Chefs often credit their mothers for instilling a love of the culinary arts. Pastry chef Brooke Wilson can do that, and then go one better. Her mother not only provided inspiration and recipes, she also found the location for Love & Buttercream, her daughter’s plum-and-blue colored pastry shop — and she found it on Craigslist. Another victory for social media.
Wilson had been looking for the right spot for six months, and when she walked into the storefront on Crooks Road at 13 Mile Road, she says it immediately felt right. The space in a Royal Oak strip mall had been previously occupied by a bakery, so a kitchen was already in place, says Wilson, who had been making her confections in the second kitchen at her parents’ Oakland Township home, and testing the waters by selling them at farmers markets, through word of mouth, and — there it is again — social media.
Running her own bakery certainly wasn’t in the plan when Wilson graduated from Michigan State University in 2009 with a degree in marketing and international business. She moved to Chicago, where she got a job in the innovations department of Levy Restaurants, working on menu development and consulting for two years. The experience taught her “that business doesn’t have to be confined to a box; it’s creative,” she says. When Wilson came home at night, she would bake, and even started a baking blog. That’s when she knew baking was more than just the hobby it had been since she was a child. “Pastry was really my calling,” she says.
Wilson enrolled in the French Pastry School in Chicago, completed the six-month course, and then decided that if she were going to open a business, it should be at home in Michigan. But of course, not until she tested the waters. Her first sale, in July 2011, was a 50th-anniversary cake, made while working out of that home kitchen as part of the cottage-industry trend that has taken hold here.
In the first year, she prepared cakes, cookies, and cookie pops for 15 weddings, using all-natural ingredients and as many local products as possible. She calls her quick success “surprising and humbling.”
Now comes the real test, a full-scale retail operation with the help of a staff of three, chosen because they’re “excited about desserts,” she says. Many of the recipes are her mother’s and grandmother’s, but with a contemporary twist, much like the pretty décor of Love & Buttercream, which combines a vintage feel with a dash of modern industrial flair.
To emphasize her local approach, she offers a coffee bar with brew from Great Lakes Coffee, and there are greeting cards from a local company. She trades with a nearby florist who gets cookies for the flowers that bedeck the space.
Wilson says the name Love & Buttercream came to her out of the blue one morning. However, she thought, “I must have heard that name somewhere.” After she searched and couldn’t find the name anywhere, she decided, “This is it. This is my name.”
It’s poetic and accurate for her little enterprise, where everything is made from scratch and creative touches abound, such as the specialty she calls Mason cakes, which are baked inside the glass jars, with frosting in the middle.
Mom probably didn’t teach her that one.
Love & Buttercream, 3202 Crooks Rd., Royal Oak; 248-850-7207, loveandbuttercream.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.