April 1 2009 12:00 AM

Fully baked: Bake N’ Cakes offers a world of sweets with a local twist

You can keep your fresh roses, new car, cup of coffee and sizzling barbeque smells. Those are certainly heavenly, but pale when stacked up against a bakery full of warm cupcakes, tortes and freshly squeezed frosting. And for the best local olfactory — and tastebud — experience with baked goods, one need look no further than Bakes N’ Cakes on Kalamazoo Street.

The bakery’s display case, which spans the entire store, is filled with freshly baked cupcakes, tortes, cookies and croissants. A photo of Tom and Lupé Izzo, standing beside their Bake N’ Cakes wedding cake, hangs above the candles and wedding cake tops on one wall and more than a dozen awards, medals and trophies line the rest of the store. It’s no wonder the family-owned bakery has been flourishing since it opened in 1983.

"We have a good reputation in this town," said Will Johnson, who owns Bake N’ Cakes with his wife, Mary, and their son, Jeff Johnson. "For the way the economy is right now, we have been doing really well."

Twenty-six years ago Bake N’ Cakes operated in a space approximately onethird its size with one working oven. Now, it is a thriving well-oiled machine and has an oven larger than a Smart Car and a separate wing for cake decorating and other sugary finishing touches.

In addition to the bakery’s expansion, Bake N’ Cakes can attribute its success to a dedicated team of bakers and cake decorators who seem to love each other just as much as they love baked goods.

"The people I work with are amazing," said Emily Kelly, who has been decorating cakes at the bakery for three years. "Especially Morgan and Jeff and Will. They have made me a part of their surrogate family."

Morgan Yates, Bake N’ Cakes store manager and head cake decorator, will celebrate 12 years at the bakery in August.

"I love working here," Yates said. "I love the people I work with and I love our customers."

Yates said she would do almost anything to keep her loyal customers happy. And she does.

Bake N’ Cakes always closes for one week in January to give employees a break after the rush season of baking between Halloween and New Years, Yates said. However, for the past 10 years, Yates has come in to work during her vacation to bake a cake for a child whose birthday falls during that week. Because everybody should have a birthday cake, she said.

"We have regulars that have been coming in since we’ve been in business," Will Johnson said. "Once they taste our product they keep coming back."

The only thing sweeter than Bake N’ Cakes’ gourmet cupcakes in 14 mouthwatering flavors is its commitment to supporting the local community.

"Anything we need or buy, we go to local businesses first,” Johnson said. “And if they don’t have it, then we’ll go elsewhere.”

One of the bakery’s many efforts to support the Lansing area can be seen behind the counter next to the cappuccino machine. The bakery began selling Paramount Coffee, which is based in Lansing, about five years ago. Another way Bake N’ Cakes gives back to the community is by donating cakes to local events like the annual Mid-Michigan Women’s Expo in Lansing and by working closely with Sparrow Hospital.

“Whenever a young kid gets off (chemotherapy) we make them a cake that says, ‘Happy off Chemo,’” Yates said.

While these gestures are not selfish, they definitely help business, Johnson said.

"We cut up about 4,500 pieces of cake to take to the Women’s Expo in Lansing and a bunch of people stopped here afterward and cleaned us out,” he said.

Michelle Jelinek, who works at East Lansing High School, stopped in to Bake N’ Cakes for the first time Monday to get a birthday cake for her brother.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about this place and I’ve always wanted to come in,” Jelinek said. “I’m very happy with the service. That’s a big deal to me.”

While the friendly customer service was enough to make Jelinek a Bake N’ Cakes supporter, many people need a little more incentive. Incentive in the form of a gourmet cupcake or sugar cookie, that is.

"They just fly out of this place," Will Johnson said.

Like the majority of his customers, Johnson said he never gets bored of the bakery’s goods.

"I’m the official taste tester," he said. "I eat it and find out if it’s OK to sell, and 99.9 percent of the time, it is."

Bake N’ Cakes

E. Kalamazoo St., Lansing 6:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday- Thursday 6:30 a.m.
– 8 p.m. Friday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday Closed Sunday (517) 337-2253 www.bakencakes.com

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