When Lisa Kaufman arrives home from work, she will not make batter. Some of us relax in the evening by baking a cake or making cookies for our families. But, after a full day of baking at Desserts by Sara, this baker and business owner is spoiled by sugar.
And it's no wonder, when you consider that in any given day, they might produce from 14 to 2,000 desserts for regional conventions, and for retail customers. The operation is small. Formerly owned by Sara Andre, and sold to Lisa Kaufman in 2004, they operate with only 4 people on average.
As the owner, Lisa isn't just crunching numbers and taking orders; she rolls up her sleeves each day to get to work creating desserts like Praline Pumpkin Torte, Hazelnut Gateau, Chocolate Chip Pie, or Chocolate Decadence. In total, the menu touts at least 24 gourmet desserts, not counting the variety of mini pastries like: mini cream puffs, butter icebox cookies, German nut squares, and huckleberry cream cheese bars.
While the majority of the business caters desserts wholesale to restaurants, hotels, and conventions; there are still a percentage of customers who walk in to pick up birthday cake orders or ready-made desserts.
There is something old fashioned about the bakery, although they use all of the modern equipment. When you walk in, they have a coffee station set up. The dessert cases are filled with brownies, sugar cookies, and little tarts. A little girl entering the bakery with her mother would never forget the special desserts on display. Shaped cookies and brownies are a standard for a bakery; but it's the Old World quality of the desserts that makes each recipe special.
"Old World means that we use pure ingredients. We don't use shortening or unrefined sugars in the desserts. Everything is made with real butter and eggs, spices – more like what you'd expect from a French patisserie," says Lisa.
The most requested dessert is the Lemon Crème Torte which is made of mouthwatering moist yellowcake with thin layers of lemon curd and is iced with lemon crème and white chocolate shavings. That dessert retails for $28.95.
Most of the desserts for retail purchase are under thirty dollars and would make any hostess look like a star during the holidays.
The biggest challenge of the business is staying ahead of chefs ordering for restaurants or events who send in orders with a little less lead time than needed. The benefit for chefs working with Desserts by Sara is that they don't have to hire in-house pastry chefs. It cuts down on full-time staff in a restaurant, but allows the establishment to carry top quality desserts.
This is the busiest time of year for Desserts by Sara, with the most conventions, and retail orders. During the next couple of months you might see some of Lisa's family working in the business packaging cakes and cookies, or dipping treats in chocolate. Even her grandparents get involved to help hold down costs and get the product out the door.
If you are looking for healthier dessert fare for your holiday guests, you might consider the cream puffs. For those throwing all caution to the wind for parties, go jogging and then try the chocolate brownie mousse.
For an event where people will be standing and holding plates, you might consider the mini pastries like éclairs, or tarts. They are easy to eat without two hands and will be less messy for dressy occasions.
This holiday season, enjoy the sweets of the season, but for heaven's sake – don't do all the work yourself. Desserts by Sara brings professional polish to each dessert served making you look like one smart cookie.
All photos taken by Mermaid Jennifer at Desserts by Sara.