The secret to a perfect cake is in the mixing process. A 50/50 blend
of All Purpose flour and Pastry flour seems to work the best for the
recipes in this book. Not just any flour!! You want to used
'un-bleached, un-bromated' flour. King Arthur is a great brand and
available in most grocery stores.
If you are dividing the batter into cupcakes, 4" Smash Cakes, 9"
Rounds or a 9" x 13" baking pan, the use of a # 12 ice cream scoop
works really well.
~ • ~
Except for our Crumb Cake, Carrot Cake & Doughnut Recipes, you will be
following the directions below. The cake recipes will refer you to
~ • ~
Parchment is a key element in our bakery. We get it by the case and a
17" x 26" sheet costs around 7 cents. You will want to cut the pieces
you will need for the bottom of your cake pan ahead of time! Place
your cake pan on the parchment and pencil around the pan. Cut our your
pieces and set them aside.
1. Preheat your oven to 350º.
2. Using melted butter and a pastry brush, generously butter the
bottom and sides of your chosen baking pan.
3. Line the bottom of your pan with the pre-cut piece of parchment.
Butter the parchment.
4. Dust your pan with flour making sure all areas are well coated.
5. The cake recipes are divided u into 4 sections. Dry ingredients,
wet ingredients, sugar & butter, and eggs.
• The dry ingredients will be combined into a medium size bowl and set aside.
• The wet ingredients will be combined into a mixing cup with a pour spout.
• The softened (not melted!) butter and sugar will be combined into
your mixing bowl.
• Eggs, counted out and ready to be cracked. (To avoid getting any
egg shells in your cake it's best to crack them into a cup.)
Now the important part. Using either a hand mixer or a stand mixer,
set on medium, you want to blend the sugar and 'softened' butter until
the mixture is very creamy. 2 to 3 minutes. You are going to add the
eggs one at a time allowing them to -> homogenize <- with the butter.
Starting with the dry ingredients, you want to alternate between dry
and wet, making sure each added ingredients is fully mixed before
adding the next. Little of this. Little of that. Be sure to scrape the
sides and bottom every once and a while.
When your batter is done, scoop it into your chosen pans and bake.
This usually takes about 25 minutes. It works best to put your cake
pan on a cookie sheet to distribute the heat around the oven better.
And also to wrap the pans with a wet pan wrap. [Wilton makes these]
Test the doneness of your cake with a toothpick to make sure it is done.
When it has cooled enough to turn out onto a cooling rack you can add
a glaze coat to hold in the moisture. This is also a great prep
process for frosting your cake.
2 C. Confection Sugar
?/? C. Hot Water
You can also add flavor syrups to this to give your cake a little extra flavor.
When we started our bakery and made the list of things we wanted to bake, pizza was not on the list. We were all about the bread. Farm bread, hearth bread and specialty bread like focaccia and challah. After searching for that perfect place to start our bakery we finally decided on opening up inside the Meadville Market House. It is the oldest running market house in Pennsylvania and on every Saturday during the growing season, it's surrounded by vendors selling their wares. Selling everything from farm fresh organic vegetables, to hand knitted sweaters, to freshly picked flowers.
We signed our lease on the first of September and was up and running by the first of October. We went around the Market House on our first Saturday and bought a little bit from every farmer. We came in with our bounty and decided we would roast up the vegetables in our 500-degree oven and make one of our Friday night pizzas to share with all the farmers. We always had pizza Friday night at home and didn't think much of it. We served the farmers roasted potato and caramel onion pizzas, spinach, squash and ricotta cheese pizzas and tomato, onion and bell pepper pizzas. They loved it! Each farmer came into the Market House and wanted to have another piece of pizza with their vegetables on it.
On the following Saturday, at around 10:30, a couple of the farmers came up to our counter wanting to know when the pizza would be ready. We were not prepared for serving pizza. Paul and I just looked at each other then Paul said, "Around noon." He immediately started to mix the dough and Amanda chopped up and roasted some vegetables and by 12:30 we had pizzas on our counter.
Over the next couple of weeks, Paul created the Herb Oil for our white pizzas, I came up with the recipe for our red sauce and Emily and I worked on the baking time. Elisabeth was the master pizza server and Amanda created killer toppings. The pizzas we serve at The Creative Crust are truly an Allin family creation.
Paul and I have been together for over 28 years. For most of that time, we have been self-employed. After both of us losing our jobs, one week before Christmas, 1988, with a new house, new car and baby on the way, we vowed to never rely on anyone else, ever again. We started a graphics company. Specs Industrial Graphics & Design. We started off doing small jobs and worked our way up to working for some pretty big clients. Paul airbrushed illustrations for the back of the MagLite packaging. We designed and maintained 3 secure websites for General Motors and American Isuzu Motors.
We started our business in Southern California and when the recession hit in 1991 we decided to downsize our business. We moved to Northwestern Pennsylvania where the cost of living is more than reasonable and we were able to keep our LA clients and pick up some great accounts in Erie.
Our life was crazy in a fun way. By the end of the 90s, we were well into homeschooling our 3 girls and had acquired a few milking goats, two sheep, 50 chickens and a horse. We were remodeling an old farm house, doing math on the kitchen table, teaching ourselves how to make cheese, goat milk soap and of course lots of bread. We mastered the homestead arts and were ready to move on to selling what we made. While still doing the graphic arts business we decided to start a craft business as well. A great way to teach the girls about business. From raw ingredients to making, packaging and selling our goods. I went crazy! Herbal Tea soaps, lotions, body butters, lip balms, fragrance sprays and a very effective all natural insect spray. (Which, by the way, is illegal to sell. We found that out the hard way!)
Paul designed all the packaging and an amazing Point Of Purchase website. All of us went to craft fairs. One of the places we took our goods was to the Farmers Market in Erie. It was the only farmers market we had ever been to that didn't have any baked goods. So, of course, we decided to take a few loaves of our bread. On our last day at the farmers market in Erie, we sold 150 loafs of bread in 1-1/2 hours and 2 bars of soap.
We made the bread. We got paid for the bread. We got praised for the bread. OR... We create a brochure. We wait months to get paid for the brochure. We get criticized for a type-o in the brochure that 20 people proofed.
A bakery is born!
The transition from running a graphic arts business to operating a full-service bakery was not a smooth one. Specs Industrial Graphics had very few requirements beyond our knowledge of the business. A computer, scanner, art table, phone, fax machine, printer and a lot of blank CDs. You can have a graphics business in a closet.
Not so when it comes to a bakery. Buying and storing50-pound bags of flour takes up a huge amount of space. This knowledge is all in hindsight though. When we first started our bakery, we thought we could just convert our kitchen and start a bakery business.
We got our food license in June of 05. By August 1st we were looking for a bigger place. On September 1st we signed a lease to move our bakery 35 miles away into a corner of the historic Meadville Market House. In October we moved into our new house close to our new bakery. One year later we began looking for more space.
(A very good friend of ours took all our animals. They went to a great home.)
A developer had started to renovate a building located next to the Market House. A 5 unit condominium. Three store fronts and 2 upstairs living spaces. We thought it would be nice but when we looked at one of the gutted storefronts decided, with our knowledge of all the space our bakery really needed, that one of these storefronts was just too small. The developer was excited about the idea of his new project being a bakery. He drew up plans to combine 2 of the store fronts. Pretty nice, but still 'not big enough'.
"Let's look at the basement space," he says. We walked over to take a look. Dark, dirty and damp. "This guy must be nuts"!! was all we could think.
"Built to suit!"
He had just finished the first store front. We took a very close look. The dark, dirty, damp basement was bright, clean and dry.
"Let's do it"!
We looked up styles of bakeries on the internet and found one we really liked and asked if he could make it look like the picture.
"No problem!" He could do anything. And you know what? He did. The following March we were moving our equipment from the Market House into our new 2,000 sq. ft. facility. Complete with an 8' x 12' walk-in refrigerator.
In the Market House, we could mix, bake, prep and wait on customers, all at the same time. The new space was very different. Prep and mixing in the basement of one unit, customers and sales counter above the prep area and ovens and pizza production located upstairs in the other unit. We were all over the place and one of us had to man the counter at all times now. It took us a while to figure all this out. Four years later and we have it nailed. Of course it took having employees! This is both a blessing and a curse. We have extra hands but they are not us. None of them see the BIG picture. The work that is needed over the course of 24 hours. And, they are not us. By now, the five of us could just look at each other and grunt to communicate our needs but with employees it is so much harder. One change, like setting up a system for using and washing knives for sandwich making turns into a two week ordeal. Where are all the knives? Downstairs in the dirty dish rack. No, they need to be washed upstairs, dipped, dried and put back in the sandwich area. Where are all the knives? Where are all the knives? A silly little change like that and the whole place is up in arms over who is not doing it the new way. How do we get this fixed? Then finally it all works smooth until we hire a new person that decides that the knives we are using are not the right size and uses the bread slicing knife instead and leaves it sitting there waiting for the next sandwich order. Sitting there covered with hummus and turkey bits. AHHHH!
On that day we sold 150 loaves of bread in 1-1/2 hours we could have never imagined what our life would be like now. We are so very proud of our daughters for what they have accomplished and amazed with ourselves that we have been able to pull this off.
We are still learning and growing!
We are even able to get enough sleep, on most days.