Kodi Davis rolled her fist into a lump of pie dough Tuesday, folded the pasty substance and flattened it on a flour-covered work station in the small Sweets Cakes & Pastry kitchen.
“We’re going to make some pumpkin pie and mixed-berry pie,” said Davis, the pastry shop co-owner. “’Tis the season — we notice as it gets colder, people prefer more pies.”
As pedestrians striding by the quaint bakery at 211 Grand Ave. pulled their winter wear tighter to protect against the frigid Halloween morning, Davis and her co-worker Vanessa Stines rolled up their sleeves and bounced from station to station focused on prepping the day’s delicacies.
“Tuesdays are actually a little more relaxed,” Davis said, pouring a mixture of frozen berries into a stainless steel bowl. “On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we hand-make 400 buns for Born in a Barn, so it can get a little hectic in here.”
The bakery’s morning shift typically starts at 6 a.m., but she said they started a little later Tuesday, because she attended her daughter’s Halloween parade.
“This Halloween has been a little slower for us,” Davis said. “I’m not sure why, but being only in the second year, we’re excited to see the trends as they develop.”
Laying the dough over a pie tin, she pressed it into the corner of the tin, smoothing over the holes that occasionally tore in the soon-to-be crust.
“We’ve tinkered with lots of different pie dough and we’ve settled on this one as the best,” Davis explained. “It yields a really flakey and buttery crust.”
Learning to bake in her grandmothers’ kitchens, Davis said she originally considered the pastime a hobby and attended college to pursue a different career. But class after class, she found herself thinking more about cakes and cookies than the work at hand.
Instead of following a traditional post-secondary education path, the Laramie native traveled south and attended the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado.
“From there, I went to the (University of Wyoming) and worked at the Rolling Mill Bakery and got a lot of experience with large-scale baking,” Davis said as she trimmed the pie dough and pinched the remnants atop the tin. “When I heard about this opportunity, I decided it was now or never.”
With her husband, Sean, she purchased Sweets in January 2016.
Beneath a chalkboard wall devoid of the day’s specials in the bakery’s front room, Stines used a wooden rod to create a cream chamber inside sugar-coated donuts.
“We cooked these yesterday, and I just pulled them from the proofer, which heats them up and makes them fluffy,” she said. “I’m just going to fill them up with some Bavarian cream, and then, they’ll be ready.”
Davis said Stines studied at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was the first person she hired after buying the shop.
“We’re all classically-trained, but we all have our different styles,” Davis said. “(Stines) is an awesome sculptor and very good at decorating, so it’s nice to have us all come together and create our own vision of the sweets.”
She paused the pie-making process to chat with the laundry service technicians dropping off a load of clean aprons. Addressing each tech by name, Davis talked about the work day ahead and spending time with families Halloween night.
“I used to take my aprons home every night and wash them,” she said, chuckling and shaking her head. “But this is so much easier.”
Stines danced around the hubbub in the kitchen, pulling a tray of sugar cookies from the proofer and returning to her work station in the front room. Sugary aromas fused with the savory smell of baked goods as Stines applied orange icing to pumpkin-shaped cookies.
“If (the icing) gets too runny, it will slide off the cookie,” she explained without shifting her gaze from her work. “If it’s too thick, it won’t spread well. You want an even coat.”
Davis nodded with approval as she stepped behind Stines to stock the shop’s displays.
“Sugar cookies are one of our best sellers,” Davis said. “I think it’s our decorations that really sell them. People really like all the bright colors.”
Before she could return to the kitchen, Sean Peterson, a UPS driver, stepped in the door and set his package on the counter, so he could inspect the pastries on display.
Greeting the customer with a list of the day’s donuts, Davis explained Peterson was a regular with a penchant for Sweets’ donuts.
“My favorite was the donut holes,” Peterson said, his eyes growing wide as he smiled at the memory. The deliveryman left with two orange-glazed donuts sporting ghostly sprinkles.
Back in the kitchen with her pies, Davis used a stepstool to reach the highest of several shelves packed with cooking equipment.
“We don’t have much space, so we have to cram every crack with our supplies,” Davis said.
Pouring pumpkin pie filling into a mixing bowl, she explained operating the bakery allowed her to apply her imagination to putting smiles on people’s faces.
“You never know what’s going to come through the door,” Davis said. “Whether it’s a Batman cake or something for a bachelorette party, I love the creativity of it all.”