Stacey Leon Interview
In New York, the Butterfly Bakeshop is one of the premier bakeries.
They are well known for their personalized cakes, attention to detail and imaginative designs.
Stacey Leon and her husband Orlando own the Butterfly Bakeshop.
We spoke with Stacy about her unique New York City bakery.
Q - Stacey, it appears to me that maybe your baking more specialty cakes, birthday cakes than you are wedding cakes, would that be the core of your business?
A - Well, the core of our business is sort of two fold, everything we do is custom. We don’t have a retail space where you can walk in and buy something. So, every cake that we make is something that is customized for the person who is ordering it. So, we bake it to order depending on what flavor and filling they want and then we design and decorated the way they’ve request. So, the things you see on the website are actually cakes that we’ve done for people who have ordered from us. We do quite a lot of birthday cakes and children’s cakes, but, we also do wedding cakes as well, so we really run the gamut. We really do anything.
Q - You just seem to post more birthday cakes than wedding cakes.
A - Not necessarily. We may not post a lot of our wedding cakes because some of them are similar so we don’t want to keep posting the same cakes over and over. We also have something we’ve put together called wedding cakes à la cart which is our answer to people who are really looking for very customized wedding cake but may not have the budget that goes along with it. It’s a program that helps them be able to design a cake with certain parameters and then that way they can stay within their budget.
Q - Each cake is different, but, how much time would you say goes into the making of a wedding cake?
A - Everything is driven by the design of the cake. To bake the cake whether it’s very large or very small a baking is pretty much the same timing, but then there’s the stacking of the cakes. Something that’s to tears is quicker to stack than five tears and then whatever the decorative elements that go on it those are the things that take the most time. So, a very simple wedding cake can take just a few hours whereas something much more decorative and elaborate can take many, many hours or several days to decorate.
Q - How much help do you have in that bakery of yours?
A - We have one person who really does most of the baking and then we have a number of people who help with the stacking and finishing of the cake. They also help with the decorative elements. My husband who is the cake artists, he does a lot more of the intricate work, but some of the other people are assisting him with that.
Q - You’re also a cake artists aren’t you?
A - I’m not actually a cake artist my job is more of the marketing and sales, more administrative, more business end of the cakes.
Q - How do you get the word out about your business? Is it word-of-mouth? Do you advertise?
A - We do a lot of grassroots marketing we build relationships with different venues and different places that are marketing to the same places we are. So, for example, tomorrow were doing a kitchen demo in Bloomingdale’s where they sell all the housewares and china and things like that. Well hand out samples so people get to know who we are and learn about custom cakes. We also work with Crate and Barrel and do a lot of their registry events. We also with Bloomingdale’s on some of their registry events. In the past we’ve worked with Williams and Sonoma. So, we do lots of relationships like that. I had a meeting yesterday with a photographer who’s a wedding photographer just to get to know her and she would get to know our work. The more people that know about you the more people that find out about you. We do some advertising. We advertise on Wedding Wire and The Knot. Those are pretty much the places we advertise the most. We really do more grassroots marketing.
Q - Have you ever made cakes for any famous people?
A - We have done some famous people. I try not to mention people we’ve done cakes for because it’s like a personal thing because they’re celebrating birthdays or their children’s birthdays. So, I don’t really advertise that. We did do one of the retirement cakes for Barbara Walters. This past weekend we were on Fox and Friends weekend because we did a cake for the 379th anniversary of the National Guard. I try not to advertise or say the names of famous people that we’ve worked with. With Barbara Walters everybody knows she was retiring so it wasn’t that personal or private, but, if someone is having their child’s second birthday, I don’t want to be naming who we did cakes for.
Q - Is this a seven day a week operation?
A - Well, the way that the industry works mostly is that we start off building on some Monday, getting everything ready, baking, creating decorations at the beginning of the week. Towards the end of the week is more when were doing assembling and decorating and pulling it all together. And on the weekends, typically Friday, Saturday and Sunday those limos come and they’re busy. We’re delivering. So, we really don’t take a lot of orders on the weekend. Most of the orders are taken in advance or if we take orders in the week for the week there more at the beginning of the week so we have the time to execute them. Most people are celebrating on the weekends for the weekday, but, most of the time it’s weekends.
Q - I know you have a degree from Johnson and Wales. How does that help you in your work?
A - I think it gives me an understanding. First of all not only do I have a degree, but, I’ve worked in the industry. I used to work in the catering and events industry. So, it helps me understand what needs to be done. My husband understands what needs to be done with the flavor pallets and the decorative elements. For me, it helps me work with different venues, the client, to know what is going to be meaningful to them. For example, when we’re coordinating deliveries, working with the venue, to give them everything they need to make delivery easy for them. So, when we deliver a cake it comes in the box that has a window in front of it so the client can see the cake arrive without having to take it out. We put how to store it, how to handle it, what flavors are inside, who the cake is for, what time the party is. All of that, on the outside on an invoice with no price on it. If somebody in a hotel is receiving the cake they have all the details but they don’t necessarily know what the client paid for the cake or whoever was paying for the cake. Lots of different things like that help me to understand what’s needed. I think having the food service college background helped me to get the jobs where I learned those things.
Q - Here’s what I do not understand; for 15 years you directed food operations and events in a number of Manhattan hotels, restaurants and catering venues. Directed events. What does that mean? Were you booking entertainment?
A - No. My last job before I was full-time at our bakery. I was the general manager of the catering venue. I managed the team that sold the event, I managed the team that executed the event, I managed the people who ran the back of the house, the chef, the dishwashers, anybody that had anything to do with executing a special event. We didn’t booked the entertainment or anything like that, but my food related items that had to do with the event, setting up the room or getting the linen, setting the tables, cooking the food, serving the food. That type of thing. Those are things I oversaw.
Q - I would imagine that Johnson Wales has an internship program then.
A - Yes they do. I actually did my first internship in culinary in Disney World. I was at Epcot Center there and I was in the German pavilion and I did a lot of cooking there. Then Johnson Wales also does a lot of hands on while you’re at school. So, you do learn a lot while you’re at school. It’s funny because we actually have a Johnson Wales intern working with us right now. We do host interns from different culinary schools, baking schools.
Q - Where do you acquire the skills necessary to bake these fancy cakes? Not everyone can do that and I realize there are schools you can go to, but, there has to be something else going on.
A - Exactly. I’ll tell you I don’t have that skill. (Laughs). But, my husband does. It’s interesting because he’s a very artistic person. He started out as a chef. He always had an interest in baking. He used to bake. He would bake for different reasons, four different restaurants he worked for. At one point when we had our own café we used to own a café, someone came in and tasted one of his cakes that he had made for our cafés anniversary. Somebody said, this is the most delicious cake. I want this cake for my wedding. She brought in a picture of how she wanted the cake decorated. And, he’d never decorated a cake like that. He took on the challenge and executed a beautiful cake. He really enjoyed it. He really liked the creative side of it, making cake look like other things, something that doesn’t look like cake. That’s really his passion and challenge. He really loves that.
Q - What I’m hearing these days is, people who are creating these cakes have more of an art background then a baking background.
A - Absolutely. My husband doesn’t have a culinary degree. He actually went to school for photography. So, it’s true he has an artistic eye. He learned everything he did through just on-the-job training. I think he just has that artistic talent. Many of the students that do come to us, the intern that works for us right now, she went to a specialty art school in high school. So, she has an artistic background and many of the students that do come to us do have that artistic background. So, that’s true.
Official website: butterflybakeshop.com
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