Decadent bites

You know Father's Day is 1 week away, right?!

You know Father's Day is 1 week away, right?!

Welcome Sunday night!!!   I've actively been working on mending my workaholic ways, so I clap loudly for myself with every step I make to actually take time off.  Saturday I went to Camp North End for the first time with my friend.  It was a nice little get a way and experience.  We sat outside eating snacks enjoying a breeze that FINALLY wasn't humid.  Getting rained on wasn't even that bad.  I managed to relax in the breeze although my iPhone still buzzed with notifications that were all work-related.    

I've already recorded an entire series of videos for the "Mastering the Details" YouTube series.  As I get more efficient with managing my time, I realized what else is there to do when the kitchen is clean and I'm waiting for things to cool?!  Why not record videos!  I will release them slowly so viewers can watch them without ever feeling like they need to binge watch to get caught up.  Like I said, in my FB post last week the videos are unscripted, unedited, and in real-time.  This way you will know EXACTLY how long it takes to do whatever I'm demonstrating.  

Now, back to Father's Day!  I don't have pictures of the actual desserts I will be spotlighting for Father's Day, so I'll use a stock photo with a note to that effect so I can get the website updated this evening.  THANK YOU to all who responded to my poll request!  I did get quite a few votes on what should be on the Father's Day menu:  Cheesecake and Summer Pie (Fruit/Berries) were tied!  My brain is spinning with flavor combinations infused with Tequila, Maple/Bacon, and Bourbon.

Make sure you subscribe to the Beyond Decadence social media updates or our mailing list.  I will definitely post later this evening and send out an email blast tomorrow morning with the final menu.  Shipping will still take place Monday - Wednesday, but the free pickup days at Pita Pit will shift a little (Thursday AND Saturday) to accommodate picking up as close to Sunday as possible.

YouTube requires videos safe for kids to have the comments disabled, so feel free to post any comments here.

Happy Sunday evening! 

Maria Kemp
Read more
Mastering the Details - Learn "how to" video baking series

Mastering the Details - Learn "how to" video baking series

I believe I originally started doing Facebook Live instructional videos at the beginning of the pandemic.  They were an awesome way to give back, stay connected with my fans, and entertain those in need of a friendly face NOT currently sheltering in place with them.  Then the Facebook Lives grew into a Sunday afternoon "Bake Along with Chef Maria" event/series.  All the while, I developed private baking classes teaching a variety of topics to individuals of various skill levels and ages.  It was a lot of morphing (aka "pivoting"), but it kept Beyond Decadence buzzing along.

After I started doing the neighborhood pop-up events, shipping nationwide, the lives and classes dwindled.  Since eliminating pop-up events and focusing purely on online sales, I still felt like something was missing.  I'm that weirdo that LOVES public speaking and teaching regardless of what media it comes in.  I've done Toastmasters and know the value of planning your speech, but I get a thrill out of trusting God to give me the exact words to vocalize from the dictionary swirling around in my head while the video is recording.  And yes, I'm a former IT geek, but I don't have time to master editing video, so what you see is exactly how it came out.

Here's the crux of my video strategy -- if you aren't content with the 10,000 feet view/explanation behind the science of baking then my videos are for you!  I'll SHOW you the reason behind the techniques without making you yawn AND in 3 to 6 minutes. 

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and pickup some new tips and tricks to make your baking more successful regardless of what's on the menu.

Here's the first video in the series "How to measure flour https://youtu.be/jWqnJGbvx4M

Please leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Maria Kemp
Read more
Your feedback REALLY matters to us!

Your feedback REALLY matters to us!

It's a quiet Memorial Day afternoon and I've managed to power through my to-do list at a pace that oddly enough feels relaxing.  Although, last night I did spend time relaxing with friends and over-indulgencing in a devine barbecued pork tenderloin and chicken breast.  My friends were excited over the brownies and cake I brought, while I was laser-focused and drooling over the BBQ!

Every month I meet with an amazing team of business mentors through a program called Innovate Charlotte who challenge me, hold me accountable for my goals, or help me fine-tune areas when I feel like the proverbial gerbil on the wheel.  This last month one of our pre-dawn meeting topics centered around customer feedback and finding out what desserts customers would like to see on the menu.  It's way too easy for me to tighten my creative apron and set the kitchen ablaze with unbridled creativity.  However, it's a colossal waste of time, energy, and ingredients if it's not what my customers want to purchase.  I really try to keep surveys to a bare minimum, because let's face it we get one with almost everything we purchase.   But the reality is -- if I don't ask, I'll never know for certain. 

On another note, I just completed editing all the product descriptions on the website so all the ordering details are MUCH clearer.  That should  clear up A LOT of confusion as I continue to add new desserts to the line-up. 

So the big $100,000 question is -- what desserts would you like to see on our summer menu?  Your response is as simple was posting a comment to this blog or email me at beyonddecadence@gmail.com .

Thank you in advance for sharing your feedback with me!

Maria Kemp
Read more
Do you make Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.

Do you make Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.

Has anyone else also lost track of how many new dietary preferences there are?  I get calls everyday from people inquiring whether I can accommodate their specific dietary need (or make decorated sugar cookies.  Decorated sugar cookies are not a dietary preference, but they are definitely not in my wheelhouse.)

One of the words we all got comfortable with at the beginning of the pandemic was "pivot".  However, I got soooooooo incredibly tired of hearing that word I replaced it with "morphed".  Just like every other small business owner, I found ways to morph to stay afloat.  But even when you morph, you still have to have boundaries so you aren't flopping around like a fish out of water.   

One of my boundaries ~ instead of constantly morphing with each new dietary preferences; I stay in my lane.  That means I focus on what I'm known for/good at and look for ways to grow without venturing into unfamiliar territory.  So what does that really mean?!  That means I won't be offering decorated sugar cookies, sculpted cakes that look like a duck, wedding cakes, donuts, or cake pops anytime soon, but instead look for ways to grow my current offering. 

But then again, maybe I should just nix everything else on the menu and simply become the Lemon Bar queen!  But I know I'd be bored to tears after the first week!  I discovered by accident how much I really enjoyed making the summer pies!  Now I have ZERO, zilch, nada, interest in being elbow deep in a bounty of fresh berry filling for a traditional fruit or berry pie with 2 crusts!  However, after I made some key lime pies I thought, "why couldn't I swap out the key lime for lemon?"  And ta-da, the Lemon Strawberry Pie was born and I LOVED selecting and arranging the fruit.  So I said all that to say, I'm excited to bring new seasonal show-stopping (regular & gluten-free) desserts to you in the upcoming weeks. 

I'll get the website/menu update before 9pm tonight.  But please be sure to read the order cut-off date and revised Memorial Day free pickup date at Pita Pit listed in each dessert description. 

Happy Sunday evening!  

 

Maria Kemp
Read more
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are life...and GLUTEN-FREE!!!

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are life...and GLUTEN-FREE!!!

So it was a typical Saturday and I was meandering around the grocery store filling up my cart with an admirable balance of junk food and bags of salad mix.  Then all of a sudden my phone rings.  One of my best friends was on the other end and asked "What are you doing?"  I said, "I'm wondering around the grocery store."  She said, "Well, I'll let you go."  I responded, "Ahh, this is the most relaxing thing I've done all week, I can talk!"

She went on to exclaim....

"Did you know that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are GLUTEN-FREE?!"  I exclaimed back, "NOOOOO!  I know their peanut butter chips I use in the PB Explosions Bars are, but I'm heading to the candy aisle right now to check the package!"  Low and behold, there is was as plain as day on the back of the package...GLUTEN-FREE!  Reese's were already my FAVORITE candy on the planet, but NOW I can offer some new delicious options for my GF clients!  

My body was so tired after I left my commercial kitchen this weekend, I forgot to swing by the store and pickup a package of GF Oreos and see if they also had GF graham crackers.  I'm thinking a Milk Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake with a GF-Oreo crust!

So my gluten-free fans - I'm open to ideas or suggestions!  What dessert would you like to see Reese's Peanut Butter Cups incorporated into.

Chime in...I'd love to hear from you!

Maria Kemp
Read more
Is it really a Happy Mother's Day for you?

Is it really a Happy Mother's Day for you?

Mother's Day is one of those dates appearing on the calendar each year that triggers a lot of deep meaningful thoughts for me and I think many others as well. 

My own mom graduated to be with Jesus in December 2016 after a severe stroke in 2010 altered the remaining 6.5 years of her life.  I remember her always quoting a line from my grandmother, "Give me my flowers while I'm alive so I can enjoy them!"  Prior to her stroke, I gave her proverbial flowers...sometimes.  Other times, I could only manage to come bearing the dirt they grew in.  It wasn't until her stroke that I swore off dirt and focused solely on the fragrant bouquet in various forms.

So today, I find myself pondering...

I wonder how many of us are seizing the opportunity to give those we love their flowers while they can still enjoy them. 

Today I also think of those longing to be a mom, but were never blessed with a child, or those suffering strained relationships with their children, or those children that were taken way too soon, or those wishing for one more moment with their moms.  If you found yourself in any of those scenarios, I hope your heart found some peace, joy and love today despite the date on the calendar.  If none of those scenarios fit, I hope you will squeeze your mom or children a little tighter and definitely a little longer today.

As for dessert-related news, I'm continuing to tweak the ordering process to reduce the wait time between ordering and receiving your order.  You would think it would be easy, but it is a lot of moving pieces to think through.  I'm also adding another free pickup day at Pita Pit. 

Moms rock and much love to my own adult daughter - Devin.💜

 

Maria Kemp
Read more
Where's the "un-publish" button when you need it?!

Where's the "un-publish" button when you need it?!

If you are on our mailing list you most likely saw the above emoji this past week.  Despite my love of planning and detailed to-do list for each day, I blame the cleaners for losing my Superwoman cape resulting in me no longer being able to think of everything.  

Last week, I was agonizing over the menu and ordering cut-off dates for Mother's Day.  At face value, it should be pretty easy and painless, right?!  Not quite!  Mother's Day is on Sunday, May 9th -- that's the easy part.  The rest felt very much like a game of Tetris or Jenga trying to map out order cut-off dates for local pickup vs. shipping dates vs. local delivery.  Mapping out the menu, supplies, prep time, production/baking time, and transit time, resembled what happens when you give a toddler a crayon.  However, it's still only one part of the puzzle.  The "real fun" begins when I try to integrate the crayon scribbles into website logic.  

Last Sunday, I breathed a sigh of relief as I thought I had mastered the website logic, whispered a pray, and clicked publish.  Then after the April 28 order cut-off expired, I had an epiphany or actually a conversation with myself -- "Why did you set the order cut-off so early?  Local people don't need to have their orders in as early as the people you are shipping to!"  An April 28, order cut-off for nationwide shipping made sense since shipping takes 2 days (if there aren't any delays), so those orders NEED to ship on Monday, May 3.  However, local deliveries and local pickups didn't need to have an ordering deadline that early since they can get their orders on Saturday!  So I sent out an email on April 29 & April 30 explaining the ordering deadline was extension for local pickups or local deliveries.  

Just in case I completely confused you.  Here's the date recap:

  • Ordering is already closed for nationwide shipping.
  • Tues., May 4: Last date to order for free pickup at Pita Pit or local delivery.
  • Sat., May 8:   Orders will be available for free pickup at Pita Pit anytime after 12pm until closing.
  • Sat., May 8:   Paid delivery is also available. 
  • Sun., May 9:  We will be closed on Mother's Day.
  • Pita Pit LKN is located at 21726 Catawba Ave., Suite B-3, Cornelius, NC  28031

Get your order in before your favorites sell out!  Stay tuned for a special announcement on Wednesday, May 5!

Happy Sunday Funday!

 

Maria Kemp
Read more
Yes, I'd like to order a birthday....

Yes, I'd like to order a birthday....

Almost everyday I get a call from someone who wants to order a birthday cake.  I always ask a few standard questions to see if they are looking for something in my wheelhouse or not.  Those who know me have heard one of my favorite lines, "If you want a cake shaped like a duck or with rockets shooting out of the top, I'm not the pastry chef for you."  Why?  I simply don't have a passion for sculpted cakes, fondant work, or any cake requiring anywhere close to 2 hours to complete.  So I don't do them -- problem solved.    

Most callers assume every bakery makes every imaginable cake or dessert.  (Of course there are some that do or at least try to.)  But the reality is -- everyone has their speciality.  If you are in the market for a new Honda SUV, are you going to go to the Maserati dealership and expect them to carry a Honda CR-V?  They both sell cars, but specialize in a specific product line/offering.

Two of the segments I enjoyed the least in pastry school were bread making and wedding cakes.  Now don't get me wrong, I have a deep admiration for the talented cake artists and dough whisperers that can make either media bend to their touch.  However, I am neither of  those artists.  One of the lessons I took away from pastry school besides a certificate and a lighter wallet was a realization that it was OK to not master every concept our education instilled.  I discovered my passion is set on fire when I create new flavor combinations/profiles or unique ways to present familiar desserts,  bite-size desserts or desserts that can endure shipping.  

We each have our strengths and unique skills that we continue to fine-tune each time we step into the kitchen.  The thought of being elbow deep in massive layers of cake, 5 different colors of fondant, and stressing over figurines is enough to make me check my wine stock.

I hope you enjoy the Mother's Day menu!   Everything will ship on Monday, 5/3 or enjoy free pickup at Pita Pit on Saturday, 5/8.

Quack quack, quack..

 

Maria Kemp
Read more
#selfcare births new ideas

#selfcare births new ideas

Typically, on a Sunday evening I'd settle in to string together my thoughts for my blog post.  However, last night my brain was just in the final phase of settling down from overload and words eluded me. 

I accomplished a record number of tasks most of last week, but the massive list reached an epic level on Thursday.   By 9:00pm, every task was checked off and I felt a great sense of accomplishment.  However, I was completely drained and when  Friday arrived, I hit a wall.  Friday I opened one eye enough to dictate 1 text and immediately put my phone on DND (Do Not Disturb) and slept until 11:15am!  Yes, that's right #selfcare just couldn't wait until the official start of the weekend.  I eased into the day and took relaxation in stride and soaked up vital rays of vitamin D while I leisurely enjoyed a late lunch, organized tasks, appointments and emails.  At face value it sounded a bit luxurious, but in turn balanced out since I ended up with a last minute project that lead to working most of the weekend.  

I closed out the weekend enjoying exchanging ideas with new friends.  Now I just need to figure out where and how to implement them.  If I was to offer an assortment package that included 2 or 3 desserts, which ones would you like to be featured?

So this week, I had to extend some grace to myself and hope you will as well.  I only made a small change to the weekly menu this week and didn't get to overhaul the ordering process as I had planned.  

Be kind to yourself and others.  I'd love to hear from you! 

Maria Kemp
Read more
Pop popping popped!

Pop popping popped!

Someone asked me one time "Do you just bake all day?!" and I smiled and chuckled "Ah, no!"  I typically get the baking done on the planned day, but  inevitability the best laid plans for everything else outside of the kitchen often take a less than or humorous detour.  Like the morning my router got fried by the 4am lightening storm and I had to use my iPhone as a hotspot to attend 2 different Zoom meetings or get anything done online.    

But somewhere in the midst of pre-Easter mayhem over 250 new pans arrived in a 16 lb box and the 250 lids were MIA!  Only 4 phone calls and 2 chat sessions later still didn't reveal the mystery of where the box of lids where delivered merely 2 hours earlier or driving to Kannapolis because the Cornelius store 5 minutes away was out of stock to get the same backdrop Blackdog Advertising used in the photos.....

Whatever it was, I had a moment of clarity!  Even before being 14 weeks post knee surgery, my days of schlepping a 10x10 Coleman tent, table, decorations, presentation ware, coolers, desserts, power cords, wagon, chair, fans or heaters, etc. etc. to do pop-ups are over.  Now don't get me wrong, pop-ups were a fantastic entrance to the Lake Norman/Charlotte market and brought awareness to Beyond Decadence in monumental ways.  Now 4 years later, my body decided pre-knee surgery it was time to sell the tent and morph aka "pivot".  (I still have 4- 35 lb PVC hanging tent weights if anyone is in the market.)  So bit-by-bit I'm removing the words "pop-up" from all my social media, marketing materials and replacing it with "online bakery".  That doesn't mean I'll never, ever, ever do another pop-up event, but they will not be the main focus of my business.  Online bakery is much clearer for how I conduct business anyway.

My brain has been working overtime trying to figure out how to decrease the lead/wait time for customers to receive their orders AND offer cheesecakes for shipping.  Wow! 2 moments of clarity a week apart!  Starting April 18, each Sunday, I will bake a pre-set amount of items from the weekly menu.  This will allow me to ship them out as early as Monday!  This approach will be a faster turn around time for customers.  The downside ~ you'll have to order quick since I'll be setting the amount to bake BEFORE the orders actually come in.  The upside ~ customers opting for local pickup or delivery can have their desserts as early as Monday or shipped desserts should arrive by Wednesday! 

I've also nixed the cupcake size cheesecakes and I'm now offering a much larger size cheesecake, so be sure to check that out this week!  

Mother's Day is coming!  I'm busy working on some new desserts/flavors to make all the mothers swoon and will have the menu out in plenty of time to plan!  I'll try to have a balance between ones that can be shipped vs. delivered or picked up at Pita Pit.  

Plan ahead...don't forget mom!

I'd love to hear from you!  Please feel free to post a comment.

 

 

Maria Kemp
Read more
Thoughts from the edge of a food coma

Thoughts from the edge of a food coma

Happy Easter!  He is risen!  What a glorious day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

I took the day completely off (until now) and celebrated with copious amounts of food with a lifelong friend in Sherrills Ford.  We watched the kids Easter egg hunt, play water balloons, and play several competitive rounds of cornhole.  I'm a "professional" spectator and took it all in from a chair half in the shade/sun with some liquid refreshments.  I took a pan of Lemon Bars and a test batch of a new brownie flavor!  Double Chocolate Brownies infused with Bailey's Strawberries & Cream Liquor and Strawberry Buttercream infused with the same and freeze-dried strawberries.  They scored well, so they'll make the menu soon after I make a few minor adjustments.  

But for now, I will quietly nurse the tail end of my food coma, enjoy some mindless Sunday evening TV,  enjoy the evening breeze and share this week's thoughts with you.  

As you can see from the newest picture of the Strawberry Shortcake Trifles, I made some adjustments from the original picture last week!  I love the way they came out and will leave them on the menu for another week and experiment with different fruits to compliment the strawberries soon.  Next, a new back drop will replace the granite countertop in the next batch of photos.  (Boy am I missing the gorgeous photos Blackdog Advertising took of my desserts!) 

The trifles consist of 3 separate recipes, so they are not quick to assemble and take a lot more strawberries than you might think.  (However, the 8 oz Mason jar is darling and yours to keep!)  The juice from the strawberries will make the cake soggy, so I strongly recommend enjoying these the same day they are picked up or delivered.  (Unless you want a DIY kit to assemble at your leisure.)

Now, you'll place your order by Wednesday and enjoy free order pickup at Pita Pit in Cornelius on Saturdays after 12pm up to 9pm!  Pita Pit will store your order in their refrigerator.  Just step up to the counter and ask for your order by name and they'll retrieve it for you.  (BTW, their food is AWESOME!).  Delivery is also available.

So when something doesn't work as I envisioned, I survey customers who will be blatantly honest with me.  As I suspected the cost to ship the mini cheesecakes was an issue.  Unfortunately, there aren't too many options to keep them cold for 2 days during shipping, so I'll rethink the cheesecakes and spin a few ideas in the near future.  But for now, I've removed them from the menu.  Once we are much bigger, we'll be able to pass along Amazon-like savings to you, but we are not there yet.  Sometimes the shipping supplies/packaging I order work like a dream and other times, not so much and it gets tossed into the supply room kind of like a treadmill that now doubles as a clothes hanger.  

Also, the virtual baking classes are hot right now for corporate teambuilding as I have a few scheduled! 

Enjoy the end of your Easter Sunday!  I'd love to hear from you!

Maria Kemp
Read more
laptop cup of coffee blog post

Pumpkin for Easter?!

Welcome to my first blog post on the new Shopify website!  I have so much to say, but I'll pace myself and save some of my thoughts for subsequent entries.  

I hope you are as excited as I am to have the Spiced Pumpkin Cake rejoin the menu!  Pumpkin and lime may seem a bit odd for Easter, but I think they're delightful any time of year don't you?

You'll also notice some new packaging for our bars and cakes!  You'll get more for your money, get to cut the desserts to the size your appetite desires, and they will endure shipping!

A client from Illinois contacted me to ask if I could ship her a whole Red Velvet Cake.  I carefully laid out all the challenges of shipping a whole cake.  She took my suggestion and opted to purchase 3 layers of a 6" cake.  The layers are not assembled and the frosting is packaged separately within the box.  The large bakeries shipping cakes take several expensive precautions; cakes are frozen solid, packaged in special containers that allow zero to minimal movement, shrink wrapped, shipped on dry ice or surrounded by ice packs, and typically shipped overnight (not 2 days).  At this time, this is not cost-effective for us to try to mimic.

This week I'm introducing flat-rate shipping rates (based on the weight) to help ease the cost of shipping. 

The order cut-off day is still Thursday, but orders will be available for free pick up at Pita Pit (LKN) on Saturday, April 3.  Orders will still ship as normal on Monday, April 5. 

I hope you like this week's menu!  Your feedback is always welcome!

Maria Kemp
Read more