The new wave of MKE desserts is lady-driven, expertly crafted and oh-so-yummy.
One recent hunger-addled afternoon, a customer strolls inside the new Erie Street bakery Batches and chats up the clerk while she loads a box with delights – a slice of confetti cake, cheddar-scallion scone and double chocolate cookie. The shelves behind her are dotted with funky ceramic cookie jars and other thrifting finds, and the tiny room is Pandora-serenaded by Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” Not your basic-batch bakery. Owner Jaceleen Latin-Kasper – who also creates intricate desserts like the bubble waffle sundae with roasted pineapple and banana ice cream at DanDan restaurant – is one of two millennial female trailblazers in MKE’s sweet, carb-loading industry.
Like Latin-Kasper, Molly Sullivan fabricated edible showstoppers at a chef-owned restaurant, Braise, where desserts were anything but an afterthought. Sullivan started a boutique dessert catering business on the side before opening her bakery near the Tosa border, Miss Molly’s. The homey refuge for butter-laden dreams is where Sullivan manages a staff of 16 and shapes the menu to meld customer demand and artistic needs. Both bakers are committed to a level of excellence and take the head honcho label very seriously. “I never want to be the boss who yells at people,” says Sullivan, adding that she’s proud that her management team is entirely female. Sullivan’s stamp is balanced flavors, nothing too fussy, but with an unexpected twist – like her Earl Grey and citrus shortbread or seasonal black pepper ginger cake with fresh peach jam filling. Classic, cultivated. She recognizes trends but isn’t governed by them. And there’s a place for nostalgia. She says a childhood treat, chocolate-cashew “bear claws,” is “one of my favorite things ever!”
Latin-Kasper – who worked under the tutelage of classically trained pastry wizard Kurt Fogle at SURG Restaurant group – concedes to jonesing Butterfinger Flurries (“I love candy bars!”) and deeply admiring “distinctly American” desserts, Junior League recipes and tiered “old lady” cakes. One of Batches’ signatures is the three-layer confetti cake with Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.
Different in their aesthetics and audiences (Batches is urban; Miss Molly’s, suburban) the two places are similarly unbending in a commitment to quality ingredients – real butter, pure cream – and never cutting corners. Summer promises lots more exposure for each bakery. Sullivan’s wedding catering kicks into high gear, and Latin-Kasper tries to get her from-scratch ice cream waffle cone on everybody’s bucket list. Sullivan summarizes their mutual philosophy: “Desserts just bring so much joy.”