Pop quiz: you're in Lafayette, Indiana. Where do you get a sweet fix?
Answer: The Yellow Bowl Bakery, the source in the area for cakes, cupcakes, bars, brownies and cookies. One glance at their menu--which ranges from the expected cake flavors to some that might warrant a double take (Un-Cola Cake or Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, anyone?) will probably convince you of their intense awesomeness, but if not, here's an interview to fill you in on the sweetness behind the cakes, and an insider's view to a day in the life of the bakers, including not only their sweet stories, but some of the sweet causes that keep them energized:
CakeSpy: How did you decide on the name The Yellow Bowl?
The Yellow Bowl / Katy Gunderson: When more people started to hear about my cakes and I began to make them for people outside of my friends and family I decided I needed a name. I was still in the experimental phase with the recipes that I was using. So I was baking nonstop in my tiny little kitchen. I was trying desperately to come up with a name that spoke to the way I feel about baking. One rainy afternoon I was making a fresh batch of blueberry muffins when it hit me. I was just starting to gently stir the wet and dry ingredients together in my only bowl, the big Pyrex yellow bowl that had belonged to my mom and to my grandmother before her. Voila! The Yellow Bowl Bakery was born, out of a rainy day and blueberry muffins.
CS: Katy, you mention that your entry into the world of baking was at home, with your mom and grandma. Tell me about one of the sweets you have fond memories of baking.
YB: When I think of my mom’s cooking I am snapped back to waking up on Saturday morning to my mom’s fresh blueberry pancakes. Pancakes made with love, real maple syrup, and blueberries picked from my Grammy’s blueberry bushes. My mom is a self proclaimed foodie so as long as I can remember I have been cooking with my mom. She made everything we ate as a kid, bread, granola, applesauce, even our mayonnaise! My mom taught me how to crack an egg, measure flour, and follow a recipe, all of these things I might add took place in that yellow bowl. My Grammy taught me how to toast a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (amazing by the way if you have never tried it) how to bake cookies and brownies. During the brownie and cookie process I also learned about salmonella and that a good way to freak her out was to eat raw batter or cookie dough. I’m not going to lie sometime I did it on purpose just to see if she was paying attention. My mom and my Grammy never stifled my creative spirit. In fact I remember one rainy day I decided I was going to make peanut butter with Grammy antique nut grinder. I succeeded in making a huge mess but she let me try it anyway. My favorite thing to make was Christmas cookies because that was when the three of us all baked together. Three generations of women making cookies in that yellow Pyrex bowl.
CS: Molly, you are formally trained in pastry arts. Do you feel as if your formal education has changed the way you look at home baking?
YB: Truthfully my views of home baking have not changed drastically since I attended culinary school. I always used baking at home to test out different recipes, techniques, and flavor combinations on my family and friends. I do have a much greater respect for all home bakers because they do what I do but usually without a lot of the equipment I have readily available.
CS: Working at a bakery, how exactly is it that you are not obese? I've seen pictures. You're both quite svelte.
YB: If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that! Coming from a foodie background I came to have a very special relationship with food. I love to cook, not just bake my boy friend Mark and I rarely eat out. We can often be found coming up with new and fun things for dinner in his kitchen, he is going to kill me for this but he does one heck of an Emeril Lagassee impression so I think I also burn a lot of calories laughing when he is cooking. That being said it’s not all laughing that keeps me fit, I love to work out. I can be found at the gym every morning at 5:30 AM before I go into work. Molly is still in college and she walks to class a lot also when you spend all that time around sweets we get to craving salads quite often. Who would have ever thought I would have a craving for broccoli!
CS: If all of your cupcake flavors had to duke it out in a dark alley, which one do you think would be the last cake standing?
YB: We have a flavor that is called the “Irish Car Bomb”. It is named after a drink that is very popular at a local pub called Nine Irish Brothers. The cup cake created quite a stir when I first opened some people were a little turned off by the name. I don’t know if nine Irish Brothers has ever had any issue with the drink but I guess for some the name was a little too hard core for a cupcake. The cake packs quite a punch with a special beer in the chocolate cake and our Baileys flavored butter cream it will knock your socks off. So I’m guessing it could knock the frosting off our other cakes!
CS: I'm intrigued by this "un-cola" cupcake flavor I see on your menu. Can you tell me more?
YB: The “un-cola” was born of an over abundance of soda that we had in the store one week. We were trying out new cupcake flavors and Dr. Pepper, and Root Beer Float have become big sellers during the summer. We had bombarded everyone with chocolate for a week and decided we needed a break. We made cupcakes with a lemon lime soda, and used a large piping tip to make bubbles of butter cream in lemon lime flavors. I had remembered 7-up being called the un-cola, thus the “un-cola” cupcake was born.
CS: Riddle me this: say you're stranded on a desert island, and you've got to decide on one item from your menu to take with you. What's it gonna be?
YB Katy: Hands down I would take our Margarita cupcake. If I was going to be “trapped” on a desert island what better cupcake to have!
YB Molly: If I could bring only one cupcake I would bring our Sweet Potato cupcake. The rich spicy flavor would bring me back to an Indiana fall day, where even if I was on some beach I could pretend it was a little cooler. The cupcake is topped with marshmallow and caramel sauce and this cupcake would definitely lift my sprits if I was deserted on an island.
CS: In addition to baking sweets for your retail shop and community, you're also giving back through the Cooking with the Wounded program. Can you tell me more about the program--what you're doing and who it benefits?
YB: I was contacted by a woman who wanted to send desserts to her brother and sister in law in Iraq about six months ago. I tried to find a way to do this but with the distance and security I could not figure a way that we could keep the desserts safe. A few months after I had to side line the project I found an article in our local paper about a man named Blake Powers who was traveling to Germany to cook a steak dinner for the troops at Landstuhl. On a whim I contacted him and he was in my bakery the next day. The marriage of Cooking with the Wounded and The Yellow Bowl Bakery or Bakers without Borders, as we have been lovingly nicknamed, was solidified on a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in DC. Here the bakery made southern style desserts to complement a BBQ prepared by Military blogger “Concrete Bob”. We fed over 200 wounded Military men, women, and their families at Mologne House. Blake has been kind enough to adopt me as a permanent part of the program. The ultimate goal for the program is to help those leaving military service, most especially the wounded, who are interested in a career in the food and beverage industry get the knowledge and training they need. It is also hoped that teams of chefs can be sent to Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations to cook for the troops there. More information on the program can be found here and on the Yellow Bowl site.
CS: What's next for The Yellow Bowl?
YB: I would love to say that I have a plan for what I would like to see happen with the bakery in the next year but sometimes I get the feeling that the bakery is much bigger than just me. It has come to mean so much to so many different people not just in Lafayette but around the world so I think a better question would be what does The Yellow Bowl Bakery have next for me. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to find out!
The Yellow Bowl Bakery is located at 918 Main Street, Lafayette, IN, (765) 588-6212; online at theyellowbowl.com.