There's a new take on cake.
Pastry chefs have broken the boundaries of ascending, symmetrical layers festooned with filigrees of frosting. Sculptural forms are the new cutting edge in bakery craft, and the art has arrived in Wauwatosa.
The customer is queen, of course, and if you want your wedding cake to be traditionally adorned, then Signature Sweets, Tosa's newest entree into the realm of dessert, will be happy to oblige with a stunning stack.
But suppose you want your cake to look a little different. Say, for whatever reason, you want a cake that could easily be mistaken for a designer handbag, or for your torso, only more so (see pictures).
Signature Sweets, 7227 W. North Ave., opened Friday with a promise to prepare just about any personalized pastry your heart desires, for any special occasion.
Kimberly Hall and Nicole Bitter, partners in the venture, have a lot in common.
- One, they went to high school together in Greendale.
- Two, they both became self-taught pastry chefs.
- Three, this is the first business venture for either of them.
With their mutual friendship and interest in baking, and the backing of friends, family and the neighborhood, they've plunged in at the corner of West North Avenue and North 73rd Street.
In fact, for their grand opening Friday, the two produced a special "East Tosa" cake to recognize the support they've gotten.
"They have been very helpful in getting us in contact with everyone we needed in terms of licensing," Hall said. "They've been very, very welcoming."
Hall said that the business neither sought nor received any direct financial assistance in the form of grants or credits from the City of Wauwatosa but received help from the East Tosa Alliance and city staff in developing their business plan and getting off the ground quickly.
Col. Pops Popcorn occupied the storefront for seven years before announcing in August that it would be shutting its doors. That was just about the time Hall and Bitter started seriously looking for a location.
"I think in the last year we've been talking about it," Bitter said. "We've been talking about cakes for about the last three years.
"We came across this location by accident – we were looking at somewhere else – and we actually saw this had gone out of business just one or two weeks before, so we caught it before it had even gone on the market."
Neither Hall nor Bitter has had formal culinary training, but both have been baking for years.
"I've been doing this for about seven years," Bitter said. "For me, it was an obsession with cheesecakes. So, it started with that, but at the time, "Ace of Cakes" and different things were coming on television that just piqued my interest."
For Hall, it was "Just playing around at home, doing cupcakes for my husband for a fundraiser, and they were just so cute – and I was intrigued, and after that I was like, 'Oh my God, I can do this!'
"I started my venture on doing 3-D cakes shortly after."
Hall now crafts cakes that have to be seen to be believed, and perhaps cut to prove that they are not what they appear to be. But she and Bitter also create cupcakes, cookies and any other pastry prize that might delight.
With the name they've made for themselves, they've even filmed a segment for "Cupcake Wars," scheduled to premiere July 29 on the Food Network.
For now, though, their main focus is on cakes for occasions, and so hours are limited.
Signature Sweets is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. It is open by appointment only on Tuesday and Wednesday and is closed Sunday and Monday.
But the two are looking toward wholesale opportunities, and longer walk-in, retail opportunities are a possibility.
Ald. Jim Moldenhauer, representing their new home in the 1st District, was happy to welcome the new business on Friday.
"It's very creative and, I think, a good fit," he said. "And this relatively short turnaround on a vacancy just shows how much interest people have in being on North Avenue."