Cake shop owner’s scholarship aims to make life sweeter for some

Special Reports

If it wasn't for a scholarship, the owner of Dream Cakes says she doesn't know if she ever would have made it to Portland.

Dream Cakes cake – photo by Casi Yost

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Awards and wedding magazine features decorate the walls inside Dream Cakes, a Portland cake shop. The owner, Johannah Zuniga, is known as one of the best in the business, but her life wasn’t always frosting and sprinkles. 

“I am originally from Reno, Nevada, a trailer park on the other side of Reno, Nevada, and I grew up very poor,” she said. 

Zuniga said the trailer park she grew up in is the largest in the country. If it wasn’t for a scholarship she received when she graduated from high school, she might still be in Reno. 

“I don’t know if you can say this on the news, but I probably would have been a stripper if I had stayed, you know, that’s just the reality of it,” Zuniga told KOIN 6 News. 

The scholarship brought her to Pacific University in Forest Grove where she studied for a year before she quit and went to culinary school. 

In 2014, Zuniga took over Dream Cakes after the previous owner retired. For years she’s been wanting to find a way to give back to kids like herself who are growing up in low-income homes. Her original plan was to donate a percentage of every wedding cake sold in 2020 to the scholarship fund, but when the pandemic forced so many weddings to cancel, Zuniga had to rethink her strategy. 

Now, Dream Cakes is planning to match every $5 donated to its scholarship fund and 100% of the money raised will go to help a local student attend culinary or trade school. 

Zuniga is currently working with Portland-area high schools to determine how the scholarship will be awarded. 

For Zuniga, her dream is to make beautiful cakes. She hopes this scholarship will help many more dreams come true. 

Dream Cakes is accepting donations to its scholarship fund on its website. 

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