Something New Entertainment’s DJ Anna-Jeannine “AJ9” Herman: What first interested you in baking?
Hummingbird Bake Shop’s Kim Coryea: Most of my family traditions and favorite life memories generally involve food. For me, food means celebrating, comfort, getting closer to friends. I think my earliest memory of really enjoying the process of baking started with making Christmas cut-out cookies. It was at least a two-day event. I would spend a day with my mom and brothers preparing and baking them. Then we would spend hours decorating them: coloring the bowls of icing, using toothpicks to make eyes for the angels and ornaments on the trees. Each year, my mom would declare that we could only make four icing colors and then give us a deadline for completing the cookies. I remember protesting that we needed more colors in order to finish them appropriately. She had to be so exhausted by the time we were finished. Everyone else would have given up on decorating, Mom would be slapping on icing just to get the cookies finished and I would still be decorating. . . slowly. I suppose I’ve always been a sucker for details. I watched my mom spend a lot of time in the kitchen. When I was little, she did fun things like take me for tea with Mother Goose. I still remember those mini cakes baked in tiny flower pots at that tea.
KC: Custom cakes are my specialty. I am a French-trained pastry chef, so I like to do a variety of things and experiment with different flavors. Although I love a traditional wedding cake, I would hate for a couple to limit themselves to a tiered cake if they would prefer something different. Let’s get creative! Some examples of what I’ve done for events include: handcrafted cake toppers, jarred salted caramel sauce, individual caramel squares, mini cakes, cake parfaits, cupcakes, tarts, pies and cookies. I love making seasonal jam as well. Once the baking is complete, I also enjoy helping clients come up with creative ways to present their desserts.
DJ AJ9: How long have you been creating sweets for weddings?
KC: I have been officially operating my own business, Hummingbird Bake Shop, for two years now. Until then, I was baking cakes and holding down another job for several years. I completed my pastry education at the French Pastry School in 2007. I made my first wedding cake for a friend who got married on New Year’s Eve 2005. A friend and I decided to take it on together and we actually traveled to Milwaukee from Chicago with that cake. I’m not sure what we were thinking, but it worked out. Boy, were we lucky. I’ve learned a lot since then.
DJ AJ9: What do you enjoy most about creating cakes and sweets for wedding clients?
KC: Your Answer I guess because I have such an emotional connection to food and the baking process, I love making that same emotional connection with clients. It’s truly a privilege to have someone trust me to play a role in one of the most important days of their lives. And, it’s dessert. It should be fun. Even if it’s formal, it can still be comfortable. There are so many details to consider when planning your wedding day. It’s my hope that I can make the cake process a little easier and enjoyable for the client.
DJ AJ9: What is the most important consideration couples should make when choosing a bakery for their wedding?
KC: I think clients will be happiest working with a bakery or person they trust and connect with. There are a lot of people who are good at what they do and are great people, but your personality and style might not make you a good fit and that’s okay. You’re inviting them to participate in an intimate day. You want people there who want to be there and are invested in wanting to help you have a fantastic day, so you want to get along. It’s my job to make the best cake or dessert for you. If we connect on some level, it will make it easier and more enjoyable to achieve that goal.
Make sure it’s someone you trust. I know there are a lot of great home bakers, but they might not know what they are getting into when they agree to make your wedding cake. I know from experience that in addition to sourcing and baking, there are many other details that go into making a wedding cake. Just like your other vendors, your baker has to communicate with family members, the venue, the caterer, the florist – all to make the construction, taste, delivery and presentation a success.
Taste their work and look at their portfolio. When I say I make Swiss meringue buttercream that might not mean much to a client. I want to set clear expectations for them. When I say my buttercream is off-white because I use real butter, I want you to see the color and taste the buttercream. Work with someone who is willing to provide you with as many details as he/she can.
DJ AJ9: How many flavors do you offer, and what is the process for choosing flavors with Hummingbird Bake Shop?
KC: I start by asking the couple if they have a strong feeling about a certain flavor or if they have a flavor in mind. It gives me some idea of their taste preferences. I have a menu of approximately 10 flavor combinations that I then give clients as a starting point. I find that having too many flavor choices becomes confusing and overwhelming. I customize flavors as well, so if they had their heart set on something that isn’t there, I am willing to work with them. Not every flavor is a good choice for a stacked wedding cake. Season, weather, size and guests all factor into the flavor decision.
DJ AJ9: Do you do custom design work? What about display stands and towers? Delivery?
KC: Most everything I do is custom. I often spend hours and hours in the design phase of the cake in an effort to provide the most personal and well-constructed finished product. That’s one of the reasons I decided to remain an appointment-only business. For me, it’s been the best way to connect to clients and give them one-on-one attention as we work to create their celebration cake. Even if you know exactly what you want in a wedding cake, there is still an element of customization involved. I don’t want to leave people with the impression that I only do cakes with tons of design work. Custom does not necessarily mean a lot of design elements, it means doing what’s best for you.
I do have a cupcake tower and other stands available. I am happy to make recommendations on where to purchase stands if a couple would like to buy their own as well. If clients do provide their own, I have them give me with their stands prior to the wedding and then I bring them with me when I deliver the cake. I prefer to have them ahead of time because there are all kinds of things to consider when displaying your cake on a stand: weight of the cake, size of the base, size of the display table.
I handle all delivery and set-up for weddings. For other events, I prefer to deliver delicately designed and constructed cakes because I have the most control over protecting the cake until it arrives at its destination. As much as I work to ensure the structural integrity of the cake, when a client chooses to pick it up, it is ultimately out of my control whether it makes it in one piece to its destination.
DJ AJ9: What’s the question I’m not asking you but you wish I would, or What’s the question that clients usually don’t ask you but you wish they would?
KC: Can those custom-designed cakes really look and taste good? The answer is Yes. If a client would like to have a conversation about ingredients, I am happy to do that. I read wedding articles that reference this topic and I hear more people say that they love the look of fondant-covered, custom-designed cakes but they know they won’t taste any good. If there are any compromises made on the flavor of the cake due to the design elements, a good baker will let you know and discuss options. A lot of my cakes are covered in fondant, but I love doing buttercream finishes on cakes. I would never force someone to choose one over the other and never would suggest that one is more beautiful than the other. I like people to know their options and educate them on the differences. It’s about making something that tastes great and fits you and your event.
Kimberly Coryea, Owner and Executive Pastry Chef at Hummingbird Bake Shop, has a lifelong love of baking, but her professional pastry journey began in Chicago when she left her sales and marketing career in the television industry to pursue a career in the pastry arts. She attended the French Pastry School where she was taught classic French methods by some of the world’s best pastry chefs. She continued to train at bakeries in Chicago and ultimately chose Cleveland to start her own relationship-driven bake shop. “I take great pleasure in the details and enjoy building relationships with clients in order to hand-craft the perfect sweet accompaniment to fit them and their event.” Her first priority is ensuring her products have great flavor but her interest in design and hopeless desire to turn something ordinary and tired into something “new” also finds her performing creative duties outside of baking for clients, friends and family. When she’s not working, you can find her enjoying a good meal with her husband or friends and adding countless DIY projects to her to-do list.