Follow The Yellow (Cake) Road To Bakerytown

October 4th, 2011 | Rachel


Although I haven’t been writing about it the past month or so, Operation West Coast Bakery is in full effect.  There are about a thousand things that need to be done, but right now I am focusing on recipe development and educating myself in the area of business management.

For the latter, I am reading this book, which has proven to be a great overview of the necessary steps and components to opening a small business:

I have also begun the process of developing my recipes.

The owner of the Three Green Ducks told me her business started with her recipes, and she has made product quality a top priority ever since.  It’s taken 20 years to get where they are now, but the bakery has earned itself a dedicated repeat customer base and are regularly ranked the “best of” in New York City.

I agree with this approach, and therefore I have drafted a preliminary list of recipes that need to be perfected:

Like the Three Green Ducks, my bakery is going to focus on classic American baking.  I’ve done a little bit of market research to see what other kinds of bakeries currently exist near the area Steve and I think we want to live, and so far I’ve only found a few large-scale baking operations with a decidedly European influence.

My favorite item on the menu so far is the puddings.  I’m going to start with chocolate pudding, but the plan is to offer a standard selection of puddings (vanilla, butterscotch, etc.) and rotate a menu of more interesting flavors.  I think pudding might be on the verge of a comeback.  I said the same thing about pie when I was in law school, and I was right about that.  It’s too bad chocolate pudding is so far down on my list.

I figured one of the most basic bakery recipes is yellow cake, so that is where I am starting.  I collected a number of yellow cake recipes that received rave reviews and put them into a chart so I can compare the proportions of each ingredient.  With the exception of baking soda and in one case buttermilk, they all use the same ingredients but in markedly different amounts.

As an additional step, I had to learn the volumes of the different pans so I could take that into account when comparing the recipes.  Who knew baking was so scientific and mathematical (other than Alton Brown and America’s Test Kitchen)?

The makings of yellow cake

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be sharing my bakery recipes with you.  Its trade secrets, so I hope you understand.  I will still be mixing in some french cooking into the blog and maybe some other random recipes, and those I will definitely be sharing.

The paranoid lawyer in me is nervous about sharing any information about the bakery.  I’ve actually come up with a name and a prototype for a logo, but I am still weighing the pros and cons of publishing it this early in the game.  If anyone has thoughts on that matter, I would love to hear them.

First attempt at yellow cake

I’ve always been a little intimidated by made-from-scratch cakes.  The boxed cake industry has done a great job artificially creating super moist cake mixes that are hard to recreate texture-wise with just the traditional ingredients.  Fortunately for us bakers, the flavor of the boxed mixes can’t compare to the real deal.  And that is why we take the more labor-intensive road and make our cakes from scratch.

That being said, my first recipe wasn’t dry at all.  I was making half of a recipe and failed to notice that the full recipe called for 8 egg yolks.  I used four whole eggs in my half recipe.  The result was a very eggy but moist cake.  I also left my cake pans at my apartment (right now I am living at Steve’s apartment), and I tried using a ceramic dish.  This clearly effected the way it baked.  Ceramic is good for recipes that need to be slow-cooked — like pies.  I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect cakes benefit from the fast cooking of metal pans.

Perhaps I’ll add that to my list of variables to test.

If you are in the New York City area, there will be some tasting parties in a month or two after I have some recipes figured out.  Stay tuned.

Between this and working at the Three Green Ducks, I need to join a gym.

12 Responses to “Follow The Yellow (Cake) Road To Bakerytown”

  1. Chris Nungesser says:

    You can do it. Keep the faith.

    Also I think the big money is in Snickerdoodles.

    – Chris

    • Rachel says:

      I agree with you that the snickerdoodle is a necessary bakery staple. At my current bakery, we have a Russian woman that comes in every day for a small tea and a snickerdoodle. I kind of love the way she pronounces the word “snickerdoodle.”

  2. Hey, Rachel! I’m just looking over some of your blog entries and was intrigued to see your bakery plans. Just wanted to write and tell you how excited I am for you. We have had such a great time with the wine bar that I would encourage anyone with a passion for culinary arts to go for it. On the logo/marketing side….we basically involved the public from the beginning, inviting people to vote on our top five or so choices once the company had sent some options. I think it was great. (And I also think it was helpful to get early public opinion on which logo proved most popular – it was different than the ones two of the three owners liked.) Anyhow, good luck! Can’t wait to hear more.

    • Rachel says:

      Thanks Sherry! And thanks so much for the input about sharing your logo. I think I am going to wait until my choices are a little more developed and then present them to the public for voting as well. Did you register your trademark?

  3. Bobby Cook says:

    Like Sherry, I am so excited for you. I think you are doing the greatest thing following your passion. I think you have something with the pudding angle. I’ve recently rediscovered my love for pudding and have been buying it in tubs.

    Enjoy your adventures with your recipes! There aren’t many reasons I’d move up north, but I sure wish I was near by for some tasting parties!

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you so much, Bobby. If you want to come for a visit, I got room for visitors. And there will probably be cake too :-)

  4. Diane says:

    Hooray, Rachel! I’ve been missing your blog and am glad to see the new entries. I love hearing about the baking endeavor. I’d definitely keep your name/logo secret for awhile longer, until your plans are more concrete, but I do like the idea of public input later on.
    My boyfriend is in business school and we’re always looking for cheap ways to vacation, so maybe a trip to NY to visit you, eat cake, and allow you to pick his brain re: business will be in order within the year. :)

  5. Shelby Wardlaw says:

    Hey girl,

    My vote is for you NOT to publish your logo and name yet. In the digital age, ideas can be disseminated (and stolen) like that (**snaps fingers**). I would keep my great ideas close to the chest if I were you! Sounds like you are getting a lot of good stuff out of working at Three Green Ducks! I’m so glad. Tell everyone there I say hello!

    • Rachel says:

      Thanks Shelby! I feel the same way, so I am going to hold off… although I’m really itching to share the name of it with everyone :-)

  6. jp says:

    jealous. proud. keep good notes! ITU registration if you’ve got $400 lying around, but I wouldn’t advise it (especially if you plan on doing lots of revisions). Wait till you’re actually “using it”.

    Re: “disclosure” – I don’t think of bakeries as that type of competitive, and there’s only so many baked-good puns out there… so I say crowdsource away! The proof of your success will be in the pudding … so to speak… (GROAN)

    Much Love from JP and Jaq!

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