Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Some of our first wedding cakes of the season:

Vegan Raspberry Almond Cake for 100

Cake wonderland at Brahma Ridge

Spring wedding season is here! We are busier than ever, and we are so excited to bust out the most beautiful, delicious cakes for the wedding feasts taking place all over these mountains. But, at the moment, as I am wont to do, I am feeling pensive, and want to share with you some reflections on my life as it relates to working hard. Here goes:

Spring is a time of year that, in recent years, has typically brought chaos. As a business owner, I've had to adopt the "make hay while the sun shines" approach to my work, and work 16 hour days for weeks in a row to meet the increased demand for wedding cakes, festival cupcakes, and birthday parties. I enjoy working hard, and have learned a tremendous amount about the value of hard work in my life. Money has been tight in these early years of the business, as every business owner knows, but I have been determined to make the shop work. I am happy to work hard, because I am glad and grateful to have work to do, a place to do it, and people I enjoy working with. But working full-tilt can take its toll, and I've continued to remind myself that work, while it has a value in itself, is also a means to an end: having a stable and sustainable life. I've tried all along to remember my original intentions for Short Street Cakes: I wanted to stay home with my son, and my cake business was going to be my cottage industry that would allow me to do that, along with gardening, spending time with friends and family, and the other things that make life worth living. I wanted to have a business that created a simple, just, and generous abundance for myself and my family, and when other people came on to join me in that endeavor, my intentions towards a healthy, happy home and business extended to include them.

I've kept those goals in mind while working on growing the business, meeting my obligations to my clients and my community, and going through the process of writing and publishing a book, knowing that, at some point, those wishes towards my own personal sustainability would take root.

Now, I am really happy to say, I am beginning to see the fruits: these past several months my home life has been so sweet, the Cake Shop has been flourishing, and the staff at work have stepped in as the most competent, talented, self-directed individuals I have ever had the pleasure to work with. So, in addition to my usual one day off a week to stay home with my son, I've been taking Sundays off too. Spending Sundays at home with my family is a revolution. I have worked through the weekend almost every week for the last 5 years, and now, I work with a team of bakers that not only CAN handle anything that comes their way, they actually WANT TO. So I've stepped back, a little. I'm taking time away from the shop to write. I've stepped more fully into my role as a board member of Bountiful Cities. And I am so grateful. I have come to appreciate brunch and cleaning days at home, together with my husband and son, as the magical gift they are. There were times that I didn't think that those kinds of days could happen for me, and times that I wouldn't allow them to happen because I couldn't slow my pace long enough to enjoy them.

But something that I am learning as a business owner, as well as in my personal life, is that blessings of support and love are all around us, if we have the ability to recognize them and receive them. This has been a hard lesson in my life. For some reason, I have often operated under the assumption that I have to do everything myself- and have over-burdened myself in the past with other people's problems, the world's problems, and feeling that I had to solve my own problems without any help. But that is not the way the world works. None of us can survive without leaning on each other, and giving is a natural human tendency that wants to be received. Those of us who are natural "givers" sometimes deprive those around us from the pleasure of giving to us, and we deprive ourselves of the pleasure of receiving, without conditions, expectations, or control.

This year, in my personal as well as my professional life, I have chosen to focus on the concept of receiving- allowing those in my life, at home, at work, and in the community to bring love and support to my life, if and when they choose, and to gratefully and gracefully receive it.

This, too, has been a revolution.

Learning to trust the bakers at the Cake Shop, that they can do it, that they want to do it, and that they take pride in their work and they feel supported by me in doing their jobs right, fills me with such gratitude. It makes me want to work that much harder to support all of our well-being: continuing to grow the business so that we can move towards a more democratic, empowering, economically sustainable and supportive workplace for all of us has become my immediate and long-term goal for the shop.

But in order to do that, we all have to be whole people. And being a whole person means that I spend my time doing more than just working. I need to garden, I need to take long baths, and I need to engage in this ritual of spending mornings in my pajamas writing. I need to take walks and ride bikes and go to the woods. I need to travel and visit family and friends, and I need to have time to commit to community work, because those are the things that feed my soul. And if my soul is not healthy, then I cannot work from a place of love. And that is what we are all here to do.
And so, I want to say thanks.

(thank you cake by Emilou)

So... I'm setting a goal: I want to have a garden this year. It seems obvious that I would have a garden, considering the amount of time and energy I spend thinking and writing about food security, community gardening, and urban agriculture, but the truth is that I have not had a home garden for years. In the early days of Short Street Cakes I had a flower garden where I grew all the flowers for the cakes. As the business has grown, I have had to streamline and cast aside almost everything in my life besides work and mothering. And I don't regret it: hard work can be a refuge when things seem uncertain, and busting ass to build and create something beautiful is one of the most rewarding things one can do. But now, thanks to the help and support of the community that supports the Cake Shop, the superhero crew at the Cake Shop, and the love of my family and friends, (and my new-found ability to receive that help and support rather than feeling guilty about it) I can now set about having a more balanced life. And I'm going to put my money where my mouth is towards sustainability, family, and community food security, and I'm going to start with a garden.

So this week, on my day off, I hung laundry on the line:

Jasper and I ate eggs from the chickens at our friends Braden and Mindy's homestead:

And I bought this basil plant that I'm going to put in the ground, dammit.

It doesn't mean that I'm not going to continue to work hard at the shop most days (I would miss the thrill of successful heavy production days at the Cake Shop if I didn't), or that I can afford to go on weeks-long yoga retreats or pay someone to do my job. It just means that the future is now, and we all have the power to create for ourselves, right now, what we want for ourselves, despite the chaos that might seem to be around us. And that we have to be able to gratefully receive the blessings of the people around us who want to give us love and support.

Happy Spring!

Rites of Spring!

On Sunday, May 1st, at the French Broad Food Coop in downtown Asheville, from 4 to 10 pm, Bountiful Cities, Asheville’s urban agriculture and sustainability organization, and French Broad Food Coop, Asheville’s community-owned natural grocery store, will co-host Rites of Spring, an outdoor celebration of spring featuring food, beer, wine, live music, children’s activities, and an old-fashioned Maypole dance celebration!
May Day has a rich history. It began as an ancient celebration of fertility and new growth, and, more recently, is known as International Worker’s Day, celebrating organized labor movements all over the world. The communities that make up Bountiful Cities and French Broad Food Coop think that it’s the perfect holiday to celebrate 35 years of our community-owned grocery store and 10 years of community-based urban agriculture in Asheville!
Colorful Palate will cater the event with savory veggie sides and Hickory Nut Gap Farm and Carolina Bison Meats. Miss Glo and David A will pour tasty brews from Wedge and Pisgah Breweries, as well as wine from Marco’s Pizzeria and French Broad Food Coop, and Short Street Cakes will provide cupcakes. Festivities begin with a May Day ceremony at 4pm. Music opens with the May Day chorus at 5pm, followed by Jason Daniello of Clouds of Greer playing a solo set at 6pm, Shane Perlowin of the Aleuchatistas playing a solo set at 7:15, and Silver Machine headlining at 8:30.
Wristbands to drink are $2 and drinks are by donation. Food is $10 per ticket and kids eat free with purchase of adult ticket.
Proceeds from the event will go to paying Bountiful Cities’ last mortgage payment on the Pearson Drive Community Garden in Montford. The mission of Bountiful Cities is “to create, on urban land, beautiful community spaces that produce food in abundance and foster a learning environment for social justice and sustainability.”
Other sponsors include Marco’s Pizzeria, Jack’s Boxes, Asheville Grown Business Alliance, and Peter Parpan illustration and design.
Rain Location is the pavilion at the Pearson Drive Community Garden in Montford.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Old School Cake School Take 1

This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of teaching our very first "Old School Cake School" Baking Class at Short Street Cakes. The idea of Cake School is for students to bake a cake from our menu, from start to finish, while getting instruction on the ingredients, tools and methods used, and then to take the cake home with them. (What I forgot to include in the syllabus was the requisite sharing of feelings and emotional processing that comes with people baking together- what we at the Short Street Cakes call the "feelings in the Cake Shop" part of the day- but luckily, all of the students seemed to be okay with that).

Ada chose the Strawberry Cake, Heather chose the Fresh Coconut Cake with Seven Minute Icing (a challenge, which she mastered), and Amy chose the Italian Cream Cake, all venerated items in the Southern Cake Canon.

What resulted was an amazing day where three women who had not previously ever baked a cake from scratch went home with a beautiful, delicious cake, a recipe, and (hopefully) the confidence to continue baking and experimenting with homemade cakes to bake for themselves, their friends and families.

Congratulations, graduates! I'm very much looking forward to May's Old School Cake School (dates, times, and cost TBA). Here's to spreading the Cake + Love!