Alyce Bixby's mission is to "bake" the world a better place.
She's been doing it for years, but only in the last nine month has she risen to the challenge at her newly created cottage bakery, Sugar Shakers Bake Shop. It’s a boutique style bakery catering to client's individual needs.
A cottage business often thought of as a small-scale business, usually operates out of a home, rather than having a storefront. Bixby said she's content with her home operation north of Weatherford which she began in early March.
"I grew up in New England where I worked in the fine dining food industry," she said. "I took a liking to gourmet foods early and have been cooking professionally off and on for more than 30 years."
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Bixby said when she moved to Texas and settled in the Peaster area she was affectionately known as the “Cake Lady.” But circumstances led her away from her passion and into retail business eventually taking her to greater responsibilities and a promotion. She decided the corporate world wasn't all she had hoped for. It was then where she said "enough!"
"I wanted to work from home again," Bixby said. "Texas has great cottage industry laws, so I became certified by the state and began baking again."
Along her journey, she's baked for many high profile customers.
"Working at private and semi-private resorts which catered to this type of clientele, gave me the opportunity to be creative and work without being overly concerned with food cost, as in most dining establishments," Bixby said. "We purchased unique, and quality ingredients and I haven't been able to part with that standard. Brand does matter when it comes to cooking. Being the baker for people who appreciate quality is an honor. It's what sets me apart."
But the cottage food industry does have its challenges.
"I can't make anything that needs refrigeration like pastry cream, custard and has cream cheese. Anything that spoils," she said. "But I can bake fruit pies, cookies, scones, cakes...anything that doesn't have to be refrigerated."
Bixby said she loves baking the traditional items customers loved but wanted a signature creation all her own to market.
"I asked the Lord for my unique item I could bake and it came to me," she said. "It's like a cake ball but much bigger. I call it a cake bomb. They come in a variety of flavors and have a gooey center, and it's dipped in Ghirardelli chocolate."
She said it's a labor of love to bake many of her items at home. As cottage baking business she isn't allowed to have commercial grade equipment.
"So everything is made in small batches," she said, "But it's fair. If someone is going to have a business in the community, they're going to be hiring employees; have payroll taxes... I'm doing it from my home, I don't have the overhead, so I understand the limitations."
Bixby said she'd loved baking since she was a child and credits her mother and grandmother for developing her passion for it.
And it shows.
“I met Alyce at the Diamond H3 Ranch open house. Out of all the other cakes there, hers were definitely the most unique,” said Beth Swan on the Sugar Shakers Facebook review listings. “I love cake balls, so when I saw her cake bombs on display I knew I had to try them. They're delectable. The cake is moist and holds together well, there’s a surprise filling in every one, and the flavors are great. I would have to say the Oreo and the Reese's ones were my favorites.”
Bixby said she appreciate the comments.
"I love getting into the kitchen and being creative," she said. "It’s truly my passion."
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274
Texas Health and Human Services
A cottage food production operation is defined as an individual, operating out of the individual’s home, who:
▪ Produces a baked good, candy, coated and uncoated nuts, unroasted nut butters, fruit butters, a canned jam or jelly, a fruit pie, dehydrated fruit or vegetables, including dried beans, popcorn and popcorn snacks, cereal, including granola, dry mix, vinegar, pickles, mustard, roasted coffee or dry tea, or a dried herb or dried herb mix.
▪ Has an annual gross income of $50,000 or less from the sale of the described foods; and
▪ Sells the foods produced directly to consumers at the individual’s home, a farmers’ market, a farm stand, or a municipal, county, or nonprofit fair, festival or event.
▪ Delivers products to the consumer at the point of sale or another location designated by the consumer.
For more on licensing, requirements and restrictions, food labeling go to: www.dshs.texas.gov/foodestablishments/cottagefood/default.aspx