Last month, Katie Anne Lambert moved her 9-month-old pastry shop, Mitten Raised Bakery, from a small-ish space in Okemos to a 2,800-square-foot storefront in East Lansing’s Brookfield Plaza. She didn’t have much of a choice — her old lease was up and the building is slated for demolition — but the move fortuitously positions her across the street from MSU, unofficially the largest consumer of caffeine and free Wi-Fi in Mid-Michigan.
Lambert’s business has already become a popular favorite for pastry lovers for its inventive creations with equally memorable names, such as Unicorn Dreams, a sprinkle cookie sandwich filled with tropical fruit frosting, and I’ve Got Worms, a mini-mud pie bedecked with gummy worms. As she prepares for the second stage of her business’ life, she took some time to talk about her philosophy behind baking and what’s coming out of the oven next.
What sparked your interest in baking? I’d always done it when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I was a little older that I knew this is what I wanted to do — and definitely before the first episode of “Cake Boss” aired. I just love being able to experiment with different flavors and ideas to see what crazy things I can come up with to take people out of their comfort zones.
Did you formally study baking? I went through the hospitality program at Grand Valley State University, but rather than going to culinary school, I jumped right into kitchens and internships while I was getting my degree. Most of what I’ve learned is from trial and error and from the chefs I studied under in Colorado and Hawaii who gave structure to my work.
What’s your approach when it comes to baking?
Make it fun. You never know if something will taste good unless you try. The whole mission I had when we opened Mitten Raised was to bring some of my dessert experience back to Michigan. But we’re still a cake bakery at our core, and I still love seeing the pictures from customers after their kiddos bang fists into their first smash cakes. It’s awesome.
What are the differences between Mitten Raised pastries and those you find at other places around town?
We try to rotate flavors and create different flavor profiles weekly. For example, this week we have mango- and green tea-flavored frostings. We still have all the staple items that are a treat for adults and pair great with a morning coffee, but also have fun stuff that light up their kids’ eyes too.
How do you come up with your pastry ideas?
I try to think of one main flavor and then build around that. I create all these flavors based off things I love to eat or crazy things that I want to try that I cant find around here. And I tell my staff all the time to bring me their ideas – they’re awesome and they’re really great about pushing the envelope.
How do you come up with those names?
I’m just goofy and it’s a fun way to express myself.
What kind of work did you have to do in the new space to make it suit you?
It was certainly a labor or love. We wanted to make it “ours” and create a comfy place. We painted the walls to brighten it up, replaced tabletops with reclaimed wood, changed the lighting and added a couch and chars for more of a welcoming environment.
What’s next for Mitten Raised? We have some awesome specialty coffee and a full espresso coming later this month. We’re working on some healthy lunch options to add to our menu. We’re also currently looking at Grand Rapids for a second location, but we’ll need to establish ourselves here first.
What’s your favorite part about running your business?
I love seeing the reactions people have to my creations. Having fun playing with color is always at the top of my mind, and if you walk into my store, I think that’s easy to see. I go into a lot of bakeries that have awesome stuff, but they feel really stiff. I want to walk that line where every trip is an experience.
Going ‘Green’ While Green Dot Stables is closed for flood repairs, a skeleton crew from the recently opened burger bar will host a pop-up dinner from 5-9 p.m. this Saturday, March 10, at the Allen Neighborhood Center, 1611 E. Kalamazoo St. in Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood. It gives a chance for local diners who have already become addicted to the creative slider menu a chance to get their fix, with all proceeds going to benefit staff who are out of work until the Lansing Township restaurant is back up and operational.
“The pop-up is an opportunity for us to engage the community and our staff under less than stellar circumstances,” said Green Dot owner Jacques Driscoll. “We’re facing a bit of a tough time, but many others have been hit worse. This event gives us a chance to get out there, have a little fun and give back to our hard-working staff, who we hope will be able to come back when we reopen those doors.”
Driscoll said he’s hoping to reopen within four weeks.
Mitten Raised Bakery 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday 1331 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing (517) 580-3647, mittenraised.com