PHOENIX — Walking into Sugar and Lace Bakery in Phoenix, a sweet smell mixture of vanilla cake and rich buttercream fills your nose.
In the back of the shop, you’ll find Vanessa Steigmann with a couple of helpers, working away.
“Really, I’m just playing with icing,” Stiegmann said, piling buttercream (made with real butter) into an icing bag.
This week, it’s non-stop: filling tins of cupcake molds with batter, baking, icing and topping 109,000 cupcakes with sprinkles.
“As fast as you can make them,” Stiegmann said. “You think that you’re ahead for a second, and then you’re not.”
The bells on the door jingle as more people come in, ready to pick up their orders.
“How many?” Stiegmann asks.
This particular teacher is getting 10 dozen cupcakes for those at her school.
“I do what I do because I love teachers,” Stiegmann said.
The teachers who ordered for the other educators at their school don’t have to pay. Stiegmann is baking them for free.
“Your part is the hard part because they have to teach,” Stiegmann said.
Stiegmann started giving away cupcakes for Teacher Appreciation Week back in 2018 when the Red For Ed movement came to Arizona.
Each year, she bakes and gives away thousands, recognizing Arizona is consistently ranked among the last in the nation for teacher salaries.
“They’re worth so much more than cupcakes, but that is literally all that I can give them because it’s all I have,” Stiegmann said.
She gives what she has, because of what her teachers gave her.
“When I ran away from home, two teachers brought me in,” Stiegmann said. “They took me in off the streets.”
Melissa Sparrazza, picked up cupcakes to surprise the educators at her school.
“They pour so much into our kids, and she’s doing this out of the kindness of her heart,” Sparrazza said. “It’s awesome.”
While this is the busiest week, throughout the month, Stiegmann said she'll bake up a total of 160,000 free cupcakes for teachers. But, she’s not worried about the cost.
“It won’t matter tomorrow. It won’t. Financially, it won’t,” Stiegmann said. “But it’ll put an impact on those teachers.”
Up to Speed
Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12 News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.