Why I started to bake…

You may remember when I shared a bit about Patty’s Place previously, the little shop that stood where Plume is now.  This was Patty’s card.

Patty had a vision of a gathering place of local artisans complete with coffee, tea and some pastries.    It’s a vision I  shared and maintained for Plume.  Since day 1, there have been goodies at Plume.  I’ve had the privilege to work with several amazing local bakers who’ve brought their cinnamon rolls, cookies, & cupcakes to Plume for you to try and fall in love with.   In the beginning it was just a few pastries that sat in my grandma’s vintage cake plate on my counter and we grew from there.   Bakers have baked in their own kitchens and brought their goods to Plume; Julie from Flour Girls Bakeshop, Brandon from BK Bakery and Brooke & Nick from GOPO.  I’ve also had bakers who’ve baked here in my kitchen,  Natasha from Mama T’s Cupcakes.  I’m thankful for all of the time those souls poured into Plume and I know many of you are too!

Last year, about the same time I started thinking and dreaming about the expansion that would take place at Plume in 2018, a few things became really clear.   I love it most when my shop is full of people.   That happens most often when we’re hosting a fun event, baby or bridal shower or workshop.    Having delicious and unique goodies & beverages to offer during those events is important.   Having consistent offerings in our bakery case for walk-in customers each week is important.    Having made from scratch goodies and treats at Plume is important.    It’s part of  the Plume “experience” and something that continues to establish Plume as a destination spot and not just a place to shop.

As much as I’ve loved all of the bakers I’ve worked with…these bakers have never really worked for me.  Meaning they’re not my employees…and at the end of the day, I don’t own their business.   They’ve been gracious enough to share their talents and bring their goods to Plume for you to enjoy.   But my scope of control has always been limited.   When life happens,  goals change, people move away,  there are new dreams to pursue that don’t include baking at Plume…there’s transition.   Each time we’ve transitioned over the last 4 years has been a challenge.    A challenge for customers who’ve grown to love something that then becomes unavailable.    A challenge for me to replace business that’s no longer in the shop.   Finding something new, pouring into someone else’s business, marketing it, creating demand, then losing it again.

An outsider might look at this and think…my goodness…why can’t this girl keep anyone around?  And while yes, I’ve made my share of mistakes through this learning process, for the most part these transitions take place simply due to the ebb and flow of life and all it’s demands.  The reasons they’re each no longer at Plume are different and understandable in each circumstance.    At the end of the day, Plume is my dream.  It’s my baby.  It’s not theirs.   I can’t keep expecting that there’s always going to be another business or baker out there that is going to want to jump on board.  I can’t keep taking a step forward and 2 steps backwards.  Building up.  Losing.  Rebuilding.   I’m tired.

This is by no means a pity party.  Things are good here.  I’m just being transparent about what it’s like to be a small business owner in the business model I’ve chosen.   Yes, I choose this business model…I love it.  I love working with makers and bakers and finders.   But when Natasha told me last year that her dream was to pursue a career in music  and she wasn’t going to be able to continue baking at Plume…I knew it was time for me to take the next step.  God was telling me it’s time.   Have courage.  You know what you need to do.

Enter…my pink vintage stove.

When I first discovered Patty’s Place her pink vintage oven was nowhere to be seen.   It was in storage in the unit next to Patty’s Place (what is now my Gathering Room).   I had already started dreaming about what it would look like to have my own shop there…where I would put certain things etc.  Early on, Connie, my landlord mentioned to me that there were lots of other things in storage next door and took me over so I could check it out.  There sat this vintage pink 1950’s oven and fridge.  When I saw them, along with a vintage greeting card cabinet sitting beside them, I saw the vision for my entire shop. 

When I first opened, the stove and fridge were the backdrop behind my main counter.  The sinks were already there so it took on the natural feel of a kitchen.   It made me feel like I was welcoming guests into my home.   The fridge was working in that space and  held all our drinks but the oven was just there for looks.   It held my old Bunn coffee maker.

You can see the greeting card cabinet to the right also…

These pictures were taken a couple days before my opening day in 2013.   When we expanded into Unit A in 2014, (Original Plume is Unit B…my new expansion this year is Unit C) the oven and fridge moved to the Gathering Room, Julie moved Flour Girls in, we added the bakery case and the back counter took on its current configuration.  I was a little sad to lose the pink oven from behind the counter but also excited because in the Gathering Room we actually had a 220 outlet in there so we could plug it in and it worked!   It just sat there looking cute as a backdrop for baby and bridal showers until Natasha brought Mama T’s to Plume in 2015 and she started using it to bake the cupcakes she was selling at Plume.

(For those who don’t know, bakers who bake at home can sell cakes and other baked goods “person to person” under what is called “cottage laws”.   It’s like when you go to the farmers market you know you’re most likely buying food and goods that were prepared in someone’s home…not from a commercially inspected kitchen.   Or when you have a friend who does wedding cakes or cookies etc.  However, retailers and other third parties are not allowed to resell anything that has not been baked in a commercial kitchen.  So even though Natasha had been baking and selling her cupcakes from home, I couldn’t sell them unless they were baked at Plume or another commercial kitchen.  As humble as our kitchen is…it is approved as a commercial kitchen and she was willing to bake there).

In December this past year after Natasha finished baking at Plume, my friend Marcey helped me test and develop some of our own cupcake recipes.   It was crazy and I honestly don’t know what I was thinking or how I thought I had the time to take on baking cupcakes during my busiest, most critical month of the year, but I just kept hearing in my head…”It’s time!”   Before I knew it I was in my pantry rooting around for my flour, baking soda and some eggs to test a Chocolate Cake Recipe Marcey had sent me.  Then Marcey was able to rearrange her schedule and help me finish out our Christmas season.  Even that happening was a sign to me that God was making the way.

We launched our holiday menu with Cherry Almond, Simply Vanilla, Simply Chocolate & Chocolate Peppermint.   They were baked in the pink oven and they were a hit!

In January, Marcey “retired” and I retired Chocolate Peppermint and launched three new flavors.

I was on my own to organize and fine-tune the process to make it possible to hire and train someone else to bake the cupcakes Marcey and I had created.    Our cupcakes at Plume are still baked in that pink vintage oven.  It means they are super small batch.  We literally mix one batch at a time.  We can only fit one cupcake pan in the oven at a time to make sure they bake evenly.   In the beginning, we only had one rack.  The second rack had been lost somewhere over the years.  A while back Natasha’s business was growing and she was struggling to keep up due to the limitations of the oven and I remember I scoured all the used appliance shops in Columbia for a second rack so she could bake more trays at once.  I was so excited to find one that fit!  I remember coming back to the shop victoriously to surprise her.  Unfortunately even with the second rack, we’re still not able to bake more than one tray at a time if we want them to bake evenly and turn out well.

I have to say once I’m there at 6am, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent baking.   To me it’s a very personal thing.   It’s part of my story.  It’s part of the beginning.    I saw that oven and I saw a vision for a shop.    A piece of history and a lot of love goes into these cupcakes.

As much as I love that pink oven, it’s cupcake baking days are probably numbered.  We’re on the hunt for  a new one that will allow us to bake more efficiently.  I’m not kidding when I say it’s hard  for me to let go of and I know how incredibly ridiculous that sounds and what a terrible idea it is to try to build a profitable business on a bunch of emotional nostalgia…but I also have to believe these are the things that give Plume heart.  These are the things that make it special.   So I’m sure at some point the pink oven will find its way out onto the sales floor and be the back drop for a cute little kitchen display of some sort…but I’m thankful I’ve had the chance to use it.

And I’m also so thankful for these 2 girls.

After baking by myself the entire month of January…I found these girls…sent straight from Heaven!!  Say hello to our new Plume Bake Shoppe team, Allison & Emilia. Not many high school girls have the grit to come bake at 6am for three hours before they head off to school.   They’re sweet and smart and cute and fun and go-getters and a joy to get to know. I  them. I hope you get to meet them in person soon too.

I’ve been training them for the last couple weeks and they’re doing great.   This past weekend we made these dark chocolate raspberry cupcakes.   Dark chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream icing…topped with a fresh raspberry and a hand-piped dark chocolate heart.  (Yes, I made these myself!)   I think the girls saw a different side of me that morning as I was jumping up and down about how cute these were when we were finished.   And, I love this dark chocolate recipe even more than our traditional chocolate recipe and might just have to switch all our chocolate cupcake creations to this one.

And these…Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese icing.  I call them Strawberry Cheesecake.  I also hand-piped the little “loves” out of pink chocolate and was ga-ga over them.  One customer came in that day and literally bought every single one of the 2-dozen we had, straight out of the case for an event she was on her way to.  I’m anxious to hear from her how she liked them.

If you need a treat for Valentines Day you still have time to order our Valentine Cupcake Samplers.

Each assorted dozen of our mini cupcakes will contain the following flavors:  Dark Chocolate Raspberry, Cherry Almond, Strawberry Cheesecake, Simply Chocolate and Simply Vanilla.    $19.50 Per dozen.

Reserve yours for pickup here.

If you already have Valentines Day taken care of, no worries.  We’ll be here every Thursday – Saturday when you stop by.  You’ll find a bakery case full of made-from-scratch, full-of-love cupcakes at Plume every week.    I can’t wait to share one with you over the counter soon.