Jennifer Bunce couldn’t sit through one more conference call about conference calls. After studying journalism in college, Bunce was in her fifth year working at a public relations firm as a corporate event planner, and was sick of it. Her artistic nature was getting the better of her, as was her penchant for baking. Her job was suffocating her creativity.
“It just seemed like I was going through meeting after meeting about planning more meetings,” she said. “Something had to change.”
Seven months of culinary school and a three month internships later, Bunce opened the Hudson Cakery, at first working out of her own kitchen and then for two years at a rented catering space.
Today, she is one of Hudson County’s premier cake makers, the head of a booming business located on Willow Avenue in Weehawken.
“I always wanted to do something that combined art and baking,” she said. “I could have really focused on all baked goods, but it was always about cakes for me.”
“I could have really focused on all baked goods, but it was always about cakes for me.” - Hudson Cakery owner Jennifer Bunce
“We’re not really a retail business; everything is made to order,” she said. “We don’t have a book with all of the cakes we make and prices for each.”
Because of this, every cake Bunce makes is unique in both taste and design.
The craziest thing she’s ever been asked to create?
“We just had a bride-to-be in last week who asked us to create maple syrup and bacon cupcakes,” she said. “Since the boom of television shows about cake makers, people are starting to realize they can ask for some pretty nutsy stuff.”
The ‘cake boom’
Television’s “cake boom,” as Bunce called it, began in 2006 with The Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes,” a show that featured Duff Goldman’s Baltimore bakery, Charm City Cakes. Since then, around nine shows have aired on various networks, including Hudson County’s own “Cake Boss,” which features Hoboken’s Carlo’s Bakery and its charismatic owner, Buddy Valastro.
Bunce said that if anything, the “cake boom” was good for business.
“It seems like it’s dying down now, but it was pretty nuts for a while,” she said. “There was definitely a feeling that all the TV shows had upped the ante.”
The ante, as it turned out, was signaled by the rise of amateur cake makers, all who claimed to be the next big thing. The cream, as it was, rose to the top.
“Because everyone was trying to do it as a hobby, I think it made us look better,” said Bunce.
After that, Bunce’s cakes quickly earned a reputation as some of the freshest, tastiest and most aesthetically pleasing in the tri-state area. Delivering anywhere within a three hour drive, The Hudson Cakery offers a shockingly wide array of flavors.
In terms of the cake itself, the possibilities range from the classics, such as chocolate fudge, white winter vanilla, red (or pink) velvet, banana bread and lemon, to more outlandish flavors like pumpkin, almond, ginger spice and funfetti. By special request, Bunce can concoct a champagne flavored cake.
“The chocolate is classic, but it’s really, really good,” said Bunce. “I think it goes great with our salted caramel filling.”
Along with the salted caramel buttercream, the Cakery offers 17 varieties of filling, including fruits like raspberry, cherry, strawberry, pineapple, and banana pudding, as well as custards in nearly every imaginable flavor. Bunce said one of the more popular choices is the chocolate peanut butter cup.
“If you’re a fan of Reese’s, this is basically the filling you’re going to want,” she said.
Despite having hired a baker, a sugar artist, and several interns to assist her in the process, Bunce said she can hardly ever take her eyes off a cake.
“I’m too paranoid,” she said. “No matter how much you plan, you can never be too careful.”
Surprisingly, Bunce said that a cake’s actual delivery is the most stressful part of her job.
“The baking, the art, all of that can be difficult, but it’s not exactly stressful,” she said. “But getting the cake in the box, then into the truck, and then getting it to wherever it’s going can be nervewracking.”
From the time it’s ordered until its delivery, Bunce said, the cake business is a labor of love.
“You’re definitely not in this business for the money; that’s for sure,” she said. “But I love it. Every day is something different.”
Indeed. According to the Cakery’s website, if you can dream it up, Bunce can bake it. She can even make something without eggs or gluten-free. It almost seems as if they sky’s the limit, but not exactly.
“We can’t do sugar free,” she joked. “It’s just impossible.” Learn more about the shop at HudsonCakery.com
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org