It’s Wednesday, which means, time for the weekly “Grab and Go Bake Sale” that has everyone in the vicinity of downtown Charleston drooling and dreaming about what fantastic new flavors baker and pastry chef Petra Vasale Newkirk is cooking up this week.
But this is definitely not your grandma’s bake sale.
Newkirk, the owner of Cakes by Appointment, has come up with a creative, modern-day twist on the bake sales of yesteryear — and it’s proving wildly popular with customers.
Each Wednesday, the energetic 30-year-old posts the flavors of cupcakes and cake balls she will feature at the weekly “bake sale” on the business’s Facebook page.
Most recently, she created “Nutella” and “Banana Caramel” cupcakes.
If that doesn’t make you salivate, “Cookies ’n’ Cream” or “Chocolate Cherry” cake balls probably will.
Other flavors enjoyed by patrons in the past include red velvet, Italian cream, carrot cake, German chocolate, coconut, pumpkin, snickerdoodle, hot chocolate and cocoa loco — topped with icings like Swiss meringue buttercream, cream cheese, chocolate, peanut butter and various icings with fruit purees and liquors.
Of course, there’s a limited supply, so the trick is to place your order before your favorite flavor is sold out — and that’s not always easy to do.
As an added bonus, Cakes by Appointment delivers to anyone within walking distance — about a five-block radius.
“It’s a great way for people to try our product. Then, they know what fresh, high quality — made from scratch — cakes we have to offer without having to wait for a special occasion,” Petra said of the weekly bake sales.
The business specializes in wedding cakes and custom party cakes. She even runs a kosher kitchen and offers gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free options
“We have fun with what we do. I love it when the client gets creative,” Petra said.
Apparently that happens quite often — she’s made cakes that look like guitars, cakes that look like cars, cakes that look like everything from super heroes to princesses, slot machines to movie stars.
“Living the dream” is how the pastry chef extraordinaire describes her life and business venture.
But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come without a lot of hard work and planning.
“I wanted to bring fun and happy things to Charleston. I grew up here and wanted to have my business here,” the 2002 Capitol High School graduate said.
She ventured to Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky, for college, graduating first with an associate degree in baking and pastry and then earning an associate degree in culinary arts.
“I wanted to learn everything about the craft,” she said.
She returned to Charleston in the fall of 2008 and began managing Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream, which she did for four years.
“Ellen Beal was such a mentor to me. She opened my eyes so much about the different aspects of the business. She showed me I could balance family and career. She’s one of my biggest supporters and will come by and give me a hug,” Petra said, adding that she is married to Kentucky-native Joe Newkirk and they are the proud parents of five-year-old Eliza.
“It was a career goal of mine to have my own business by age 30,” she said, noting that balancing family and career was even been built into her business plan.
“That’s why I’m ‘Cakes by Appointment.’ I can set my own hours and make sure I have family time. It’s totally a team effort. My husband’s great. I have a huge support group of family and friends. I’m very fortunate,” she said.
The business is conveniently located across the street from Sacred Heart Grade School.
Its large party room — which accommodates up to 49 people — is frequently booked for birthday parties, bridal and baby showers.
“All rentals include the clean-up fee. Everyone can just take their presents and go home. We also can arrange for the party to have a photographer or a face paint artist. They can decorate anyway they want or we can do the decorations and activities. People can bring their own food or we can talk to caterers for them,” she said.
Custom parties can also include balloon animals and a magic show, as well as ice cream from Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream or an ice cream sundae bar.
Petra completely remodeled the space with bright turquoise walls and artistic lighting globes shaped with a covering resembling fondant icing. She is a fan of local art and promotes it on the walls of her business, featuring delicious-looking paintings of layer cakes by Lynn Payne and fruits by Sharon Harms.
Cakes by Appointment is located at 1030 Quarrier Street in downtown Charleston.
Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.Hamilton@wvgazette.com