By Madoline Markham
Photos by Mary Fehr & Contributed
Long ago and yet not that long ago, fresh baked cookies and breads were served up in Big Sky Bakery in the main circle of Mountain Brook Village. Fast forward through the storefront’s life as a boutique and other businesses, and now its window beckons customers in for sweet treats—naked-style cakes and individual cake cups in particular—once again as Daughters Baking. To learn more about the cake business and what all you can find in the space full of light pink and light wood hues, we chatted with the mastermind behind it all, Mallory Mason.
How did Daughters Baking get its start?
I was working at Urban Standard as a barista when I was in college at Samford and started baking on the side for fun. Then I started filling in for the baker when she was out of town, and that ended up leading me to taking over her position. I baked at Urban Standard full-time for four years, and halfway through I started selling cakes on the side. Someone had given me the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, and I love their style of cakes with the sharp edge acetate technique. I played around with my own recipes, and people really liked the cake. It grew from there, through Instagram and word of mouth, and women at my church started buying the cakes. Eventually I wanted to do it full-time, and I quit my job.
You opened a retail store in Mountain Brook Village in July. How did that come about?
For the past three and a half years we have been in a kitchen space in West Homewood where Hero Doughnuts and Big Spoon started, and we have been able to grow the business there. It really limited the business though when you can’t have walk-in customers, so we wanted to have a walk-in place to get cakes and that’s beautiful. I liked the window and the lighting and the location in the main circle here. It gives us tons of visibility and has been advertising in and of itself. Our sales have dramatically increased since we have been here.
Tell us more about what happens in this space.
Our interior designer, Ivy Schuster with Hatcher Schuster Interiors, was so fun to work with. She connected me with a muralist to paint our logo, and Magic City Woodworks made the table and our shelves. We do production in West Homewood, and the Mountain Brook Village space is just retail. Part of the technique of the cakes is they have to freeze for 24 hours for the edges to set, so we have a stock of them in the back. We have a three-day notice for preorders, or people can walk in and buy from our inventory in the back. We do wedding tastings here too. The smallest amount we used to sell were mini cakes that serve two to four people, but now people can walk in and get a cake cup for a craving.
Where do you get ideas for cake flavors?
When I was at Urban Standard, I played around with different recipes, so some of the flavor combinations are inspired by doughnuts and cupcakes I made, like lavender-honey. I was inspired by the baker before me and how different flavors work together like blueberry-orange. Our Nutella Orange cake flavor I’m pretty sure was a doughnut eight years ago at Urban Standard.
Speaking of Urban Standard, are there any other culinary brands around town that came out of the coffee shop?
Domestique Coffee is a coffee roaster, and they have a shop in Five Points. They are in Piggly Wiggly and Whole Foods. I used to be a barista with the guys who started it. Some people who worked at Urban Standard went the culinary direction, and others went other routes like software development.
Each of your cakes have what you call a “crunch.” What is that exactly?
Milk Bar inspired them, and it’s like a sugary dry mixture tossed in sugar or oil and toasted lightly. For our pretzel crunch, it’s crushed pretzels, sugar and flour tossed in butter. We repeat the crunch in each layer and put a bunch on top. Cakes that don’t have a different texture are missing something to me. I personally love salt, and the crumbs have a good amount of sweetness and salt that give a punch to the cake.
What are some of your personal favorite and your bestselling cake flavors?
One of my favorite flavors we have, not currently, is Bananas Foster. Pumpkin Brown Butter is a bestseller at Thanksgiving; it’s like a mix between pumpkin pie and pecan pie in cake form. Our other bestseller is Blueberry Lemon, and it’s our most popular wedding cake too. It has blueberry cake, cheesecake, lemon buttercream and white chocolate crumb. The Salted Caramel Pretzel is another bestseller. It has caramel cake, caramel buttercream, caramel sauce and pretzel crumb.
What will we see at the bakery this spring?
Valentine’s Day is one of our biggest times of year. We’ll release a few Valentine’s themed items in early February. We have Red Velvet every year, and we will probably do some sort of strawberry. In March we’ll release spring flavors. We may bring back the Peach Bourbon and Carrot. We like to do limited series as well.
Why do brides choose your cakes?
I think it’s the flavor. Once people try them, that’s what sells them. A lot of people say it’s the best wedding cake they’ve had. We have a wedding cake flavor that’s a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, white chocolate milk crumb and vanilla custard, and the Blueberry Lemon is also a big wedding cake. For groom’s cake Reese’s Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Pretzel are popular.
You got married last year yourself. What cakes did you have at your wedding?
I had five single tier flavors: Banana, Cookies and Cream, Reese’s Peanut Butter, Pumpkin Brown Butter and Spiced Apple. It was in October, so I did our fall flavors plus Banana.
Where else can you find your cakes around town?
The month before I left Urban Standard someone served one of our cakes to the owner of Gianmarco’s, and he loved it and wanted them in his restaurant. That was so encouraging to have that regular gig at Pizzeria GM. We have a mini cake on the menu. Soho Social started serving mini cakes later. I would love to get the cake cups in stores somewhere.
What’s new or coming soon with the business?
We are trying to add more merchandise in the store. We sell Village Apothecary candles and Civil Stoneware cake stands, and we want to add more merchandise in here to give the space more life. We made cookie mix for the holidays, and we have cards. We had a wedding tasting event with our doors open after hours recently, and we want to do more events like that to build awareness for brides and give them an opportunity to taste our cakes. We are also about to start doing kids cake baking classes, and we just started advertising that people can rent out the space for wedding showers and baby showers.
What’s a long-term goal you have for Daughters?
Part of my senior project as a sociology major was about hunger-related issues, and I have always been drawn to that. Eventually once we get to a really strong place, I would like to partner with more organizations internationally that help with hunger and thirst-related types of issues in a way that we can give back. I have this awareness in the back of my head about the things I learned about poverty. I don’t know what that looks like, but I feel like I will know eventually.
Learn more about Daughters Baking at daughtersbaking.com and follow them on Instagram @daughtersbaking. Their retail store is located at 2812 Cahaba Road.