(This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
Cake & Joe was born when Sarah Qi and Trista Tang, best friends since high school, decided that they wanted to work together. They purchased a building in the Pennsport section of Philadelphia, a less popular neighborhood, as they decided they wanted to be in an area without a lot of competition and to open a business that was serving something completely new and unique to Philadelphia. Sarah said that while their friendship is the most important thing to them, they really want to help create a platform to encourage the younger generation of female chefs and business owners to go for their dreams and realize their capabilities. They want to show younger women that they can be resilient, without relying on others.
Cake & Joe’s specializes in hand-made, mousse-filled, single-serve gourmet cakes, as well as specialty beverages. Every single cake is hand-made from scratch by Trista Tang, who can also take any of the 13-plus cake selections on the menu and turn them into whole cakes (7-plus inches) for those looking for an entire cake for birthdays, weddings, and other special occasions. In the shop’s first three months in business, the passionfruit mousse, the chocolate raspberry mousse, the coffee mousse, and the Oreo mousse cakes are the biggest hits. On the “Joe” side of things, the Mini Rose Latte has been a top-seller, while fresh fruit refreshers (similar to a spritzer) and calpis drinks (yogurt-based) are offered, and expected to gain more popularity when the warmer weather arrives in the spring.
With Trista making every single cake from scratch, she brought in an assistant to help with the simple tasks. All of the production starts and ends with Trista.
The most important thing in the building at Cake & Joe is the commercial freezer. Most of the cakes on the menu feature mousse, which has to be in the freezer for at least 12 hours before they’re ready. Ovens are not important for the type of baking Trista does, but a freezer is everything. Most of the cakes are also made using molds, and a KitchenAid stand mixer is used to expedite the prep for the mousse cakes. The mixer is used to make all of the cream in the most productive and efficient way possible. Additionally, the espresso machine and cold brew machines behind the counter allow Cake & Joe’s barista to crank out drinks non-stop in a timely manner.
Secret of Success
The single-serve mousse cakes are what makes Cake & Joe stand out from the competition. There is nothing else in Philadelphia like the cakes at Cake & Joe, as many top chefs in the area who have tried them said they could see these desserts being served at a fine dining establishment. The cakes and the lattes are both extremely Instagrammable as well, with countless customers using the term, “too pretty to eat” when they share on social media. Cake & Joe’s Instagram, thanks to the artistry behind the cakes and drinks, has seen its social media take off faster than they ever could have imagined, which has been bringing in a steady flow of business.
The main goal of Cake & Joe is to wholesale cakes on a very high scale. Right now, we’re working in a small kitchen, but are working towards getting a commissary kitchen to increase wholesale business, while adding future locations of Cake & Joe down the road. Right now, Trista is mainly focused on her craft, while Sarah is looking towards a future that will include future locations with co-branding from other establishments who want to partner. With the longevity of the mousse cakes (a shelf life of roughly two weeks in the freezer), Cake & Joe believes they have a product which could be co-branded with other food service operations.
Visit www.cakeandjoe.com/ for more info.
All photos by Mike Prince