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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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. :)
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.
Check out the Bittersweet Originals website here.