Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the baker

I loved the day my dad emailed me this photo from Maine – the lawyer and the baker. Seriously, had someone found a way to combine two opposites, the two things that consume my time?

So this story starts in Birmingham with what I affectionately call my bakery (but really belongs to Dennis & Carol Gregg who I love dearly and who need an entire post of their own, each)...My mom and I LOVE wedding cake. Really we just love cake. About a week after moving to Birmingham in September 2006, she and I stumbled upon a little bakery, not yet on the map. Best. Cake. Ever. I was starting my MBA at night at Samford and needed a part time job. I fell in love with the bakery and two days later I started work at Pastry Art Bake Shoppe. Four years later, my days there were the highlight of my week (well a tie with hanging out with the people at 1417 Badham Drive). Even now, after moving, and now practicing law, I long for a Saturday morning at the bakery decorating cupcakes – insanely busy and stressful – but what fun.

Pastry Art is all things mom and pop; just about nothing is commercialized. Antique glass pastry cases, a chalkboard menu, and café tables. People who you and your order by name. There’s a line that’s regularly out the door. Pastry Art is known for its Baby Bites – cake bites in all flavors – a brilliant creation. Rather than buying an entire cake in one flavor, you can have it all in these cake bites – literally any flavor. If you visit Birmingham, you must a have a Baby Bite – specifically French vanilla. And tell the Greggs I sent you.

The bakery opened its doors in April 2006, and when I started there were days we might see five customers. But on the day our caramel baby bites were featured in the Birmingham News, we never looked back. All days, all nights, all weekends making cake. I was a part of someone’s dream becoming a reality, and that, in my small world, is big. Then along came Southern Lady, Southern Living, the cover of Birmingham magazine, and various bridal magazines. I love that people book in January for the Christmas holidays. I love that Nick Saban has these on signing day – that I have monogrammed hundreds, likely thousands of “A”s on red velvet baby bites. I love that Jennifer Anniston and Sheryl Crow love our baby bites. Oh, and let’s not forget our hilarious television debut on Good Morning Alabama, where Carol and I did a how-to on Halloween decorations. Just prep for Cupcake Wars.

I’m generally a creative person but to be honest I’d never done much more than help my mom ice cupcakes (that we were convinced were the best ever!) I’m a bit assertive and on the first day, I’d redone the entire menu in chalk in “Jessica font.” To this day, it’s never been changed. And I dare the new girl to touch it. I was hired to be “general” assistant but that only lasted about two weeks. We were so busy I learned to decorate, and fast. And I loved it. Cupcakes, baby bites, all of it. And Birmingham is the first place I’ve lived where the general population loves and embraces monogramming to the extent I do. I was MONOGRAMMING baked goods by the dozens. Perfection.

After being accepted to law school, I had to go part-time, but I never gave up working at my Pastry Art - Saturday mornings & Christmas holidays. After every law school exam, I would leave school and go decorate a cake. Decorating and working alongside Carol was a great joy and stress reliever.

Out of this job spiraled a love for baking. About a month into law school, I lost a bet with two of my guy friends. My end of the deal – bring cookies to law school, wearing an apron. Make an idiot of myself. I left off the apron, but that particular professor still called me “Cookie Queen.” It was shortened to “Cookie,” but it stuck for three years of school. And I promise you, if I walked into her office right now, she’d be saying “Heeeey Cookie.” I made chocolate chip cookies for the school one or two times a week. I baked hundreds for her birthday party. Baked goods can get you somewhere in life – I think it might have helped me get a couple of A’s and likely how I became one of research and writing fellows my 2L year. Yep, baked goods open doors and can give you a reason to blog.


  1. Jess, I love it! And you! Hope you're doing well. We miss you in Birmingham; please come visit soon!

  2. It is about time for this blog to get started. Cannot wait to be able to see and hear stories as they come to you. Let the creativity flow onto "paper" for you.