Many culinary careers get their start in a grandmother's kitchen, and so it was for Hali Foreman, a professional baker who isn't even out of high school.

Her love for creating confections was evident from an early age.

"This kid never watched cartoons. She watched cooking shows," said Wende Foreman, Hali's mother.

Hali, a 15-year-old Fairfield Warde sophomore, said the cooking shows augmented what she learned by observing and helping her maternal and paternal grandmothers. She would watch them bake "and then I would go home and try to replicate it," Hali said.

She is known for her elaborately decorated cakes. Hali has filled all kinds of orders. One person had Hali make a cake that resembled an apple pie, complete with the intricate lattice work on top. She has made a boxing ring cake, a cake shaped and decorated like a Tiffany bag, SpongeBob SquarePants, a guitar, and a giant tooth cake for a dentist. "It fed about 50 people," she said.

Hali said the first thing she tried to make on her own was not cake. "It was probably chocolate chip cookies, and I don't think they came out very well," she said.

Today, her finished products turn out very well. Without any formal training, Hali has cooked up for herself a thriving business. Two, actually. At age 13, she started Hali's Cakes, and she recently launched Cupcakes by Design, in which she bakes several different flavors of cupcakes -- like red velvet, carrot and chocolate -- and makes several different flavors of frostings, allowing her customers to mix and match.

"You walk into a traditional bakery and you can only eat what's there. It's already put together for you (but) I might want one top with another bottom," Wende Foreman said.

Hali takes her business seriously. She has as a mentor Deborah Caviness, senior administrator of the Bridgeport Small and Minority Business Resource Office.

Hali comes up with her own recipes for cake batters and frostings. "My favorite frosting is caramel cinnamon. My favorite flavored cake is carrot," Hali said. She also makes her "nana's sweet potato pie."

Ken DelVecchio, the Fairfield regional manager of Prudential Connecticut Realty, is a recent customer who is impressed by Hali's talent. He purchased one of her cakes for a party three weeks ago.

"It was a fabulous cake, which was exactly what we were hoping for. The people at this party wanted Hali's name and number to order from Hali's Cakes. I know she's always had a love for cooking. The fact that she has Hali's Cakes and it's a success is not surprising. If I could buy shares in Hali's Cakes, I would because I think she is going to be very successful," DelVecchio said.

"She's got so many orders now that she's recruited me," Wende Foreman said.

"It's definitely difficult. I have to put school before work. I do my homework before baking," Hali said.

Hali does aspire to bigger and better things. After high school graduation, she plans to go to a top-notch culinary school and wants to open her own bakery. She would also love to get the attention of the Food Network executives. Hali thinks they should have a teenage TV host to show their peers around a kitchen. Hali can do that with ease. Not only does she bake, she also cooks.

"I've gotten spoiled. I come home from the office and she's got dinner ready," said Wende Foreman.

Hali said she often cooks with her dad in a style that would serve her well on the TV cooking competition Chopped. "We just go in the frig. We don't know what we're making yet. We see what's in there, grab it and throw it in the pot," she said.

But, obviously, her expertise is dessert. "Everybody loves cake. It's usually the final touch of a celebration," said Hali, who takes special orders but also sells from a booth at special events like Bridgeport's Black and Green Business Expo and the Jamaican Jerk Festival, where she sold 400 slices of cake. Last weekend, she set up shop in the Westfield Trumbull Mall.

"After each event we donate the leftover cakes to different shelters," Hali said. Sometimes Bridgeport Rescue Mission gets her confectionary donations and other times it's Operation Hope.

"We're really proud of Hali. She's a special girl," Wende Foreman said.