Sweet and Salt (And Sometimes Pepper)
A Q&A WITH SALTADENA'S WEDDING CAKE BAKER
By : Hailey Hoffman | Photographed by : Jessie Bennett Photography
Nancy Stuart spends her days caring for her rambunctious 2-year-old and spends her nights baking away, creating birthday, graduation, and, of course, wedding cakes in her home kitchen in downtown Bellingham. Stuart, 31, worked in a Whole Foods bakery in Seattle prior to moving to Bellingham two years ago and starting her own bakery, Saltadena. Stuart, a Michigan native, named her business after her street back home, South Altadena, where she made her first cakes. She specializes in modern Swiss meringue buttercream cakes with watercolor designs, pastel colors, and floral accents.
How did you get your start? As a kid, I really did like being in the kitchen, whether it was baking cakes or all sorts of things. I was always really into art and drawing and just creating. I found the perfect thing where I could just marry them together.
What is your specialty? My stand-up flavor would be my salt-and-pepper cake, hands down. The cake itself is chocolate, but the buttercream is salt and pepper. Every person I’ve known to try it, unless they were lying to me, was very pleasantly surprised. If you think about when you’re putting pepper on your food, it’s not like you only taste pepper. It’s just to enhance and act as a balance, to give a little depth to it.
Do you have any cake baking disasters or especially stressful orders? I had one wedding and my daughter was up all night. She would not go to sleep, and it was an order with a bunch of cupcakes. I really do think kids sense when you need them to be sleeping and away from you the most, and then they feed off that. It was at the beginning of the year, so I was thinking to myself, “Is this what my season is going to be? Is she just going to terrorize me the whole time?”
What is your favorite wedding cake you’ve made? The one that always stands out to me is a cake I did in June. It had a gray layer, a teal layer, and a white layer, and I was able to work with a good friend who is a florist. It ended up being a dark-blue cake with contrasting orange and yellow and pink flowers. It was just such a statement piece, even though the actual technique was simple. I’m really, really, really into color contrast. It’s one of the things in life that gets me most excited.
What’s your favorite part about creating wedding cakes? I really love when I connect with people. When I’m able to meet a couple and we get along really well, and we go back and forth a lot and even sometimes talk after the wedding. I love that so much. I can make even a little bit of an impact on someone’s life through a cake, of all things.
Do you have any advice for the bride and groom when making cake decisions? In general, with any vendor, you get what you pay for. I don’t expect everybody to understand why a cake may cost up to $10 a serving, but when you’re ordering from someone who is using higher-quality ingredients and they’re taking more time working on a design, you have to realize that you’re paying the premium for premium quality. That’s really true for any vendor.