Film Cakez Bakery owner Summer Howard doesn’t just bake cakes — she transforms them into stories.
Howard opened the bakery July 17 at the corner of Greenwich and High streets in Bethlehem. It was something she wanted to do ever since 2018, when she received certification in “cake mapping” through an online culinary course. The technique refers to projecting animation, videos, text, photographs and special effects onto plain, five-tiered cakes.
The trend was initially unveiled by Disney at the company’s Fairy Tale Wedding Expo in 2014 and later caught on with bakers worldwide, according to Phillymag.com. It’s also something Howard hasn’t seen many regional bakeries doing and hoped would set her apart from the competition, she said.
Howard was delayed in launching the business venture by the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t until the March 2020 shutdown lifted and space eventually became available that she was able to bring the vision to fruition.
The building Howard moved into was formerly housed by Charlie’s Bakery, which only lasted about a year in Bethlehem. Charlie Dalrymple, who also owns Charlie’s Bakery in Phillipsburg, tried his luck just before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He told lehighvalleylive.com Thursday he had to make a decision when winter sales dipped on which bakery to hold onto and felt Phillipsburg had more traffic.
Howard successfully tried her first “cake mapping” experience during her own 40th birthday party. She said guests were amazed and began asking, “Where is that coming from?” A good cake mapping event, Howard noted, is when the actual projector is out of view from guests.
“It’s something that’s so neat and so different,” Howard said. “It’s shocking and mouth dropping.”
Howard plans to launch the cake mapping service full-time at the bakery in early 2022.
Patrons interested in the service, however, should begin meeting with her now for a consultation prior to 2022 events. Meetings, which typically last a half hour, will include brainstorming the slideshow; choosing a cake (guests also can use faux cakes); and deciding upon colors, themes, and patterns for the table the cake will be placed on. Howard also can personally decorate the table, as well as create a separate dessert table, complete with other sweet treats for guests.
Cake mapping, which comes together through computer programming, can be as creative as the patron wants it to be. Think Mickey Mouse chasing Donald Duck for a child’s birthday party or fireworks exploding for a Fourth of July barbecue. There could be a slideshow of the relationship of a couple married for 25 years, starting from when they met until present day, for an anniversary surprise.
“I tell people it’s like watching a movie on a movie screen but the movie screen is a cake,” Howard said.
While the frosting of the tiered cakes for cake mapping needs to be plain, white, and usually made of fondant, guests can choose various flavors for the layers of actual cake. Cake flavors include vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, marble, red velvet and lemon. There’s also a wide variety of fillings, such as custard, fresh fruit or chocolate mousse.
For other special occasions and not cake mapping, cakes can be frosted with chocolate and have decorations or edible images on top. Single tiers can be formed into various shapes and sizes, including letters and numbers.
The bakery also has smaller, simpler nibbles for those on the run.
There’s a daily rotating array of stackable cookies, pastries, chocolate-covered pretzels and strawberries, scones and brownies. Howard also crafts “dessert jars,” which include such flavors as banana pudding, party confetti, chocolate mousse, and cookies ‘n’ cream.
Howard also changes things up with daily “featured” items patrons are starting to look forward to, she said. On Tuesday, she has “taco s’morez,” made of chocolate, marshmallow fluff, and graham crackers assembled to be eaten like a taco. On Wednesday, there are baked waffles. For Saturday, there’s “monkey bread,” which resembles a large, pull-apart cinnamon bun.
Baked goods range anywhere from a couple bucks for a small treat to upward of $400 for cake mapping and more intricate cakes.
Film Cakez Bakery’s menu additionally includes some breakfast items, available until 11 a.m. daily. These include egg sandwiches on choice of bagel or croissant, pancakes, and hash browns. There’s also flavored green and black tea; hot and iced coffee; fresh-squeezed lemonade; fruit smoothies; seasonal milkshakes; and such made-on-site juice concoctions as the “energy boost,” made up of celery, carrot and apple; and “mango delight,” made up of mango, pineapple and cranberry.
Howard has future plans to teach cake-making classes, in which the end result will be for participants to give someone the finished creation as a gift. Howard also bakes dog treats by request. She wants to add a handful of outdoor tables for snacking al fresco by summer 2022. Currently, there’s a small lounge area and a few counter seats inside.
Howard spent five years working in the pharmaceutical industry with baking as a side hustle. She has memories working alongside her late grandmother, Ollie Portee of Bethlehem, in her kitchen making treats for church fundraisers. When Portee died in 2006, Howard began selling treats made from her grandmother’s recipes to friends and family.
Baking, Howard said, not only was part of the grieving process in losing Portee but a way to continue her grandmother’s legacy. People would tell Howard how her treats tasted just like the ones Portee made for years. Howard said the best secret family recipes are for pineapple glaze and sweet potato spice.
Shortly after, Howard gained the nickname “Cakez” from friends and family. She said it was perfect for the name of the bakery. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at [email protected].