BY BILL MAYEROFF | For Sun-Times Media
On the web
Bent Fork Bakery:
Cakes Under the Influence:
You’d be hard-pressed to find an occasion that isn’t made better with cake. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, bar mitzvahs, major sporting events: all are celebrations deserving of cake. Even sad occasions — visitations, wakes, shivas — generally include baked sweets.
Bakers across the North Shore know that baked goods are always in demand, and they are happy to provide pastries for every occasion.
Liz Bearwald has co-owned Bent Fork Bakery, at 335 Waukegan Ave. in Highwood, with her husband, Michael, since 1999. Bearwald’s bakery not only makes cakes for all the normal occasions but also has procured them for unorthodox occasions.
“We’ve done divorce parties,” Bearwald said.
She added that the bakery has also done cakes for dogs’ birthdays, though the cakes were for human consumption only.
“You just come up with an occasion, and we’ll do it,” she said.
Jory Downer, owner of Bennison’s Bakery at 1000 Davis St., Evanston, said there isn’t a holiday around for which his bakery won’t make a cake or pastry.
“We try to capitalize on everything,” he said.
Indeed they do. According to Bennison’s website, the bakery will make king cakes for Mardi Gras, a German apfelstrudel (a rolled pastry with fruit inside) for Oktoberfest, 4-inch-wide pies sold for $3.14 to celebrate Pi Day (March 14 or 3/14) and hamentaschen, a traditional Jewish pastry eaten on Purim.
Though Downer said Bennison’s won’t make adult-themed or X-rated cakes, the language on some of them can go well beyond a PG rating.
“We’ve written some pretty foul things on cake,” Downer said.
He declined to mention any of those foul things.
Bearwald said Pinterest has been a source of inspiration for many Bent Fork customers. People see designs on the site, she said, and bring them in for the bakery to recreate.
If you want to combine cake and booze: Ken Treske launched Cakes Under the Influence in September. The Vernon Hills-based company makes everything the home baker needs to create cocktail-inspired mini-cakes, including molds for shaping cakes to various cocktail glasses, serving trays and cake mixes that are designed to work with alcohol, which can traditionally dry out a cake.
Treske, who owns the company with his wife and son, said the idea came from a cake his mother used to make that was reminiscent of the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail.
“I swear we got invited to more parties because of it,” he said.
Treske said he and his family considered opening a bakery selling cocktail-inspired cakes, but they ultimately decided to go in a different direction.
“What we really got excited about was empowering people to make these cakes,” he said.
Moreover, he added, the liquor cabinet offers a completely new range of cake possibilities.
“There are just a ton of great flavor combinations sitting in your liquor cabinet,” he said.
Treske said he wants people to experiment with flavor combinations, and he loves hearing what they create. One customer’s idea really surprised him when it turned out tastier than he thought it would.
“People have been baking boilermaker cakes with beer and whiskey,” he said. “We really enjoyed that. People are getting creative.”
Though the company has only been selling since September, Treske thinks people love the idea of small cakes served in non-traditional (at least for cake) vessels.
“Those cocktail shapes are so iconic, and they always bring a smile,” he said.