many more conventions. As fun as it is to meet new people and make friends with the folks that come from all over the world to see us, we took a hiatus from being booth babes to focusing on opening our NYC Pop Up Shop.
The second we get it up and running I have every intention on skipping my way back into the dealers room of many conventions! For now, we attend as cosplayers and sometimes as special guests.
You do something special for cosplayers, how does that work?
Being a cosplay-friendly business, I created Cosplay Spotlights to give our cosplay fans of all talent ranges a chance to be seen and admired.
At first, we’d hunt down a cosplayer for the spotlight but it was hard to choose just one.
Now we have a monthly competition called Flavor of the Month. Cosplayers post cosplay photos that match the month’s theme and four winners are picked by however the challenge is set up. Sometimes you have to hunt for likes. Sometimes we pick based on how well you fit into a category. Other times we judge based on how well you crafted your cosplay with a budget you had. We try to make it as fair as possible without judging which cosplay looks best. Sometimes lower income cosplayers can’t compete with those with disposable incomes.
Winning the FOTM guarantees you a photoshoot and a gift certificate. First place always gets a swag bag too.
All contestants get their cosplays and pages seen by thousands when they enter. The winners get a special interview spotlight on our website and a special product created based on their cosplay that will be available all month in the store.
In short, we offer the Spotlights as an opportunity to network with other cosplayers around the country with geeky prizes as a bonus feature.
What do you have planned in the future?
The NYC Pop Up Shop is in the works right now. We’re launching our Kickstarter for the 3-6 month pop up as we speak. The goal is to have a game and comic themed family, geeky, nerdy, and cosplayer friendly establishment that folks can go to and enjoy the animated life anytime they want.
We also plan on adding more products to the Little Luna line then creating a proposal to get these treats into local markets. The top priority is to get Little Luna into NYC public schools as a safe dessert alternative for kids with diabetes and food sensitivities.