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Andrea Studenc measured the baking power. A dozen little girls craned their necks to see.
"How much baking power?" she asked.
The girls checked their cards.
"Two tables," one quickly shouted
"Close," Studenc gently corrected. "Two tablespoons."
The girls gathered at the Little Student's Cooking Cafe and Sweet Treats in Pineland Station to celebrate the birthday party for soon-to-be 7-year-old Aleigha Costanzo-Miller.
The birthday party has a similar spread to most other parties. But here, everything is started from scratch. The girls decorated their own cookies, whipped up muffin batter then spooned it into cups and helped make their own fondue.
At the cooking cafe, kids learn the ways of the kitchen -- the proper technique for breaking an egg and not getting the shell in; the flip of a wrist needed to stir blueberry muffin batter with a rubber spatula.
They also retain more practical knowledge:
"It's an educational activity," Studenc said. "They leave with gift bags and maybe a slice of cake or a cookie, but they're also leaving having learned something."
Studenc has been a cook all her life, ever since she churned out cakes in her Easy Bake oven. After moving to Hilton Head Island 26 years ago, she worked in restaurants, where she met her husband, Scott, and ran a catering business on the island. They started a shaved ice concession business and have two children, Brennen and Anzlee (now 8- and 5-years-old, respectively).
All the while, Studenc kept baking and cooking as a hobby. She won first place four times at the now defunct SpringFest chocolate contest at Coligny Plaza. She'd create extravagant birthday cakes for kids -- layered affairs with fondant ribbons and the like. As the shaved ice business came to an end after more than a decade, her husband encouraged her to get back into her lifelong talent.
Studenc works as a teaching aide at St. Francis Catholic School, so she combined two of her passions -- working with children and cooking.
The business got rolling in January and has hosted several similar birthday parties to the one Aleigha had Saturday, in addition to similarly themed events. Studenc recently helped about a half-dozen high school-age girls make their own pasta dinner. The cooking cafe also offers classes for adults and personalized baked-good orders.
Aleigha knows Studenc and her daughter, Anzlee, through school, and her mother thought her sous chef in their kitchen at home would love a birthday baking lesson.
At the cafe, the girls learned a new treat -- chocolate fondue.
Bananas, marshmallows and strawberries are skewered and dipped into the freshly made chocolate. Soon the birthday girl would have on her plate a delicious mess of chocolate and whipped cream she'd swirl with banana chunks.
The scene resulted in chocolatey fingers and chocolatey faces -- a sign they'd taken to their lessons well at the cooking cafe.