When Maria Rotella feels upset or anxious, she turns to baking.

As news of the coronavirus has dominated the daily headlines in recent weeks, Rotella decided to start teaching people simple recipes to make on Facebook Live. It was a spontaneous decision that has drawn up to 200 views per video.

Rotella started the videos because she knew that some people were feeling overwhelmed with the evolving situation and wanted to try to do something that could help.

“I figured I would try to spread a little bit of positivity,” said Rotella.

Rotella has been creating custom cakes and desserts for more than a decade. Her own storefront — Exhale Café and Bake Shop — was originally scheduled to open in Camillus’ Township 5 in October but was delayed when Rotella got sick and had to have surgery. Now, construction on the cafe is at standstill due to the coronavirus.

In the meantime, Rotella has been doing the occasional pop-up of cupcake orders and will continue to teach over Facebook Live.

The recipes she’s teaching are simple baking recipes she uses for her bakery and in everyday life. The first class was for homemade pancakes and since then she’s made muffins, vanilla and chocolate cake, chocolate chip and sugar cookies. Before each class Rotella posts a list of ingredients on her Facebook page so that people can follow along with the video.

One of Rotella’s goals with the videos is to help out people who feel like they’ve been cooking more than normal or are adjusting to kids being home and needing something to do.

“There’s so many people that are like, ‘Oh my god, I feel like I’ve cooked 200 meals this week’ and it’s only been four days,” she said. “I just want to give people different ideas.”

On top of the Facebook Live classes, Rotella has started to do some private classes over Zoom for people who want to learn more in-depth recipes.

Participants get a PDF file with the recipe that they’ll be doing, and the class is about an hour to two hours depending on what is being made.

“I want people to you know, experience my baking even if you know in the future, they don’t come to the bakery,” Rotella said.

But many followers are already planning to frequent the bakery once it opens. After following along with her cake frosting video, one follower sent a message saying hers hadn’t come out that great. Rotella encouraged her to keep in mind that it was one of the first times she had ever tried it and that she was getting along great with the tools that she had.

“She was like ‘No, I’m gonna leave the baking up to you, I’ll order a cake next time I need one for a special event,” Rotella said.

By Hannah Lees