TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — She’s known as The Cake Girl, the Tampa Bay baker who recently designed a very realistic-looking goat cake for the GOAT himself, Tom Brady, at the request of his teammate Leonard Fournette.

That cake went viral.

But before receiving requests from NFL players, Kristina Lavallee was a little girl in Puerto Rico who loved cakes and dreaming big. Lavallee never imagined she would become nationally recognized. She says she simply loves creating, baking and inspiring others to reach for sweet success.

Through her dedication and determination, Lavallee’s life is oh-so-sweet these days. Her creations have earned her awards – including the Best of the Bay 2022 for her cupcakes and 40 under 40 by Florida’s Business Observer – and a massive Instagram following of 103,000 followers — and growing. She also has the orders to match.

Her passion for sweet treats and their intricate designs began at a young age in Puerto Rico. Her mother was a chef and supported her young daughter’s love for cakes, often giving in to her frequent requests.

Lavallee’s passion for baking cakes began at a young age in Puerto Rico.

“Hey, let’s go to the bakery I want to see how they put a cake together and see how it’s decorated,” Lavallee remembered telling her mother before putting the skills she saw through bakery windows to the test at her family kitchen.

Lavallee went on to earn a degree in hospitality management at the University of Central Florida and launched her own career in baking.

But one day, something happened that changed her journey. A supervisor at a bakery where she worked after college told her she couldn’t speak Spanish.

“I like, ‘wait, I can’t speak Spanish?’ Spanish is my first language. And I was just trying to help a coworker and clients,” she said. “It had never been a problem before.”

Proud of her roots, Lavallee decided to bet on herself. She started selling cakes to friends out of her own home, then at festivals, and then opened a food truck.

“All of a sudden, it took off,” said Lavallee. “I say one person, their word of mouth — it just kind of exploded.”

That was her sign to bet on herself once again. Just three years ago, Lavallee opened her first store in Tampa. She recently relocated her shops to a new, bigger location at 14851 North Dale Mabry Highway, also in Tampa.

“A few years ago we weren’t in this position that we’re in right now. I’m even getting goosebumps,” she said. “To know how far we’ve come is an amazing accomplishment.”

Lavallee as a 2022 recipient of the Business Observer’s 40 under 40 awards.

Lavallee says she gets stopped in public frequently by people complimenting her and asking for her recipe for success — increasing her sense of pride in being a Latina entrepreneur.

“It’s definitely humbling,” said Lavallee. “A lot of people might think maybe because of where you come from they might judge you a little bit, like ‘oh you’re Spanish you may not make it.'”

Lavallee’s story is inspiring others and adds an extra layer of love to what she does, knowing her passion and boldness could help another Latina bet on herself, too.

“You know, you only live once. I know fear, obviously, is an obstacle that a lot of people face. They ask ‘should I do that? Should I take the leap of faith?’ You only live once. So I would say just do it, just do it.”

If there is someone in your life with an inspiring story who is paying forward to make a community a brighter place, send News Channel 8’s Jennifer Peñate an email with a brief description of that person’s contributions at jpenate@wfla.com.