By MADOLINE MARKHAM
If you haven’t been experienced the baby bite, be forewarned. These round, bite-sized cakes, laden with the perfect amount of icing, will have you making regular trips to Pastry Art Bake Shoppe. The bakery opened a location between Kohl’s and Mellow Mushroom in the Inverness Corners shopping center earlier this year.
“We have seen people in cars outside our Homewood location who will eat all six baby bites they just bought, and then some will come back for more to take home,” co-owner and pastry chef Carol Gregg said.
The baby bites, along with cakes and cupcakes, are baked fresh daily, and there are seldom any left at the end of the day. The baby bites sell for $1.25 each or $14.50 a dozen.
“You just have to eat one to get your sugar fix,” Gregg said. “It’s almost guilt free.” For many, the caramel, red velvet and chocolate cakes taste exactly the way their grandmother used to make them. Pastry Arts also receives accolades for the turtle and French vanilla flavors served daily, as well as those you can only catch one day a week. On Tuesdays, there’s chocolate espresso and coconut; on Wednesdays, marble and Italian cream; on Thursdays, vanilla lemon and strawberry; and on Fridays, carrot and vanilla lime.
Gregg’s husband and business partner, Dennis, recalls a “giant of a man” coming in one day and eating a baby bite. “Excuse me, ladies,” he said all of a sudden, “Would it jeopardize my manhood if I broke down and cried?”
The cakes and icing are made from scratch, and the only food dye used is in the their most popular flavor, red velvet. But what makes them so unbelievably good? “It’s a trade secret,” Gregg said. The only hints she gives are that it’s all about quality and consistency and that they use “specialty” pans to make the small, round baby bite cakes.
In fact, Gregg won’t even share her secrets with her bakers at Pastry Art. “The recipes are all in my head,” she said. She always mixes part of the recipe, and the bakers finish off the process and decorate them. She’s also constantly tweaking recipes to make better and experimenting with new flavors. “My wheels are always turning,” she said.
A couple of Carol’s favorite cake flavors are hummingbird, pumpkin and chocolate pepper, specialty flavors that can be ordered by request. By request you can also order a fruit-forward orange, lemon or key lime flavored cake and icing; chocolate chip-filled cake; chocolate peanut butter; or cake with piped in filling, like chocolate cake with raspberry filling.
Pastry Art is also well known for their weddings and specialty cakes, including specially decorated cupcakes, all made with the same cake and icing recipes as the baby bites. You can call either location to set up an initial consultation appointment. Many people will order just baby bites for a wedding with a cake topper on the stand or two small cakes with an array of baby bites. Their cheese coins, sold by the half pound ($9), are a popular addition to a groom’s table.
You can call in preorders for baby bites and cupcakes as well. The five main flavors are available in any quantity; daily and specialty flavors must be ordered by the dozen.
Gregg was an art major in high school and had dreams of becoming a medical illustrator, but she started a family after graduating college instead. It was her children who led her back into art, to use her sculpting talents to craft baby bites, cupcakes and cakes.
Gregg did part-time seamstress and secretarial work when her kids were growing up and baked cakes for her kids and their friends. Her daughter’s high school graduating class requested something different for a cake, something like a petit four, so Gregg came up with her own take on in what was to become the baby bite. From there, friends started requesting the bite-sized cakes for showers.
After tweaking her cake and icing recipes over the years, she started selling slices of cake in her sister-in-law’s downtown Birmingham restaurant, Cameo Café. The cakes became popular, and many people began to order whole cakes. After the café closed, the Greggs seized an opportunity to open their own shop in downtown Homewood five years ago.
The original idea was to be a bakery specializing in cakes, not necessarily baby bites, but the focus quickly changed when customers began to rave about the decadent little cakes. In fact, the baby bite name didn’t come about until after they opened. People had called them “cake bites,” “angel cakes,” “little pieces of heaven,” and all sorts of things, but it was “baby bites” that came to mind as a name and stuck.
Many customers who lived out Highway 280 had asked them to open a store near them. The Greggs knew they wanted to expand, and the Inverness Corners location seemed a good fit. The second location opened in early 2010. Gregg now spends most of her time at the 280 location and doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon.
“I am going to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore,” Gregg said. “My 9-year-old granddaughter wants me to do her wedding cake, and I don’t intend to stop.”
940 Inverness Corners 995-5855 Pastryartcakes.com
Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.