Legalized Home Baking in Texas {Texas Bakers Bill for Dummies}

*All photos in this post are my own work, or from talented Texas home bakers.  If you are from Texas and would like to submit a photo of your own, email the image and a link to your website, Flickr, or Facebook page to [email protected]

I wanted to talk about this important event before the actual date slipped too far away. As of September 1st, it is now legal in the state of Texas to bake from home. If you live in a state where there is no such law, I eventually plan on talking about what it takes to get such a law passed, but for now, I just wanted to take a moment to summarize the law.

For the record, I’m not an expert, I’m just reading the sections of the bill that pertain to us and re-writing it in English {or at least in words that make sense to me}

Holly Notgrass, HeffyCakes

The actual bill that makes this all legal is called SB 81 {Senate Bill 81} and was written by Senator Jane Nelson and sponsored by Representative Lois Kolkhorst. Sections 5 and 6 are the parts that actually pertain to you, as home bakers. So, here are the rules outlined in the bill…

1. You have to sell the food at your house. That’s it. No fairs, trade days, grocery stores, wholesale type arrangements, arts and crafts shows, lemonade stands…it kind of sucks, yes, but it beats the alternative of none at all.  Customer/client must come to your door, walk in the house, and walk out with the goods.

Erin, Whip it Good Cookies

2. There is a very specific list of things that can be sold that fall under what is called the NON-POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS BAKED GOODS categoryThey are: cookies, cakes, bread, donuts, pastries {like Danish}, pies, and other items prepared by baking them in the oven, canned jams, jellies, and dry mixes such as dips and seasonings.  I really could think of 101 ways to complicate this, but use your best judgement when deciding whether your particular product is within the guidelines.

Brandi Gomez, Joyful Cookies

3. You cannot make more than $50,000 a year.  The End.  PS, if you are making that much, feel free to email me and tell me what the heck I was doing wrong. Oh yes, and word to the wise.  Pay your taxes.  If you thought that health inspector guy was scary…well, from what I hear, you’re better off running into the Terminator than one of those IRS guys.  They HAVE THE POWER!

Hayley, of HayleyCakes and Cookies

4.  Speaking of the Health Department, they cannot tell you what to do.  Their only responsibility is to keep a record of any complaints made against you.  This is done to protect consumers more than anything.  So, coming from the other end, if you are planning on BUYING from a home baker and you’d like to do a little “background check”  give the HD a call.  That’s what they are there for.

Kristen, Babcakes Bakery

5. The food you sell must have a label that gives your NAME AND ADDRESS and clearly lets the purchaser know that it was not inspected by the health department.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sticker…it can be a card, note, or whatever.  Also, it does not have to be attached.  It just has to be given to the customer upon receipt.  For the time being, don’t get really crazy and buy 10,000 new labels.  The Department of State Health Services is still working on the specific rules for labeling.  I will let you know what they come up with as soon as I hear myself.

Katy, Kookies and Kupcakes

6.You cannot sell via internet.  DON’T FREAK OUT.  Yes, the bad news is, this means ETSY.  No ETSY.  Sorry, it sucks, but hey, you win some and you lose some, and in this case, I think more was won than lost.  But, before you run away crying, I wand to clarify, this does not mean that you cannot have  fun things like a website to show off your work, or a Facebook page.  You just cannot have a way to complete transactions online.  You have to do the selling at your house.

Nicole, The Cupcakery

7.  As of September 1, 2011, this IS LAW.  That was yesterday, so bake away my friends!

Wedding Cookies by Ali-Bee’s Bake Shop {A Texan until about two weeks ago}

Now, before I go, here are a few frequently asked questions and other things I would like to mention…

  • You DO NOT have to take a food handlers or food safety course before you begin selling your goods.  However, coming from experience, I think it would be a good idea.  First of all, I don’t think anything from which you learn something is a bad investment or idea, also, I feel like it would really increase consumer confidence if you were able to tell them that you were certified in food handling.  Once again, you don’t have to, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt anything.
  • Insurance…yes, that ugly I word.  Under the law, you are not required to carry it, BUT, that is another thing I would recommend.  The ins and outs of it can get a little complicated but it NEVER hurts to have a little backup, just in case things go wrong.
  • Pets are fine…but for the love of cake, keep them out of the food prep area.  Just imagine the embarrassment of a customer finding a dog hair in their cake.  That ought to be enough to illustrate exactly why you should keep them away.
  • You don’t need a license, you do not have to register with anyone, and you won’t be inspected.  As a matter of fact, if you are ever called upon by the health department, remember they do not have the authority to regulate you under this law.  So, unless they bring the police and a warrant {which I cannot imagine happening} they cannot come in.
  • There are some things that are specifically excluded from home sales.  These are candy {so sorry}, and baked goods that require a refrigerator not to spoil, like cheesecake, for example.
  • Delivery is a vague subject, especially for those of you selling things like wedding cakes.  The best I can say is this.  Make sure that the cake is actually purchased AT YOUR HOME.  As in payment from customer to you happens in your living room {or wherever you like to do that stuff}. UPDATED: Delivery is okay per Kelley Masters the driving force behind the passage of this bill…Delivery isn’t really a gray area; it’s the same as if you buy a refrigerator at Home Depot. It’s for sale at Home Depot; you pay for it at Home Depot; then you make arrangements to have them bring it to you. For documentation, click HERE and HERE.

For now, that is all I can think of.  I am sure there is much much more.  If you have questions, you can ask me, although I cannot promise that I will know.  I will however, do my best to help you.  I’m not really as smart as all this made me sound, the info was made available to me on the Texas Cottage Food Law page, and from a handout I received from Earlene Moore, one of the coolest cake decorating ladies I have ever met.

In closing, let me say this.  I know this law isn’t perfect, but it is a blessing and the beginning of a bright future for all home bakers in Texas.  Although I will not be returning to the retail end of cookie decorating, it makes my heart happy to know that no one else will have to go through what I did last November.  This is a victory for us all, now COME AND BAKE IT!!!

photo via Robb Walsh, Texas Eats