On Thanksgiving eve 2014, Scratch Bakeshop Owners and Operators Kate Cassels and Molly Hartley were working feverishly in their bakery's small kitchen. Though the rest of the space was undergoing renovation and the bakery had yet to officially open, the kitchen was ready and in action.
Cassels and Hartley were to deliver 20 custom order pies the next day, but then, their new commercial oven stopped working. Getting the oven repaired that night wasn't an option nor was cancelling orders for the biggest food holiday of the year.
To meet their deadline, Cassels and Hartley hustled: Each uncooked pie was carefully moved to their respective apartments, plus Hartley's mother's home, and finished. After pulling an all-nighter, the pies were ready for Thanksgiving delivery. "I don't really like to think about it," Hartley says half-jokingly. "It was kind of a nightmare."
It wasn't the first or last time Cassels and Hartley's teamwork helped them push forward.
Hartley two years earlier was working as the lead pastry chef at Pittsford's Village Bakery and Café when she hired Cassels to assist in the kitchen. Cassels had been in the restaurant industry for years and had begun making desserts at The Owl House, but she was eager to learn more about working in a bakery setting. She often volunteered for additional projects at the bakery, assisting Hartley on larger and more complicated orders.
Their frequent collaboration developed into an encouraging partnership and friendship — good things to have when working in the culinary world, a field notorious for being hostile toward the women in its ranks. "It's male-heavy," Cassels says, "and not always welcoming to women."
Cassels and Hartley had gone into business together by the summer of that year, taking custom orders and baking out of their small apartment kitchens. Both continued to work other jobs while word-of-mouth buoyed their growing business. After they couldn't secure a bank loan, a successful Kickstarter campaign helped them raise $10,000 to purchase commercial-grade equipment. "My ultimate dream and goal was to open a bakery," Hartley says. "Kate helped push that dream through."
With additional support from friends and family, they found their current space, a former salon on Park Avenue near Meigs, and overhauled it — out went wall-to-wall mirrors, salon sinks, and linoleum, and in came bakery equipment, dessert cases, and recovered vintage tile. After opening their shop in January 2015, Cassels and Hartley continued working second jobs until, finally, they were able to support themselves through Scratch Bakeshop alone.
To celebrate their achievements, both Cassels and Hartley have the Scratch Bakeshop logo — a whisk, rolling pin, and spatula — tattooed on the inside of their arms, near the elbow. Each part of the logo marks a Scratch milestone: the whisk was first, added when Scratch was officially incorporated; the rolling pin came next, when the bakeshop's lease was signed; and the spatula was the third, marking the bakeshop's opening day.
Scratch Bakeshop is now in its second year and is successful enough to employ a small staff beyond Hartley and Cassels. The boutique bakery specializes in traditional, vegan and gluten-free desserts. Each week, Scratch sells approximately 700 items from its bakery case, including macarons, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and 6-inch cakes. That is on top of the custom orders for clients including Apogee Wine Bar, Roam Café, and Hart's Local Grocers. Scratch Bakeshop, in all of 2015, provided dessert catering for 60 weddings; this year, it's already on pace to break that record.
The shop's treats are a cavalcade of colors and textures with designs that are, at turns, timeless or of-the-moment. "We want to create beautiful, delicious things that you can't get anywhere else," Cassels says. "And we love to be part of the community that supports us."
Many of those creations are featured on its Instagram account (@scratchbakeshoproc): softly-tinted buttercream flowers blossoming across wedding cake tiers; Tina Belcher from "Bob's Burgers" awkwardly gazing out from a hand-painted cookie; a trompe l'oeil sushi platter made with Rice Krispies Treats and fondant on top of a cake carved and painted to look like wood grain table. More than 9,500 followers regularly express their awe and sugar lust.
One Instagram photo features the wall behind the bakery case, which displays t-shirts, onesies and tote bags for sale. Each item has block letters that spell out "TOUGH COOKIES" — a good description of the women behind the business.
Find Laura Rebecca Kenyon on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest @LauraKenyon, and dig through her recipe archive at LauraRebeccasKitchen.com.