The bright gold painted converted residence on Candler Road that houses Cake Café almost looks like a confection itself. Inside a busy staff churns out the types of made-from-scratch goodies that make Southerners eager to get to the dining table, including lemon pound cake and red velvet cake.
Despite the name, Cake Café doesn’t limit its offerings to cakes. There are also brownies, cookies, pies, banana bread, cobblers, ice cream and popcorn—more than 100 flavors of popcorn. In addition to flavors one might expect such as cheddar, kettle and garlic parmesan, there are hot chocolate, blue raspberry, green apple and other popcorn flavors to stagger the imagination.
Owner Ardra Tippett said she tried, or at least considered, careers in journalism, law, sales, education, accounting and more before going back to what she really loves, making desserts—a skill she learned in her grandmother’s St. Louis kitchen. “I was her tortured intern,” she recalled with a laugh. “She had me doing all those little uninteresting chores like peeling potatoes and cutting up apples, then she got all the praise for the finished dessert.” But Tippett said what she leaned as her grandmother’s sous chef was priceless. She added that her high school home economics teacher helped her perfect her cookie-making skills.
Tippett now trains her baking staff to do things her grandmother’s way. “Somebody told me I should start using canned sweet potatoes in my pies, that nobody starts with raw potatoes anymore. I said, ‘My grandmother would turn over in her grave.’” All her desserts are made fresh and from scratch, she said.
Although Tippett said she is very proud of the products at Cake Café, she added that she knows high-quality food is not enough to keep people coming back. “When a customer walks through that door, we don’t just take an order. We take time with the customer and get to know what he or she needs. The person planning an event might mention ‘my husband doesn’t really like cake’ or ‘the children don’t eat chocolate,’ then I can suggest adding a pie or cookies to the menu,” she said.
Cake Café regularly offers approximately 30 kinds of cake, about a third of them pound cake varieties. Caramel is a big favorite, Tippett said, but the key lime velvet cake runs a close second. And when a customer doesn’t find what he or she wants on the menu, Tippett said she tries to find a way to please them.
“I had a customer say she really needed a mocha rum cake. I told her we really don’t do that. She explained that her mother used to make mocha rum cakes and since she passed away her father really missed them. She said, ‘I have the recipe.’” Tippett said she agreed to try making the cake. It was not only a hit with the customer but they sold the others that came from that batch. “We never just make a single cake,” she explained.
Tippett said that Candler Road just outside the Decatur city limits is an ideal location for her. “My strongest customer base is African-American women between the ages of 25 and 55. They plan lots of birthday parties, anniversary parties and other events. They understand how critical a good dessert is to the success of an event and they appreciate things like caramel frosting made the right way. I’m in a good spot to reach those customers. However, I want everyone to enjoy my desserts,” she said, adding that she is considering opening a Dunwoody store.
The other reason for choosing the south DeKalb location, Tippett said, is the encouragement and support that she received from local officials and business people. “The property owner was willing to work with me while I got established and Commissioner Larry Johnson was very helpful. Even Congressman Hank Johnson helped find some federal money to help me out,” she said.
“Here I get to combine all the things I love. I get to use my journalism skills when writing my newsletter and blogging about the business; I get to use my business skills as a human resources manager. I get to use my customer service skills; I even see the place as a bit of a ministry,” she said.
At the heart of it all, Tippett said, is a love for dessert. “Dessert is the closer and it’s always good to close strong,” she said.