A little over a week ago, Lexi Malmros was watching her Kickstarter page’s countdown flash by, waiting the hours and counting the coins down to see if she could make her brainchild, Beer Cakes Philly, a brick-and-mortar reality. Little did she realize that would happen much more quickly than she had anticipated.
With bustling truck and online orders to tend to, Melissa Torre of Cookie Confidential barely had the time to keep her retail spot on a shaded corner right off of South Street open to the public. She was considering moving out at the end of her lease until she spotted a Philly Beer Scene blurb about Beer Cakes Philly with a link to its Facebook page. Emails were exchanged, and the next day the two bakers met.
Two days after their face-to-face meeting, Malmros quit her full-time job to devote herself to brews and buttercreams 24/7 in Cookie Confidential’s home at 5th and Gaskill. “I was planning for it, I had been saving for it, so why not now?” Malmros said. “I just didn’t see this coming.”
Teaming up in the same storefront was a logical step for Torre and Malmros. “I was in the middle of deciding what I was going to do with this place,” Torre said, “so when I saw the beer cupcakes, that’s a perfect match. It’s the same customer, we have the same targeted audience."
That they do. While Malmros’ startup was inspired by beer, Torre’s was the product of bacon. Both bakers want their customers to focus on their food and not necessarily the abundant frills in other bakeries. “I’m not a pink candy-colored person,” Malmros laughs, “that’s usually the aesthetic other bakers go for, and that’s just not me.”
“I got disappointed in constantly getting cupcakes that looked amazing and tasted horrible,” said Torre. With this pair, “it’s more about the food.” All of Torre’s products—cookies, cupcakes in a jar, brittles—are made with all-natural, organic, and local ingredients. Branching out from her original chocolate chip and bacon recipe in 2005, Torre now also offers flavors such as raspberry balsamic, sriracha coconut, and peanut butter hot dog.
Malmros also enjoys playing with her food, although her recipes begin at a beer case instead of a farmer’s market. She stands in front of cases and starts reading labels of brews that interest her. “It’s fascinating to me that there are so many spices and things that you’d never be able to tell unless you’re a beer aficionado that can taste all those differences,” she tells me. “It’s really fun to bring out all of those flavors with my baking.”
It’s important to note here that Malmros doesn’t just use beer as an ingredient in her cupcakes; it’s the star. Her version of a vanilla is the Philly Pale, made with no flavoring except Philadelphia Brewing Company’s Pale Ale. It smells and tastes like the real thing, topped with the smooth, light buttercream—a creamy manifestation of the suds from a draft beer.
Not a beer drinker? Don’t let that scare you away. “I don’t like beer, and I’m not a drinker, and her cupcakes are really good,” Torre told me. “I opened the box and was like, ‘Wow, this smells like beer,’ and then I tried one and it was ‘wow, these taste good!’ And I don’t even like beer, and they taste good!”
Although acquiring a retail space was one of her main goals with her Kickstarter project, Malmros says the most important pieces are still to come. “Now that I have a space, we’ll be sharing equipment, but it’s so much more important for me to have my own,” Malmros says. “It’s been an interesting struggle for me to explain that.”
Torre adds that, with sharing equipment, each baker will be severely limited in the special events and large orders usually requested of them due to a lack of equipment availability. “We can make it work, but it’ll be a million times easier for us (to both have equipment),” Torre explains.
Malmros will be pouring free samples of the brews her cupcakes are made with from Thursday until Saturday evening, June 7-9, for the opening of the shared space and, appropriately, the tail end of Philadelphia Beer Week. Although a liquor license may be in the duo’s future, the space is currently BYO-friendly. “I hope it’s a destination where people will want to come and hang out for a little while,” she smiles.
Every contributor to the Kickstarter project for Beer Cakes Philly with at least a $1 pledge will receive a free cupcake during the opening, not to mention bigger rewards for larger pledges that are definitely worth checking out—think catered parties and three-tier wedding cakes. To support Malmros’ endeavor or just to learn more about Beer Cakes Philly, please visit her Kickstarter here.
You can follow both bakers on Twitter, @beercakesphilly and @CookieConfident, I’m also there @libpeck.