Interview with April Anderson, Owner of Good Cakes and Bakes
April Anderson, the owner of Good Cakes and Bakes, navigates the Detroit baking community with beauty, brains and talent. She obtained her bachelor’s of science from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA and received her master’s of business administration from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. With a curiosity and interest in exploring sophisticated recipes, she started a home-based baking business in 2008. She studied pastry arts and later graduated from Macomb Community College in 2013. After graduating D:Hive’s BUILD class, Anderson won over our hearts and tummies with her delicious baked goods. Now, Anderson bakes delightful creations with local, organic ingredients. Here’s the inside scoop on this native Detroit pastry maker.
What inspired you to start Good Cakes and Bakes?
I don’t know what really inspired me, but I’ve always liked baking. In 2010, I went back to school to study pastry arts at Macomb Community College. I knew I wanted to start a bakery in the city of Detroit upon graduation from school.
What’s your earliest memory of baking?
Well, to be honest, when I first tried my hand at baking, I used a cake mix. I was about 9 years old when I first started baking. It was just easy. The challenge for me at the time was baking from scratch and not using someone else’s recipe. Then, I got introduced to baker’s percentage when I was in formal baking school.
What is baker’s percentage?
Each ingredient in the recipe or formula is expressed as a percentage of the dominant ingredient. 100% of a recipe is flour – no ifs, ands or buts! Everything you add has to be subtracted from the 100%. This will help in selecting your use of either baking soda or baking powder with honey, milk or other ingredients that can be determined by the acidity of the cake. This helps us bakers easily convert our recipes for calculation purposes.
My greatest challenge so far has been pricing, because everything is organic and made from scratch. Many people are used to getting baked goods from grocery stores that traditionally use mixes because it tends to be cheaper for them to make. [At Good Cakes and Bakes], everything is from scratch as well as organic. So there are very few things I can find at wholesale prices because organic products are costly to purchase in large quantities. People who appreciate and really know the benefits of organics don’t really mind paying the fair prices here. It’s usually new customers used to buying a dozen cupcakes for seven dollars at a big chain box store. You can’t get a dozen cupcakes at that price here, but you will find a variety of quality cupcakes at a reasonable price.
What does being a Detroit business owner mean to you?
I find a lot of pride being a Detroit business owner as I was born and raised in the city. I also discovered a lot of challenges opening a business here. For example, square footage. Even though you’d think it was cheaper in the city, it’s starting to get comparable to similar spaces in some of the suburbs. Dealing with the city for permits and inspections also was a major challenge for me as a business owner. Everything is done on paper, and a lot of time and effort can be saved on both parts if it can be handled electronically. It also would help with accountability and process improvement on both ends. A lot of that is soon changing, and I’m excited as they are looking to do a one-stop streamlined process.
I used to think it was developing your own work hours, but that has been a mess for me. I realized I’m working longer and harder now that I’m working for myself. I find it rewarding to develop my own blueprint of how I want to effectively run a business. It has been challenging for me working and properly managing my time.
What is a typical day like for you?
My day starts at 1:45 a.m. I’m up and baking by 2:15 a.m. I bake until 7:00 a.m. I’m here at the shop until 8:00 p.m. Some days I get to go home and rest for two hours when my mother volunteers to help around the shop, but usually she will step in if I need to step out for meetings, workshops, community events or to shop for ingredients. So my typical day is a 21-hour workday, five days a week.
How do you hope to see your bakery grow within the next year?
Within the next year, my goal is to have an oven on location at Good Cakes and Bakes. I’d love for customers to enjoy the smell of baked goods as they enter the bakery shop. Everything is baked within a five-hour window in the morning at another location. We’d also love to offer our space as a community kitchen where other food entrepreneurs could make use of the kitchen space for food testing as well as food prepping.
We’ve all had a baking fail, or in my case, several. Can you describe your worst baking disaster?
The first time I baked cupcakes with real fruit inside. I personally don’t eat strawberries and didn’t realize they retain so much water when rinsed. The moisture from the strawberries turned my batter brown. It was pretty disgusting, it smelled weird and just looked strange. After a taste test, my wife Michelle confirmed they were not very good. Suggestion: Just dampen a paper towel and wipe them clean. Avoid soaking strawberries if you plan on baking with them.
I had a friend who made a special request for me to bake a coconut-walnut-strawberry cupcake. Although I created it for him, I brought a few to the shop and a few customers gave it rave reviews and actually loved it. I also make hummingbird cupcakes. It’s a southern treat only served on Mother’s Day. I make a banana-based recipe with coconuts, pineapples and walnuts. Again, people really fell in love with this cupcake. It’s so good that I’ve decided to serve it every Thursday. I even have a faithful hummingbird cupcake buyer. He comes every Thursday looking for his hummingbird cupcakes.
Are there any new things on the horizon?
Well, we’re looking to launch, as mentioned before, a community kitchen on-site. In the interim, we are currently working with local food entrepreneurs to offer their goods from our location. For example, C’mon to my House is currently offering hot panini from our location throughout the summer. If any business owners are interested in serving food from Good Cakes and Bakes, they can contact me directly. In addition, this summer we are serving ice cream and will have extended hours. Last but not least, we are looking to host a weekly spoken word session at our location. If anyone is looking to spearhead this project, please get in contact with me. For other weekly surprises, just stay connected with us online or drop into the shop.
How can our readers stay connected with you as well as the bakery?
Well, they can visit our website or connect with us on Facebook, @GoodCakes313 on Twitter, and @goodcakes_andbakes on Instagram! Good Cakes and Bakes is currently located at 19363 Livernois Ave in Detroit. The shop offers organic baked goods – and even vegan ones. If you’re not interested in the baked goods, come enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea, or grab a quick lunch bite. A few food entrepreneurs service the shop with great lunch finds including wraps, salads and cold sandwiches. During the summer, you can drop in and enjoy a delicious ice cream cone or hot Panino! See you on Sunday’s at Sunday Brunch on the Ave., a bi-monthly brunch at the bake shop. Enjoy Sunday Brunch on the Ave. June 15th and June 29th from 11am-3pm. A special Father’s Day gift will be offered during brunch on June 15th.