Theresa Rotter’s experience as a graphic designer is evident in every perfectly sculpted fondant detail of the cakes, cupcakes and cookies she bakes. And her work is as delicious as it is beautiful. A self-taught baker and decorator, Rotter launched Bakery 88 out of her home in September 2016, turning a newfound hobby into a thriving small business.
“I baked with my mom as a kid, but I really picked it up after I got married 10 years ago as something to do,” Rotter says. “I expanded on that and started with Pinterest and YouTube, and the decorating portion took off.”
At the urging of her friends and family, Rotter entered a few of her creations in the Minnesota State Fair. Having her decorating skills and flavor combinations win blue ribbons gave her the confidence to turn pro.
“It was really great to have that validation,” Rotter says. It’s one thing for friends and family members to think your cakes are wonderful, she says, but getting positive feedback from judges and strangers helped convince her she wasn’t misleading herself about her talent. “It was, like, ‘all right, I’ll give this a try and see if I can make a go of it,’” she says.
She set up a Facebook page for Bakery 88 and started taking orders for custom cakes and baked treats. Soon she was getting referrals from friends-of-friends and people she’d never met who were impressed with the photos she posted of her creations.
“I’ve done some food photography for restaurant clients, so it was nice to have that background,” she says. “I don’t have all the professional equipment, so I take photos outside for the light.”
Rotter has honed her baking and decorating skills through extensive trial and error, using online sources of inspiration, as well as her client’s input to craft custom works of edible art.
“So many people have been open-minded and allowed me to experiment,” she says. “They give me an idea or a theme, and I love coming up with something unique and interesting.”
Since she is not commercially licensed, most of her orders are for smaller events like birthday parties, showers and intimate weddings. Creating something memorable that serves as a focal point for the event is always her goal.
“I love hints of whimsy,” she says. “I’ve got a child’s birthday coming up where I’m doing a bowl-of-mac-and-cheese cake, with cupcakes for all the guests.”
That creative flexibility extends to her recipes as well. Though Rotter has several popular flavor combinations available (including gluten-free options and her blue ribbon-winning chocolate and peanut butter), she’ll work with clients to come up with flavors that match their taste, like a raspberry-passion fruit cake to fit a tropical theme.
All of the time and energy she spends researching, testing, baking and frosting are worth it, Rotter says, when the end result is revealed.
“I love that moment of revealing to someone and their reaction is, ‘Is that a cake? I can’t believe it!’” she says. “That’s it for me, when someone is looking so pleased and so surprised at something I created; I’m okay that it gets eaten an hour later.”
Rotter has earned several awards for her creative and delicious treats. She entered the Minnesota State Fair for the first time in 2016, and the results speak for themselves:
- 2016 Minnesota State Fair
- First Premium C&H Cake
- Decorating Contest
- First Premium Chocolate Layer
- Cake (chocolate peanut butter)
- Fifth Premium Decorated Cupcakes
Bakery 88 features cake flavors sure to please even the pickiest palate, with classics like red velvet, dark chocolate and a rich, spiced carrot cake that can be paired with more than half-a-dozen specialty frostings, from a decadent ganache to fresh strawberry buttercream.
This time of year, Rotter whips up some festive favorites that are perfect additions to a holiday party dessert table, including snowman cupcakes made from gingerbread cake and topped with cream cheese frosting.
For an elegant take on mini desserts, Rotter crafts dessert shooters for many clients: bite-size layers of cake and frosting served in individual shot glass-sized vessels. Past renditions include a fudgy dark chocolate cake paired with peppermint cream cheese buttercream and decorated with a mini candy cane, and an orange-spiked vanilla cake with cranberry filling and white chocolate buttercream topped with gold star sprinkles.
Christmas cookies are also a signature part of holiday entertaining, and Rotter’s are both decadent and delightfully decorated. Sugar cookies heaped with vanilla-almond icing, gingerbread topped with cream cheese icing, and buttery shortbread paired with tangy lemon curd are winning combinations. Rotter loves creating custom cookies like gold-flecked stars, snow-dusted pine trees, and silvery snowflakes that are sure to be the centerpiece of any holiday gathering.