Monday, August 27, 2012

Parties and Pies

Wow, where did August go?  I baked my way through a whole month without stopping for a breath!  It's time for us to catch up.  Here's what I've been doing:

I joined a new kitchen in Oakland aptly named Kitchener Oakland.  This is the certified kitchen from which I will be doing all of my baking.  It is such a great space!  The lovely owner/operator Sophia (on the left in the photo below),  kindly held a party in the Kitchener for all of the new bakers and chefs who rent space there to sample out their fare.

Sophia of Kitchener Oakland (left)

Setting up
I brought peanut butter pies with chocolate chambord ganache:

chocolate chambord ganache
Peanut butter pie with a chocolate cookie crust, peanut butter mousse, and chocolate ganache with a hint of chambord
It was such a great time and we had an estimated turn-out of over 400 guests!  It was packed with hungry munchers for hours and hours:

The cake in the far right corner was infused with tobacco.  No joke.  It was addictive.  

Isn't it a cute kitchen?!  I love the pink walls :) 

This is one of very few good shots of me from the night.  According to the camera, I spent the entire evening hunched over peanut butter pies, drinking wine, and making horrid faces at everyone.  

At times it was hard to move through the crowd

There were so many options to choose from!  There were several cakes, muffins, jams, cold-brewed coffee, baked cheese balls, fresh juices, mock tuna salad (vegan!), gluten free cookies, and even some hot foods.  

The Kitchener will be having many more events in the future!  Please stay tuned here and here to be sure to get an invite to the next event.

I had to leave the party early because the very next day, I was entering a pie contest at Omnivore Books.  I got up super early and baked several more pies to give out as samples:

The pie contest was pretty fun up until the part where I didn't win.  I lost to a s'mores pie, which I didn't think was that exciting.  I thought the potato and cheese one was the best.  It tied for second place with an apricot plum pie.  There were something like 45 entries and mine was the only vegan one.  

1st prize s'mores pie: middle right

It was a very crowded affair.  Once again, Ralph and I found ourselves packed like sardines into a small room with lots of hungry people.  

The potato cheese pie

As I was leaving, there were several women hovering over my remaining samples, so I know it was going down well, even if it didn't win.  I scowled the whole way home.  I am obviously not as good at losing as I am at winning.  

The entire following week was spent in preparation for yet another weekend of baking.  I spent two days straight in the Kitchener, baking and decorating 250 cupcakes of 5 different flavors for a commitment ceremony.  

250 Cupcakes

Ready for the run-down?  Red velvet cake with vanilla "cream cheese" frosting, vanilla cake with coconut-lime frosting and a mango garnish, gluten-free chocolate cake with vanilla "cream cheese" frosting a strawberry garnish with chocolate drizzle, chocolate cake with caramel glaze and toasted coconut with chocolate drizzle, ginger cake with vanilla "cream cheese" frosting and candied orange peel.  Stop drooling for a minute and consider how much work each of those words implies.  Because I sure didn't.  

Not the best picture, but you get the idea
Since these were for my first real (non-friend) customers, I grossly undercharged for them.  Lesson learned!  When you don't break even after a week of planning and two high-stress days in the kitchen (no matter how lovely the kitchen is), you have to choose between laughing and crying.  Fortunately, it was all a very good learning experience and I was able to laugh about losing money on it.  I learned a lot about how long it takes to complete a project like this, and how useful it is to have a good natured and calm helper (or preferably a slave boyfriend because they are free) to wash dishes and bring you things.  Possibly the biggest lesson I learned is that more flavors = a LOT more work.  I'll be sure to remember this when taking orders in the future.   

I'm so glad we got the cupcakes to the venue on time.  I was scrambling to beat the clock; and, I was still covered in flour and sugar when we delivered them.  Another lesson learned: Don't wear black on decorating day, even if you think it will make you look more professional during delivery.  


  1. Emily, You are amazing! Though you lost that one little skirmish, you are winning the war, big time! It is great to see you work toward your goal. Everything you made, for all of your events, looks fantastic. I'm so impressed, and so glad to have met you as everything is taking off. Congratulations on your new kitchen space, your happy customers, and the awesome skill with which you carry everything out. :) -Eve

  2. Congratulations Emily! You've got an endearing spark about you and a personality that will take you to the moon :) I believe in what you do and I can't wait to see what Picnic Bakery will become!

    1. Thank you, Sophia! I'm so glad to have found Kitchener :)

  3. Hi Emily, Jessica from Sugar Mill Cake Co. here. I totally know what you mean about undercharging. If you haven't done it before, it's a great idea to price your recipes so you know EXACTLY what you need to charge to be making a decent living. You can factor in ingredients, $ for renting the kitchen, and most importantly... your time!

    On that note, I sent a friend your information because they need some gluten free cupcakes for a wedding. I originally thought I could do the job, but let's be serious... I really needed to let a professional handle it (ha!).

    Keep up the great work and I hope to see you at Kitchener Oakland soon!

    1. Hi Jessica! Thanks for the advice. I'm still working out the recipe costs- not my brain's favorite work ;)

      Thank you for sending your friend my way! I'll gladly make something for them. Hope to see you soon!

  4. Your baked goods always look so delicious! Those cupcakes do look like a ton of work though! I hope you are able to figure out the pricing situation because, those definitely look like their worth lots! I know I'd sure pay well for all that yummyness :p

  5. The cupcakes--beauteous. By all means, charge!


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