By CARL MARIO NUDI
When Biron Bennett was 12 years old he wanted to be an attorney.
“I wanted to help people who needed a lift,” said Bennett, 23. “I was going to start a non profit.”
But the Parrish resident said he remembers as a child his grandmother and mother would prepare huge meals at their home for large crowds every Sunday, and those Sunday dinners were influential in his decision to change his career choice and open a business, Simply Divine Catering and Bakery.
“I saw how hard they worked and said to them ‘let’s start a business,’” he said. “And they told me ‘whatever you want to do we will support you.’”
Jan. 18 was the seventh anniversary of his business, and Bennett said it has been very rewarding.
“When I started putting my efforts into baking and cooking I realized this was my calling,” Bennett said.
His mother, Chiffon Bennett, grandmother, Velma Stokes, and cousin, Kyan Wilson, all help Bennett with his baking and catering jobs.
But when there is a need, other family members pitch in to help out, he said.
At first Bennett said he made traditional-looking cakes.
After mastering the simple icing and bordering techniques, Bennett said he started expanding to more extravagant designs.
He took a cake design course at Michaels, but he said he is mostly self-taught.
Bennett also said he enjoys watching food television cooking and baking shows where he gets some new ideas.
His favorite baking personality is Buddy Valastro from the TLC reality show, “Cake Boss.”
“He’s my idol,” Bennett said.
And as Valastro does in his bakeshop, Bennett meets with clients to discuss their ideas.
“I’ll ask them if I can change it some and still give them what they want,” he said. “They agree and we make it happen.
“Then I pray that God gives me a clear vision for something new and different,” he said.
Bennett has become known around the Tampa Bay area for his elaborately designed, multi-tiered cakes.
Much of the success Simply Divine has experienced can be credited to social media, he said.
“My first cake was a wedding cake for a friend,” Bennett said, “and when I posted it on Facebook it flew from there.”
His Facebook fan base is more than 5,000, and a photo of one of his recent creations had more than 21,000 hits.
Bennett has been using the title Cake King to help market his business.
“A good friend gave me the name Cake King, saying I needed something for marketing purposes,” he said. “I’m not one to promote myself and using ‘king’ sounded like I was narcissistic.
“But everyone on social media loved it, so I use it,” Bennett said. “Now I have to live up to the title, and it pushes me harder to do my best.”
His reputation has grown nationally in seven years, and Bennett has even traveled around the country to bake cakes.
He has been to New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, and even California to bake cakes and cater events.
The Palmetto High School graduate has made cakes and candy apples — one of his specialties — for former Southeast High School football notables and now NFL players, Jonathan Dowling and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
“I’m loving the notoriety,” Bennett said, “but at the same time I’m trying to remain humble.
“I’m enjoying where this may be going in the future,” he said.
But Bennett said he was not letting this fame go to his head.
He has continued to make his faith in God a big influence in his life.
Bennett has been a life-long member of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, just down the street from his home.
“Building on what I learned there as a child is what I am now,” he said. “I learned about the importance of giving back to the community.”
And Bennett has been giving back.
On Nov. 5, 2016, he fed more than 590 people at an event he organized at Bradenton Village housing complex near downtown Bradenton.
“It was a powerful experience seeing everyone interacting,” he said.
Other community leaders have recognized Bennett’s community giving.
“Biron is an exceptional leader when it comes to engaging the community,” said Eleuterio “Junior” Salazar, community relations coordinator with OneBlood in an interview conducted via e-mail.
“Although his business keeps him quite busy, he always manages to find time to give to others,” said Salazar, who also serves as president and chairman of the Latin Chamber of Commerce and as the vice chair of the Manatee County Democratic Party.
He said Bennett brought communities of all colors and all walks of life out to simply enjoy some food and fun, all while building meaningful relationships.
Bennett said he was planning to hold the next Spreading Love and Hope event on Nov. 4 at the Bradenton Village complex.
To help raise money for his community food event, Bennett said he has been holding Wing Attack Thursday every week at the Bradenton Village clubhouse.
“I’d be willing to set up a Wing Attack event at any other apartment complex,” he said.
Salazar said he has ordered some of Bennett’s baked goods and highly recommended them.
“The cupcakes were to die for,” he said. “Everyone licked their fingers clean with none left over.”
Over the past seven years, Bennett said he has made more than 1,000 wedding cakes and more than 30,000 cupcakes.
“Way more,” he said. “And last year we did more than 2,500 candy apples.”
The cost of a wedding cake starts with a $500 deposit, and then it can vary depending on size and design, Bennett said.
“We’re reasonable, but the work speaks for itself,” he said. “I can spend three 24-hour days making a cake.”
Bennett also does food catering, and he said the largest event he ever catered was for a family reunion with 900 people.
“But if they come bigger than that, we’re ready,” he said.
Bennett said he owed all his success to his family and friends.
“I’m very grateful for all the individuals who supported me through the years,” he said. “All I want to do is continue to be a role model.”