Valentine’s day heart cakes (amazing photo courtesy of Becca Johnson):

And more sweethearts:
Anne Fitten Glen, of Edgy Mama fame, wrote an awesome article that was in the Citizen Times yesterday:

(photo courtesy of the Asheville Citizen-Times)

Short Street Cakes to throw Mardi Gras grand opening
small-business profile

Anne Fitten Glenn • published February 15, 2009 12:15 am

WEST ASHEVILLE – Fat Tuesday seems an appropriate day to open a cake shop.

“My great love of food is rooted in traditions of celebration. Southerners celebrate Mardi Gras in a unique way, and there are lots of former New Orleans residents in Asheville, so we’ll celebrate by opening the cake shop,” said Jodi Rhoden, owner of Short Street Cakes.

To be precise, the shop will open two days before Fat Tuesday, on Feb. 22, to coincide with Asheville’s Mardi Gras parade downtown. Short Street Cakes’ festivities will include free Mardi Gras beads, live music, a cake raffle, the launch of a new, expanded menu and the debut of the newest cake flavor, the Mardi Gras Queen Cake.

Rhoden, 32, started Short Street Cakes out of her family’s home on Short Street in 2005 soon after her son was born. She baked her goods in a vintage 1963 Frigidaire Flair oven that a neighbor gave her. The Flair now holds a place of honor in the new shop, and Rhoden has graduated to cooking with professional Garland Sunfire ovens.

Rhoden amassed several years of baking experience, initially with a nonprofit program in Boston. A social worker by training, she taught baking as a job skill. After moving to Asheville in 2001, the Georgia native worked for West End Bakery, where she learned to decorate cakes.

She claims that her lack of formal training means she “tends to bake more like my grandmother than like a pastry chef.” She touts her cakes as all-natural, made from scratch, and created “with love.”

Rhoden started making wedding cakes for customers from home and developed a word-of-mouth clientele. She then added birthday cakes and cupcakes to her repertoire. Rhoden realized she needed a bigger production space. So she took Mountain Bizworks’ Foundations course and developed a business plan for a production and retail shop.

“I thought I could continue working out of my house, but I realize I need to be able to provide what people want,” Rhoden said.

And they seem to want cake. Rhoden’s blog, My Life in Cake, has increased visitors to her Web site and gained her a local following. Her blog won four awards at blog conglomerate Blogasheville’s annual awards ceremony in September.

“Blogging and social networking have been and remain affordable ways to advertise. Blogging’s an accessible way for me to be creative and write as well,” she said. In addition to her business, Rhoden also writes about the history of cake and how people celebrate through food and in particular through cake.

Customer Ada Volkmer discovered Short Street Cakes after she and a friend, Heather Rayburn, went on a quest to find the best cupcake in Asheville. They wrote about the adventure on Rayburn’s now-defunct blog.

Rayburn wrote, “Holy Moses on a cracker! This woman knows how to bake a confection of pure, unadulterated endorphin-filled love. This is Jodi Rhoden, blogger of My Life in Cake, and the best cupcake maker in Asheville. Hands down!”

While picking up triple chocolate ganache cupcakes for a party recently, Volkmer said, “There’s not a day that I don’t dream about Jodi’s cupcakes. The cupcake-to-icing ratio is perfect.”

Rhoden continues to combine social justice practices with baking. Her business goals include offering fair wages, sourcing as many ingredients locally as possible, and using minimal and green packaging, while keeping her prices affordable.

For example, she collects vintage cake tins, and customers can put down a deposit, take a cake home in one of her tins and return it later, eliminating the need for disposable packaging.

“I see this as a great opportunity for me to reactivate my social beliefs and commitments while making a living as a baker,” Rhoden said.

Minicupcakes cost 80 cents to $1, while standard-sized cupcakes cost $2-$2.50. The store will have cupcakes on hand six days a week, plus a whole cake or two. Most cakes need to be pre-ordered and cost $25-$50 depending on the size and flavors. Wedding cakes are priced per serving.

And my sweet family brought me flowers and Waffle House breakfast on Valentines Day:

(and ate some cupcakes).

In the broken heart department: my computer took a 7-day vacation at Charlotte Street Computers. Its taking me some time to catch up. If you’ve contacted me about a wedding, and haven’t heard back, hang on, I’m coming!

The soft opening at the cake shop is going beautifully. Short Street Cakes is getting lots and lots of love. And the feeling is mutual.