Nostalgia and a nurtured love of the arts helped honeysuckle teatime Founder Sara Hinojosa create one of the most memorable dessert pop-ups in Austin.
Who or what has inspired your art?
“I obviously love Frida Kahlo, definitely one of my favorites. We actually have done a Frida pop-up before, which was really fun, like milkshakes with unibrows and marigold flowers. It was so fun. Also nostalgia is such a big part of my life—things that I watched when I was growing up like The Little Princess. I was an avid reader when I was young too. So I love Anne of Green Gables. I read the entire series plus all of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s extra stuff like The Story Girl and Emily of New Moon.
Any ideas for future cakes or milkshakes?
“I don’t know how I would do it, but I love Bridgerton. That would be like something really gorgeous. Even doing a pop-up event space based on that would be really pretty interesting. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch came out, so that could be really fun.”
By Cy White, Photos by Sarah E. Cooper
Layers of ice shaped in dips and swirls atop mountains of milk and sugar. Pinks, purples and light blues dancing in swoops and swirls on the slopes of an ice cream mountain. Dragons dueling in the sky, protecting their earthbound mistress. The canvas: cakes, cookies and milkshakes. honeysuckle teatime Founder Sara Hinojosa resides at the intersection of fine dining and fine art. It’s in her blood, the desire to create beauty in the least expected places.
Growing up in San Antonio, her father’s multifaceted adoration of the arts propelled her passions and gave her direction. “My dad’s a creative person, but he ultimately got into nonprofits and teaching,” she says. “He was a chef for a little while; he’s a multimedia artist too. Then he’s like, ‘I really want to do good. I want to work with children.’ My family is always in art,” she recalls. “My dad actually runs a nonprofit that is geared toward having young people have their own gallery show, which is super amazing.”
It’s no wonder her cakes and milkshakes have been described as almost baroque. Indeed, there’s an understated yet very notable elegance to her work. “In my family, my mom is very religious,” she says. “But me and my dad and my sisters…museums are like our way of meditation and connecting with something greater. I guess from a young age I’ve seen all of that.”
Fine Dining to Fine Art
Her adoration of the arts drew her innately to anything having to do with creativity. After attending Sarah Lawrence College for nonfiction writing and film, she cut her teeth in the competitive and oftentimes tumultuous world of fine dining. Fine dining led to fine art, a world not too unlike the food industry in terms of always striving to be and have the best. The two industries also share a lack of representation for women, a fact highlighted when considering who Hinojosa worked for.
“It was a little bit short-lived,” she says with a chuckle. “When I was in New York City, I worked at the Mary Boone Gallery. It so happened that I curated an event for her and she loved me. She was like, ’Who are you? I need to hire you.’ I was sort of her right hand. She wanted me to learn everything about the gallery scene. I was pretty young, I think I was 23, 24.
“I was literally living in The Devil Wears Prada,” she continues with a bright laugh. “It was an amazing experience, but it was hard work. I worked from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, on call. It’s truly shaped me for sure, and taught me so much about so many things. That was my first experience with female entrepreneurship, a woman running a business.”
The environment might have forced her to mature quickly, but Hinojosa has retained her almost childlike fascination with the fantastic. When she returned to Texas from New York, she reconnected with her childhood to decide her next journey. “I thought back about when my dad would throw these birthday parties,” she reflects. “He was the chef and would do these tea parties for us and all these amazing things. I remember sitting at a big table with all of my little friends, having these amazing moments that you don’t even realize as a child are truly developmental and creative.”
The Hinojosa Honeysuckle
She reaches back to a cherished family memory. “When we were young, we had a big honeysuckle vine growing on our back porch, and our parents taught us how to pick the petals and suck the honey out.” The memory brings a broad smile to her face, eyes wide with wonder like a child learning the taste of nectar on her lips the first time. “That became honeysuckle teatime, tea party catering.”
To go from mind to magic isn’t something everyone is born with. Her innate ability to weave remarkable works of art out of something as malleable as cake, as temperamental as sugar, has earned her the love of every client who’s ever been blessed with one of her fantastical desserts. It’s not a fluke. It’s the mark of a true artist. “I’m a self-taught pastry artist and had never done it before,” she admits. “But all these things are ingrained in me. I’m not a custom cake artist. I work on my own terms. The way I’m feeling that day really could influence how a cake turns out.”
Lemi & The Art of Helping Others
One of the many blessings she inherited from her parents was the desire to help others through education and generosity with resources, and her time at the Mary Boone Gallery gave her imperative insight into the business side of art. As such, Hinojosa splits her time between honeysuckle and e-commerce app Lemi. As the company’s director of business development, Hinojosa has helped other small businesses get much-needed support. “It’s about two things, really,” she says. “Giving people the opportunity to make a living doing what they love, and getting them in front of the people and the resources to actually compete. In a world filled with corporatization, globalization, big companies that are taking over the world, we want the little people to have a way in. It’s a story of entrepreneurship.”
Sara Hinojosa is an artist’s artist, someone who pushes the boundaries of what her medium can do and still works to ensure others have what they need to find their own success. This is her form of self-love. “I’m not going to create something that is not going to give me joy. Which is a selfish thing to say, and it’s probably a pretty poor business decision. I have turned away clients before who want something really specific. But everything I do has to have a purpose for myself and my own personal growth.”