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Feb. 18, 2021

Cakes, Cinnamon Buns and Baked Goods with Christel Hill

Cakes, Cinnamon Buns and Baked Goods with Christel Hill

In this episode I sit down with Christel to talk about her amazing baked goods. I first heard of Christel when she baked a birthday cake for me last year and it was by far the most amazing cake I've ever had. We cover a variety of topics related to baking and her business. 

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Transcript
Coffee Breath Conversations:

Hey everyone, Russell here from Coffee Breath Conversations. And this episode is a continuation of my small business series I've been doing, highlighting small businesses around Prince Albert that may not be getting the media attention that they deserve. So without further ado, let's get started. Welcome back to another episode of Coffee Breath Conversations. I'm your host, Russell Barton. And today I'm with crystal Hill, from sweet sells cakes and more located in Prince Albert Saskatchewan, continuing the series on small businesses. Krista, welcome to the podcast. Thank you very much. So how long have you had the business for? I started as an actual business about three years ago or so I started doing cakes and stuff quite a long time before that. But the actual business is about three years and we've been in our current location for vote going on that we're going on a second year now.

Christel:

And locations done well for you. It really has. Yeah, we've got our front end going before it was just the custom cakes. But now we have the front end where we have lots of goodies available for people to grab. And then our custom stuff as well.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

What type of baked goods Do you offer here?

Christel:

Our biggest seller has been our cupcakes, we have a huge variety available every day. We also offer bread, cheese, cakes, and all kinds of other goodies that we can kind of come up with on a daily basis.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Now do you take your recipes specifically from any books? Or do you kind of experiment or

Christel:

my cupcake recipes, some is made up the top of my head. But my base recipes have all been something that I've tried and tested throughout the few years. And then a lot of our the recipes, I'll kind of go online, check out really good recipes, see what works for us and go from there.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Do you have any like secret recipes that are like under locking key,

Christel:

I won't share my cinnamon bun recipe. And my cake recipes are pretty tight to

Unknown:

how has COVID affected your business.

Christel:

It's affected a lot from the walk in traffic from the front end, when we first opened, we were really busy. And then COVID came we had to close our front end. But custom cakes kind of kept us going through while everyone was locked down. And then as we've reopened, just things are slowly starting to expand again. But yeah, it's a little bit of a hit. We don't have our finance sitting on right now. But eventually.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So when I was talking to people about the episode that I was going to be doing with you, I had a lot of people saying that your cakes and that your sweets were the best in town, and that they were saying nothing but excellent things. So how does one build up that type of reputation?

Christel:

I think from making sure that my products are quality from the very beginning, I wanted things to not only look good, but to taste good. That was I had to have a good taste in cake. I didn't want just you know, things to look really good. So I think that was a big part. And from there it was word of mouth and it's just kind of kept on spiraling. Now you said part of your business was custom cakes. That's kind of how it started. That's my baby. I'm my custom cakes book six, eight weeks in advance right now. They range in sizes and prices like all over the place anything from something that's just tiny for a couple of people all the way up to hundreds of people for weddings or other special occasions. So what made you want to get into baking as a career? At one point, it was a hobby. And then I just kind of had a dream of having a store and it just kind of spiraled and snowballed before my eyes. I don't think I specifically planned on this being a career I had lots of other aspirations, but it suited and it just kind of took off it. I guess went in with my artsy fartsy nature.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So did you go to school or is it all just been self taught?

Christel:

I'm 100% self taught. I actually I hated being in the kitchen when I was younger. And now I'm here full time.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So you didn't watch YouTube videos or anything like that?

Christel:

A few YouTube when I very first started I had a Wilton cookbook, cake decorating book and basically I just kind of learned on the fly. There's a lot of trial and error through the years. But I've learned how to manipulate the products I guess and go from there. So

Coffee Breath Conversations:

what makes a really good cake like you hear of cakes, like you go to Dairy Queen and you get a cake there. You go to co op you get a premade cake there. And those are your generic cakes but what makes a really great cake that people keep coming back for more.

Christel:

I think time attention and money Quality. I don't use the fancy fancy ingredients, they don't have to be expensive. But they have to be put together, right? And the time put in, and the time involved. Just makes for a really good good cake. I think just, I mean, grandma made a really good cake without having super fancy stuff. Right. So that was kind of the theory behind it.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So there's a lot of love that goes into your cakes. Oh, absolutely. What are some more popular themes for cakes that that you make?

Christel:

I do a lot of kids cakes. So things baby start cocoa melon Paw Patrol, I've unicorns, I've done them, I could do them in my sleep. I think my babies the things that I absolutely love are doing 3d cakes. So where they're actually carved out, I've done a roast, I've done the steak, things that you're not expecting. And those are the fun ones that I absolutely love doing.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Oh, it's kind of like Netflix or they got those those shows what's called nailed it. Yep. But you make the good one,

Christel:

I make the good one.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

You make the one that the that they're trying to emulate?

Christel:

Yes, those are the ones.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

And what type of difficulty level are those compared to your traditional kind of layer cake.

Christel:

They can be a lot more difficult, but at the same time I enjoy them more. So then it's kind of a toss up, I guess, right?

Coffee Breath Conversations:

With these 3d cakes, they look really really complicated to make. How does one even begin to put together a cake like that.

Christel:

You have to know your product, you have to know what you're working with. You have to understand your cake and your buttercreams your fondant. You just kind of learn to work with shapes. So I don't really see a roast I see cylinder shape. And then I can go from there and add in all the details. I love looking at the details on them from the lines and how they might actually look kind of thing. So making it pop to life.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Shear kind of like an artist in a way. But instead of just being a canvas. It's like a mixture of a canvas with also a like sculpting,

Christel:

basically. Yeah, the cakes are my canvas. So I've got I paint on them. Just like I would have regular Canvas except them using edible paints type thing and yeah, definitely, definitely art.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Have you ever made a cake and been so impressed by it that you didn't end up selling it?

Christel:

No, they always end up going. But I have a lot of people that don't ever want to cut them. But that's half the fun too.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So I saw a cake on one of those TV shows where it was like they made it look like a pinata. And when you open it up it was actually full like Smarties and stuff like that.

Christel:

Yes. Yeah.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So do you do cakes like that as well.

Christel:

I've done a couple of them more just the simple round ones type thing. But I any time someone asks me to do something like that, I'm all over it. So yeah,

Coffee Breath Conversations:

how long does a typical cake take to make

Christel:

cakes can take me anywhere from a couple of hours up to eight or 12 hours depending on what what's all going into it I just finished doing a cake that actually took me way longer than I planned. It was a whole bunch of little minion characters. So that took me probably a day and a half by the time I was finished and I didn't think it was going to take but an average cake from start to finish and probably about five hours depending on what it is.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Do you do a lot of traditional cakes as well like the wedding cakes, the ones where the kind of has the base that you build up on.

Christel:

I do a lot of different different style of cakes, I'll do basic, you know wedding cakes right here that type of a thing. cakes have changed a lot for weddings, especially with COVID a lot of people are opting just for a small simple cake and cupcakes. I'll do just like a slab cake similar to what you do in get from a grocery store. Except it's my cake and I'll decorate it a little bit differently. And we're also offering flavor cakes. So just a six inch round cake that just packed full of flavor and very simple design on it so then you kind of get your cake and eat it too.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So what type of different flavors I know that there's your typical your vanilla, your chocolate flavor your marble but what other types of flavors Can someone get in a cake?

Christel:

That's the fun thing with what I'm doing with the custom is I can do any flavor. I offer everything from strawberry lemon butter, if you can. I'll do rainbow color inside Oreo like a cookies and cream, tons of different fillings. Anything from a tart lemon curd, strawberry, my raspberries really good. All kinds. Anything that I don't have I'm always willing to experiment and add to

Coffee Breath Conversations:

do you do apprenticeships or anything do you train new bakers on how to bake cakes.

Christel:

I've got a couple that I've had in just various staff that I've slowly started to train they've had end up having to, you know, different other things that they've pursued. beyond that. I'm looking at bringing in some more staff here just to handle the workload. And yeah, I'll definitely train so. Oh, wow. So

Coffee Breath Conversations:

you doing really well for yourself?

Christel:

It's it's going very well. I've been turning down a lot of business just because I can't keep up.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Well, good for you.

Christel:

Thank you.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

That's what happens when you have a good quality product. Right,

Christel:

exactly.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

You mentioned that your customers really enjoy the cupcakes.

Christel:

Yes.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So what type of cupcakes do you do? And why do you think that there's a particular focus on them?

Christel:

There's a cupcake craze that kind of went through, and they've got places like crave and Saskatoon that does does cupcakes. Here, we offer so many different varieties and different butter creams with them as well. We change up daily, so then you never know exactly what you're going to get. It's kind of however we feel. We keep things like cookies and cream on hand and a chocolate espresso. To try and keep things like carrot cake. We had something with like strawberry shortcake, cherry cheesecake, red velvet. People absolutely love seeing those flavors. We make them nice, looking good. It's a quick pick me up in the afternoon, rather than going and grabbing a chocolate bar somewhere and get a delicious cupcake instead.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

I've got to keep the glucose levels going.

Christel:

Exactly.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Now I heard with other kind of food products that the first thing you actually taste with is your eyes. What it's going to taste like before you actually taste it.

Christel:

It's completely visual, especially with the cupcakes if you've got caramel dripping off people or you just automatically know that it's going to taste good. I should add in we did do a dill pickle cupcake, and a dill pickle cupcake with peanut butter butter cream on them. And people came just to try it. And some people said that that's an absolute comfort food for them. So it was kind of interesting.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

I wouldn't have guessed I wouldn't guess that, hey,

Christel:

it's not something I would have gone for. But it is an interesting one. And people actually like it. So yeah.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Nice. Now knowing that visual draws people's eyes, it draws people in and draws them to purchase what are what are some kind of general rules about visual that that people would want to follow if they were going to make their own kind of at home.

Christel:

I don't know if there's anything particular other than just make it look good and make it appetizing. If you're going to skip out on the buttercream it's not going to look so good. Just a tiny bit of this little bit of extra caramel or fudge will go a long ways.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Like if someone was to be starting out kind of they want to get a kind of career they want to start baking at home I know that some people you know they want they later on in life they decide they want to take up a hobby and that sort of thing. What sort of tips could you offer them?

Christel:

My biggest suggestion would be to play with your flavors. Make sure that your cake bass and whatever is is good tasting. You don't have to have a bunch of fancy equipment to start out some basic patterns and reach out to someone I've talked to a few people that are you know, just wanting to start and I have no problem giving advice you know via messenger or whatever. Just start simple. You don't have to go complicated don't bite off more than you can chew so to speak.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Does your company deliver around Prince Albert or is it pickup?

Christel:

Right now it's pickup only just because for lack of staff we're not able to always go out but we are sometimes able to accommodate deliveries.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Now besides your cupcakes, we talked about that and besides the cakes, is there another product here that you would highly recommend people try

Christel:

my cinnamon buns. Like I had some stickers for a while that said best buns and Prince Albert. So that's that's definitely one of my other red babies too. So

Coffee Breath Conversations:

makes up a good cinnamon bun. I know. I know you got to have lots of the kind of the caramel. The caramel itself won't make a good cinnamon button. So

Christel:

good bass bread recipe or the bread portion of it. And definitely lots of glue in the middle.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Now a couple people have asked a few questions online that they would they wanted me to ask during the interview. So do you have gluten free options?

Christel:

I do offer gluten free. Typically we try and keep a few gluten free cupcakes on hand in the front. But otherwise I asked that people custom order them just any of the gluten free products I can do cinnamon buns, cupcakes cakes, along with at Christmas time. All the tray stuff that I offer is also available on gluten free.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

And someone had also asked about lactose free.

Christel:

I can offer the dairy free as well. So I can actually do gluten free dairy free egg free soy free.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

That sounds a lot more complicated than just your regular baking though.

Christel:

It is a little more complicated. For the most part end up using my same Similar recipes. But at the same time, I love the idea that, you know, people with dietary restrictions can also get goodies and enjoy them too.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So do people buy your products from all across Saskatchewan?

Christel:

They do. I've had my cakes actually can have traveled really well. And they travel. I've had them go down to yorkton I've actually had them go to Edmonton. I also have them go far up north and have just shipped a cake up on the airplane just this last week. So hopefully that one made it there safe and sound. being frozen helps a lot.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Yeah, it certainly is cold enough. Oh,

Christel:

definitely.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So what's the future for your business? Where do you see your business going?

Christel:

You know, my, my custom stuff is, is booking really, really well. Like I said, I'm booking probably a couple of months in advance. And it doesn't seem to be stopping anywhere. I think especially with COVID. Right now, people can't have the big parties. So they're opting for a fun cake and something a little extraordinary, which is is fun for me. The front ends were slowly growing, I think is you know, maybe the university starts opening again, we can have the students from there, which will help the front end government workers back would definitely help is a lot of people are working from home. So I think is everything one day opens up, then that will help on that end as well.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Do you have plans at all to open a second store in the future?

Christel:

I've thought about it. I don't know if it's feasible. But I would possibly like to have something you know, grow a little bit bigger. Just kind of continue on where we are at and see what the future holds. I

Coffee Breath Conversations:

think baking sweets, how is that different than other baking, what separates it from other types of cooking?

Christel:

I think the baking kind of brings us back to childhood. We remember getting having a cake at grandma's house or mum baking something special. And I think that's really, you know, it's homey, it's comfortable. It's a little bit of a treat. So even when you're on a diet, you get one little treat, you're set to go.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So if you're gonna get a treat, you got to make it a high quality treat, right?

Christel:

Definitely. Definitely.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

If you had to bake for one person, a bake good. Who would you bake for and what type of baked goods would you want to bake for them?

Christel:

I think from if I was kind of taking from past experience, one of the most exciting cakes that I made was for a lady who turned 113 in Saskatchewan just to see her smile is a basket of roses and she was just beyond herself. That's the reaction I like that kind of brought joy to me as well as her so he baked a cake for me actually. I did

Coffee Breath Conversations:

I had no idea it was you At first my spouse I gotten this cake and it was actually like picture of me kind of podcasting and I thought what a great cake and then when we reached out to talk to you there my partner said to me well that's where I got your cake from and it was delicious cake It was probably one of the best I've ever had if not the best cake I've ever had

Christel:

yeah that was that was fun to put together

Coffee Breath Conversations:

and there was so much detail in it as well that's that's what really shocked me was just the level of detail do you do you have like a pencil for cakes or something like brusher

Christel:

I think for that I had actually painted at hand painted any extra details on there. Yeah, there's the you can get edible paints or edible kind of markers type thing but I'm pretty sure it painted on that one.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

The quality and it was amazing. It really was so that when I heard that it was your cake and I was going to be interviewing you I got really excited.

Christel:

Perfect.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

What's the most challenging cake you've ever had to bake?

Christel:

You know, that's a really good question. I've done five tier cakes wedding cakes without they're not really a challenge per se. I honestly don't know right off offhand.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

What is like buttercream and fondant? What are their roles specifically?

Christel:

So butter cream is your basic icing. I've do a couple of different kinds of butter creams. I do an American which is just a sweet better cream than I do in Italian marang which is a lot less sweet. It's more butter based. Each person likes the different one. So if you asked me for just regular icing, it's different than you'd get at the other grocery store. I've used butter in there and it's made from scratch. fondant is a rolled icing. I use a higher quality so it tastes better than a lot of fun at that other people have had that's used for doing really smooth coatings on the the cakes. Most cakes I can transfer between I can make it with completely buttercream some things like details you need you need that fondant and it's it just looks professional and finished when you're done.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

I had heard that butter cream is the glue of cake.

Christel:

Pretty much Yep. The buttercream can be your can be a failing or it just holds everything together. You need that buttercream for the flavor. Otherwise you just get a dry cake.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Where do you see the the cake industry going? I've watched TV shows and especially during the lockdown, you know, you're browsing through Netflix and you kind of feel like baked goods if they've really grown the last few years from the traditional wedding cake to the traditional birthday cake. And sometimes he had a few sort of creations but now some of the stuff that they're coming out with, it's just absolutely amazing. Like the cupcakes and the and the cakes. They look like actual things that are put together like actual real world objects. Where do you think the trends are gonna go from here

Christel:

cakes just aren't what they used to be. I remember seeing pictures when I was two years old having a cake with whipped cream and little characters put on top. And from there, it just seems that they've changed year after year until now they are absolute pieces of art. And I think that's becoming more and more of a thing. Now. There's some amazing artists that I follow that do some fantastical cakes that I'm not even there yet. And I think just because it's art, and people are people like making a statement, I think you know when they can. And this really makes it stand out. Kids first birthday parties are now a big thing. They've got smash cakes, and they've got themes and everything. I had angel food cake when I was when I turned two year old. So I think they've come a long ways and I think they're going to continue to become a statement piece. I think

Coffee Breath Conversations:

it's interesting. I never really thought of it before cakes and sweets could could be a statement piece like that.

Christel:

Definitely.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

So if people want to find you, where can they find you?

Christel:

I'm at 922 Central Avenue in Prince Albert right beside fresh air experience.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

Are you on social media at all?

Christel:

I'm on Facebook and Instagram. I'm not really techie but I've got someone that helps me out with all of that. And we post daily with our what we have going on in our coolers from all of our cupcakes and cheesecakes and everything.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

I know I've seen some of the photos there and it's good thing I live at a town because if I was a little bit closer, I probably be driving in cars

Christel:

have you in here daily.

Coffee Breath Conversations:

I would be a daily consumer. I would Christelle. I really want to thank you for coming on to the podcast today to talk about your business and make me hungry because now I'm absolutely starving for sweets now, but

Christel:

you're very welcome.