Tigard Entrepreneur Pitches Mess-Free Gingerbread House on ‘Shark Tank’

Miranda Vaughn pitches her Tomte cake on ABC's "Shark Tank"

Miranda Vaughn’s Tomte Cake kit is on track to sell 20K  units, and says her pitch on Shark Tank left her ‘feeling confident.’

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On Christmas day 2020, stay-at-home mom Miranda Vaughn’s gingerbread house building session with her children ended in disaster. After tears, frustration, and the use of a glue gun to keep the house from collapsing, Vaughn decided there had to be a better way.

One year later, she designed the Tomte (Tome-tuh) cake, a mess-free soft-cake gingerbread house with a Gnome figurine (named Tomte) baked inside. “Tomte” is a Swedish word for gnomes in Scandinavian folklore who protect farmstead families and their animals. They are often depicted as small men with beards and tall red hats, and are associated with the solstice and Christmas seasons.

Vaughn’s $60 kits, which include the baking pan, Tomte figure, and a recipe card, also come with a children’s storybook explaining how Tomte got baked into a gingerbread cake in the first place. Vaughn sold 5,000 units in 2022 and says she is on track to 15,000 units this year.

Miranda Vaughn appears on episode 1510 of “Shark Tank,” premiering this Friday. Credit: ABC.

In September, she flew to Los Angeles to pitch her product line on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a reality show that shows entrepreneurs making pitches to a panel of five venture capitalists, who then decide whether to invest in contestants’ companies.  Vaughn’s episode airs Friday on KATU. 

While Vaughn’ could not disclose the outcome of her pitch, days after her appearance on the show, she opened a warehouse space 15 minutes from her home to fulfill orders.

This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

What is your background? Are you a baker by profession?

No, not at all. I love baking with my kids. But I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost nine years. I homeschooled, and after maternity leave with my daughter almost eight years ago, I started staying home. My background really is just making everything fun for my kids and making things magical for them. I had the idea on how to improve this tradition and just kind of ran with it.

The Tomte Cake, with the figurine on the outside. Credit: The Tomte Cake

You’ve sold 5,000 last year and 15,000 this year. What was the process of getting the word out and increasing your own capacity to fulfill orders?

Everything fell into place really, really wonderfully. I was not sure how was going to get the word out. I just figured friends and family would buy them, but now I still have 4,900 units left. Actually, the president of the die-cast manufacturer where I have these pans made for me, had a connection to someone who could run some Facebook ads beginning the day after Thanksgiving, last year.

We sold out 5,000 units in a 45-day period. The Facebook ad just got a really, really incredible response from consumers.

The Tomte cake pans next to a conventional gingerbread house on the set of“Shark Tank.” Credit: ABC.

How did you end up getting the product on “Shark Tank?”

Back in January, I believe, I heard about it their first open casting call, it was the first post-COVID casting call in person. So I ended up doing that in California back in March. A couple of weeks later I got the call that I had made it to the next round of the audition process in March. I got to work with them every single week on my pitch.

I know you can’t disclose how your pitch went, but what has your world been like since your “Shark Tank” pitch?

I came back with a lot of confidence. When I came back, I was able to get myself out of the house, I was actually working out of a shipping container for the last couple of years. Knowing that it would air, and knowing my situation gave me confidence to come back and say, “I’m going to invest in myself and get myself a warehouse and get a team together this year.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said Tomte Cakes had already sold 15,000 units this year. Tomte cakes expects to reach this number but has not sold all 15,000 units yet. Oregon Business regrets this error.