Cakes. There are indeed a few good places in Accra where you can get beautifully crafted, moist, tender and divinely tasting cake. Where the quality has remained consistent over the years. My first encounter and experience with a cake from BakeShop Classics was some many years ago when an aunt bought my late grandmother a beautiful 60th birthday cake. Before then, I was used to (but never quite liked it) hard icing pieces I would have to break off birthday and wedding cakes. But here was cake in all its artistic beauty and buttery soft icing to go with it. It was BakeShop after that and I have never regretted any moment of it. The cake art was always perfect for every occasion, whether a Barbie or Ninja Turtle cake, they always met our needs. Its interesting how most people would drive miles to BakeShop just to get meat pocket and cupcakes, well until you tried one you wouldn’t understand. The meat pocket is verrrryyyy stuffed with delicious shredded beef. Yum! Its great with a cup of hot milky tea. Take my word for it.
So I had the wonderful opportunity to have a chat with the beautiful gracious owner of BakeShop Classics, Mrs. Blanche Agyemang to find out the intriguing story behind this fantastic bakery; how it all started and what the buttery future looks like.
BakeShop Classics has been around some oh 20+ years. What’s the success story behind one of Ghana’s best and favourite bakery?
BakeShop started about 24years ago but how it all started goes back a bit longer than that. It all started with when I had to attend a Baha’i feast and back then in 1974 supplies were very little but then a friend had gifted me some packets of yeast and I came across a quick cinnamon roll recipe in my cookbook. I decided to give to add some flour I had to give it a try although i had never worked with yeast before. The rolls were hit with one of my friends at the feast and she asked if I wanted customers for my cinnamon rolls. Yes, i did! Back then I worked as a secretary at an airline and I would make about 15 rings to sell. I later realised the lack of pastries in shops in Accra so I decided to send samples to then UTC and MULTISTORES and they started taking my rolls. So every morning at 4am I would bake with my oldest daughter Robbie and a house help who would place the rolls in the oven, whilst another lady living with me would dash off to the shops and deliver them.
This went on for about 2 years until the country faced food shortage, so here I didn’t have any flour to bake. So I stopped baking until 20 something years later.
I was blessed in 1979 to get a job as a secretary at SwissAir. I retired from there in 1990 when I was 45 and I got involved in a retail business by importing items from China to Ghana to sell. However before retiring, I decided to make a cake for a friends birthday and that cake was a Cheese Pound Cake. The cake was a hit with the birthday girl and her sisters. After the last crumb, she suggested I open a coffe-shop at my house and serve up this delicious cake. A lightbulb went up in my head at that instant and I remember my baking years!
My cheese pound cake became a hit with the ladies at Bank of Ghana where previous samples had been sent by a friend of mine. Orders for Christmas came in by the numbers and thankfully SwissAir had closed two days before the festivities so I could manage my orders.
So how did all this transform into baking other types of cakes?
Well, interestingly my clients at the bank started ordering for other types of plain cakes. In about two months, through word of mouth my cakes became very popular. I then hired a young lady from a cake school, and through observing her cake decorating skills talent I learnt how decorate cakes. My sister also passed on her cake decorating book to me and through that I purchased specialty items for baking and thats how it all started. I started baking in my kitchen, my kids helped a lot and it was interesting how we would have cinnamon rolls in the living and dining room ready to be delivered to clients.
When did the shop actually open?
After about a year and half of baking at home, i rented a small shop at PalmWine junction and we were there about 12 years where we had to expand to a larger place by moving to the shop just in front of the Trade Fair Centre. After about 7 years we got bigger and finally moved to this current location.
What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
These mostly have been getting the ingredients and keeping prices at a level where everyone can afford a cake. 100% profit doesn’t work, I don’t have a huge profit margin because of my high overheads. My flour and other ingredients are imported. I choose imported flour due to the soft texture, local flour is heavier and better suited for bread not cakes. Foreign exchange affects the price of most ingredients. Staffing also sometimes become a problem, originally I had planned to train students on how to make pastries which they can easily sell on their own to the local market. There are a lot of women who come from the villages and end up on the street and often face dangerous situations. If these women are given the opportunity to learn how to make these pastries and earn some money, it will be good for them. They have to realise and understand how to save the money they earn instead of spending on frivolous items.
How many cakes do you make in a day/month?
Depending on the day, we make about 25-30 pieces, on a weekend numbers rise to about 100-150 cakes.
I have seen some pretty amazing cake art like a Louis Vuitton bag etc. What is/are the inspiration for your cake art.
I am blessed to have really talented staff who are very creative and fast in designing the cakes. My daughter is very innovative and has the patience to design customised cakes which can be in the form of Gucci bags, Louis Vuitton bags etc.
Any word of inspiration for upcoming bakers in the country?
Be ready to start small, don’t expect to make a mint overnight. Be prepared to sacrifice time and be nice to your customers!
Well, I really enjoyed the chat and how welcoming Aunt Blanche was! I was lucky to get a tour of the new place which is just fantastic btw! Its bigger with more baking facilities, new pastry products and as usual really friendly customer service. The shop also serves awesome pastries like quiche, plain and chocolate croissants, meat pockets, fish puff pies and cupcakes and I have to be honest, the croissants are in very big portions and reasonably priced too!
Do pass by BakeShop whenever you want to order some beautiful delicious cake for any occasion or whenever you find yourself in the Labadi neighbourhood. Yes you can also place an order via phone call (+233 0272 933015,+233 0260 887566) and pick it up when its ready!