We had the good fortune of connecting with Sierra Horsey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sierra, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
It’s becoming more apparent now as social justice issues appear more frequently in headlines, but people both inside and outside the baking industry are pretty unaware of the lack of dignity and basic human rights many farmers have. Globally, the average farmer is asked to live on less than $2 a day, with some industries still relying on forced (slave) labor. Women are responsible for producing 60-80% of the global crop but have less access to land, credit, training, and equipment due to social inequality. Lastly, of the 168 million children working, it is estimated that about 85 million of them work in hazardous conditions. Agriculture remains one of the largest users of child labor, of which many children are trapped into slavery while trying to bring money home to their family.
That being said, I strive to use ingredients that are produced through ethical companies taking a stand against exploitation. These companies create ethical contracts so farmers receive a fair wage for their crop, provide workers with equitble contracts to eliminate forced labor, increase access to training, credit, and equipment, and protect children from exploitation. Subsequently, when we take care of agricultural workers, they are able to use sustainable practices to grow their crops, producing higher quality ingredinets that do not harm the land or the willdife around them.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I like to say I create edible art. People eat with their eyes first, so I have the challenge of creating baked goods that don’t just taste fantastic but have the appearance to match.
I’ve always enjoyed baking. I used to create my own birthday cakes in high school and found myself baking to help me relieve stress or show gratitude. So when I moved to Tucson and had my own space, it allowed me to dive even deeper into the baking world. I started by watching the Great British Baking Show and trying out the recipes featured. This helped me expand my knowledge of baked goods as well as baking techniques. I always love a challenge and found myself saying “how hard can that be” before diving head first into a recipe. In fact, two of the earliest bakes I made when first arriving in Tucson were French macarons and croissants, two of the most technically challenging items to make. Looking back, they weren’t great, but in that moment I was so proud of what I had created. From 2018 to mid 2020, I focused on making different types of desserts. Tarts, pies, cakes, cookies, meringues, breads, cupcakes, you name it I was making it. I wanted to make something from every bakery category to see what I loved and what I needed more practice with. But starting in mid 2020, I really began focus on layer cakes. I became a student of “YouTube university” and spent hours watching technique videos on properly creating, building and decorating cakes. My coworkers and friends reaped the benefits of my practice cakes until I finally started my business in 2021.
One challenge I face with baking is that I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be done properly and to the best of my ability at all times, which sometimes manifests with me putting off projects until the last moment due to the anxiety of possibly not producing the perfect piece. In very beginning, baking helped me overcome this because it was just for fun, and even though I judged my creations harshly, my friends were there with unwavering support. I was able to focus on the journey and not just the end product. Now as I am selling my goods, I find myself falling back into the perfectionist tendencies. I worry so much about producing the perfect cake that I forget to enjoy the process. I’m still learning to overcome this but mostly use music to help — hence the name Song & Sugar Sweets. Music (specifically musical theater) has brought so much joy to my life that combining it with baking reminds me to have fun and enjoy the process.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This question I find so ironic because whenever I move to a new place, I tell myself that I’m going to go out and explore the city, yet here I am 4 years later and still have barely explored Tucson. Though there are a few staples that I show to my family when they visit. First stop is always the Reid Park Zoo. I have my Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and Wildlife and fell in love with zoos in 2016. Now every city I visit I seek out an accredited zoo for a visit. My family isn’t really the outdoors type but I would also bring them for a short visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
For food, I am a creature of habit. I mostly stick with restaurants that I ate when I first arrived to Tucson, and hardly deviate. This includes restaurants like Seis and Guadalajara grill. El Toro Loco was a more recent restaurant I was introduced to and I would live off their burritos if it were possible. I do have restaurants on my list that I want to visit like Prep & Pastry and Oink café, so I’d probably bring someone there.
When it comes to hang out places, I enjoy going to trivia nights and Tipsy Picassos classes. I’ve yet to take a trip to Mount Lemon so I’d have to add that to the itinerary, as well as 4th ave and downtown.
Honestly, when people come to town, I rely on them telling me what they want to do because I am perfectly happy remaining home in my pajamas with lots of snacks and a movie or two.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Questions like these are always hard for me, because I recognize that most of what I have achieved is through the support of others. However, if I had to choose, I will choose the most recent supporter — the Community Investment Corp and their partners. After recognizing the need to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Tucson, CIC Tucson created the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund, helping entrepreneurs of colors invest in their business. I was fortunate enough to be chosen in this first cohort of business owners, which will allow me to expand my reach and invest in additional sustainable ingredients.
Dessert Table – Daniel Araiza Christmas bakes and headshot – Holly Harris