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Entries in interview (3)

Sunday
Jul152012

Batter Chatter: Interview with Robin Koelling of Bittersweet Originals, Part 2

Bittersweet Originals

Sometimes it's fun to revisit your past. Recently, I have been updating the CakeSpy archives--erasing broken links, cleaning up old posts, et cetera, to make it easier for readers to navigate the site (you're welcome). But I have also had a chance to revisit some of my old posts! One in particular was one of my first interviews with a baker, with Robin Koelling of Bittersweet Originals, a special-order cake making business based in Kansas. Well, as it turns out, five years later, she's still making cakes! So I thought it would be fun to do a follow up interview and see what's changed for her business in five years. Here's the original interview; below is the new one.

Bittersweet Originals

It's hard to believe that it's been FIVE YEARS since I interviewed you for the first time for CakeSpy. What are three of the biggest changes that have occurred with your business since we last spoke? Oh wow! So many things have changed!  I never imagined BSO would become what it is now! I'm very fortunate that I'm able to do this full time now, which is amazing! Its just so cool to be able to have a part in the important events and occasions in my client's lives and know that what I'm making for them is helping to make it special and memorable. Its really humbling.  There's just something about seeing the expression on a kiddo's face when they see their birthday cake that is just priceless.
I do 3D cakes, wedding cakes, alot of character and themed cakes in addition to cupcakes and cookies.  I've also started doing twists on some of the "classics" I was familiar with when I was little (like red velvet) and I've started making my own cake stands from cool vintage things my husband and I find.

Valentine cookies

What has surprised you about the progress of your business?  I think the thing that has surprised me the most about the progress of my business is how busy I am! When I first started, a few days notice for a birthday cake was fine. Now people schedule with me 4-6 weeks in advance.  I never imagined anyone would call me and say "I want to book this date before anyone else gets it"!
 
If you could go back to your five years ago self and offer advice from the future, what would you say? If I could go back 5 years and offer myself adivce from the future one thing I would definitely say is "Take chances!"  I recently came across a quote from someone that said, "Never give up on your dream, because someone else is always willing to hire you to work on theirs.".  That's so true!  I started my business knowing what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it, but didn't really have the "how" figured out.  And I'm still learning, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
 
cookies
When we last talked, one of your promotional methods was approaching strangers with marshmallow fondant decorated sugar cookies along with a business card / gift certificate. How has promotion changed for you?
 Promotion now for me is primarily word of mouth, referrals, etc.  My kids' friends all know me as "the mom that makes the cakes"....I don't think some of them even know my name! LOL!
 

Cake

Your most popular cake flavors 5 years ago were white almond sour cream or citrus. Is this still the case, or have new flavor combinations gained popularity? My most popular flavors now are still white almond sour cream, in addition to triple chocolate fudge with peanut butter filling, pink velvet, carrot and a tangy lemon with raspberry or lemon filling. 
 

Cupcake party

Five years ago, cupcake-wedding cakes were a rising trend. What are some of the rising trends in dessert today, in your opinion? Cupcake wedding cakes are still popular here, but not as much as they were.  I see more brides going back to the traditional tiered cakes here, some very traditionally ornate and others that have that simple elegance.  I think that brides and grooms here are looking at cakes to accompany their wedding cakes that really reflect their personality and interests as opposed to using the traditional sheet cakes as cutting cakes.  Dessert tables have definitely gained in popularity here too, having a variety of cookies, candy, bars, etc. available as well as the cake.
 
What's the best dessert you've eaten (yours, or made my someone else) recently? I'm still a big cheesecake fan! I think my favorite is one that's made with nutella and carmel :)   I also love ganache....triple chocolate fudge cake with peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache...I'm seriously addicted to that one!

Bittersweet originals

 
Can you tell me about a cake that stands out in recent memory as being particularly a proud cake moment? A cake that stands out to me as one I'm particularly proud of would have to be the wedding cakes.  There's so much that goes into them, (and so much that could go wrong!) so when everything is finally done, assembled and delivered....you're able to stand back and say "yeah, I really like this!"  I also like doing kiddo's cakes with all the characters and personality.  Several months ago, I made a Cailou cake that I still think is pretty darn cute. :)
 

Bittersweet Originals

What's next for Bittersweet Originals?  I'd like to expand to a studio definitely and would like to learn more ornate and difficult techniques like working with Sugarveil and spun sugar.  I'd also like to write a cookbook and do some teaching.

Bittersweet Originals

 

Check out the Bittersweet Originals website here.

Wednesday
Feb082012

Batter Chatter: Interview with Kristin of Meringue Bake Shop, Orange County

What's a "Whacky Cake"? Read on.In the modern world, it seems like just about every other person has some sort of a baking business, be it their bread and butter or a little something on the side.

Sadly, a lot of businesses like this fizzle out. But Meringue Bake Shop, located in Orange County, CA and run by baker Kristin Ausk and her husband Lyle, is an inspiring exception. While they don't have a retail storefront (yet), they've been going for four years and have a loyal following at farmer's markets in the area; as they put it, "While our name may have 'shop' in it, we are currently a catering business working out of a commercial kitchen in Fullerton. But we have our eyes set on the future and so our name reflects that."

Until that sweet day, let's learn more about what keeps them going strong, shall we? (Hint: it may or may not include buttered and toasted Pop-Tarts):

How has Meringue Bake Shop changed since you established it four years ago? Hmmm. I honestly don't feel like much has changed. I'm sure a lot has, like we are now at farmers markets and are consistently busy instead of having one or two orders a month but I guess it just feels like business as usual. We have received some great press and accolades from industry experts so that has helped us grow. Occasionally someone will come up to me and be excited to meet me and that kinda freaks me out, but in a good way. That certainly wouldn't have happened a few years ago.

Your world-famous PushCakes seem to have inspired some...for lack of a better word...copycats. How do you deal with people who are a little too "inspired" by your business? Ha well.... I am going to be honest and say that it is challenging for me to deal with. And I am trying to learn to let go and just accept that it's a great idea and so of course people are going to want to make it their own. Look at Bakerella! But it does upset me when someone talks about it as if they came up with pushcakes or use the name I invented and tell me they had no idea. Or purposefully go around and try to "steal my thunder" so to speak by following my press around the internet to tout their version. That's just not nice. And I was bummed when I found out someone is publishing a book about the very idea, someone who isn't even in the business and ultimately will get all the credit for it. But I digress! I really owe its wide spread popularity to you, for doing the first official post about PushCakes here on Cakespy!

Shucks! I'm blushing. OK, so...PushCakes were one of the items that brought your business to the public eye in a big way. How big a part of your business are they today? Right now pushcakes are probably 40% of my business. I'd like to get that to at least 75%. I am working on an online storefront so I can spread the pushcake love all over the states. But since I only do this part time, and a lot on my own, it's going to take longer than I'd like. Plus it's just me and my husband baking, creating and assembling these and we've only got 4 hands between us!

Tell me more about your "whacky cake", that lovely thing with a funny name pictured at the top of this post. The whacky cake is based off an idea I saw in a Donna Hay magazine a year or so ago. My friend Sharon from Cupcakes and Cutlery showed me the cake and told me that I just had to make it my own. I found a company in Australia that is making something with a chocolate mold in the shape of a cake that you break open with a hammer. I believe they call them smash cakes. What makes mine different is that underneath that chocolate dome and layer of delicious candy, you'll find our yummy cake and buttercream. So after eating some sugar, you can eat more sugar! Everyone's happy! So far I've just been making them for kids parties but they would great for marriage proposals, gender reveal parties, milestone birthdays or even for graduations. We can put anything inside the cake as long as it's small.

What flavor would your last-meal cake be? It would have to be a slice of Le Bete Noire. It's a cake made at Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego. The cake is comprised of layers of a creamy semi-sweet chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brûlée, chocolate ganache, dark chocolate cakes and moistened with Madagascar vanilla bean syrup.

Pop Tart Vs. Toaster Strudel

Pop-tarts or toaster strudel? DUH! Pop-tarts baby! I eat mine toasted with salted butter and cut into fourths. shhhh

What is, in your opinion, the ideal cake-to-frosting ratio on a cupcake? I personally prefer 1/3 buttercream to 2/3 cake.

Can you name some bakers who truly inspire you? Oh yes. Elisa Strauss, Karen Krasne, Kari Haskell, Carrie Fields, Julie Desmeules, Rosie from Sweetapolita, and you!

If money were no object, what would you love to do next with your business? Open a real shop! One with a case full of cupcakes, cookies, diner cakes, bars and puddings. A pink and white checked floor, tinsel lampshades, turquoise vinyl booths, a cakespy mural in my kitchen, a glitter toilet (yea you heard me!), a space for parties and a retro jukebox playing daft punk, madonna, rodrigo y gabriel, abba, squeeze, and zz top (among others). ;)

For more awesome, visit the Meringue Bake Shop website or find them on Facebook.

Thursday
Jun162011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Katy Acheson of Mesdames Des Macarons

Mesdames des Macarons. With a name like that, you are probably halfway in love with the Cape Cod-based boutique (custom-order) bakery already, but you'll fall even deeper in love when you discover their sweet treats--macarons in creative colors, flavors, and formulations (consider the Macadeiro, a mashup of a macaron and Brigadeiro!). Want to find out more? Here's an interview with one of the owners, Katy Acheson:

What dessert do you think is overrated? Jell-o is an acceptable lunch dessert when you're in 3rd grade, but it doesn't cut it for an after dinner treat in my book (no matter how much cool whip you put on it).

What's your favorite non-sweet food? Scallops, bacon, filet mignon... scallops and filet mignon wrapped in bacon!

What's your favorite non-macaron sweet treat? Definitely jelly beans.

Don't you hate the question "are macarons the new cupcake"? Where I am, not enough people know what a macaron is to be asking that question yet. I'm sure someday I will grow to hate the question though.

Um...Are macarons the new cupcake? In my house they are. In the rest of America? I think the future is in small, single-serving desserts, in which case both macarons and cupcakes can share the throne.

What is your favorite flavor on your menu? I make a Rose and White Chocolate macaron that I adore. But I think the one flavor I can't control myself around is the Matcha (Green Tea) macaron.

Is it just me or are macarons extremely fussy to make? Very fussy. In particular, the French method of making the batter, although less complicated, is less reliable than the Italian method of boiling sugar to mix with the almond and egg whites. I prefer the texture of the French method, so I put up with making adjustments for things like humidity and the quality of my eggs. Every batch is a new learning experience, and I never stop researching other bakers'efforts to gain a better understanding of these little delights.

What are your favorite famous French macarons? You know, I haven't had that many macarons that weren't made in my own kitchen. I've been to a few places in New York, one place in Philly, and a little shop in York (the old one in England). Paris is still on my must-visit list, but out of the two biggies -- Laduree and Pierre Herme -- I like the look of the Laduree macarons and try to emulate their look in my own product.

If you were faced with only a vending machine for food, what would you choose to snack on? I usually go for Swedish fish or Pop-tarts, kinda gross, but a girl's gotta eat.

If a genie appeared and you could choose any direction or future for your business, what would it be right this instant? What I want right now is a little shop where people passing by can come in and experience something completely new and delicious, and fans of the macaron can rely on a good fix--a place to be supplied with their special events. It's asking a bit much of this one-wish genie too, but can I also have a cute little apron with macarons all over it?

Find Mesdames des Macarons online here, and on Facebook here.

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