If you haven’t experienced the savory taste of a gourmet cupcake or cake from Robin’s Nest Cakery, you don’t know what you’ve been missing! While Robin Shiels opened her storefront in Downtown Kenosha on August 9, 2011, her business got its start more than two years earlier. Mix together a love of baking and one disastrous bridal shower cake, add a cake decorating class along with a few years of experience, and voila, you have Robin where she is today: at 5607 Seventh Ave.
“We are a custom order sweet shop and offer a cash and carry gourmet cupcakes and cookies,” Robin shares. “Our philosophy is simple: I bake like my grandmother did. I use the best local ingredients I can find and I make everything fresh. We do not freeze anything and we make everything in small batches. We specialize in unique special occasion cakes (birthdays through weddings), gourmet cupcakes, and decorated sugar cookies.” Robin’s shop offers ladies night out decorating parties, children's birthday parties (ages 8 and older), and cake decorating classes (winter only) when the shop is normally closed.
“I've always loved to bake!” Robin used to spend days at a time baking with her mom for gifts her family would give away for the holidays. “I still do homemade treats for my neighbors and co-workers.”
It was five years ago when a friend was getting married and Robin volunteered to make her shower cake. Robin recalls, “She wanted a bow out of something called fondant.” Robin googled it and said ‘sure no problem’. After the end result could’ve belonged on a cake wrecks challenge, “I decided to take a class to learn because that's just the person that I am. Soon I had taken all the classes available at the local Michaels Craft store and started teaching the classes. This lasted two years before I decided I wanted to start a website and sell at Kenosha HarborMarket.”
“My friend Marie Nelson, owner of Lot’s of Love Academy, let me outfit her kitchen and get licensed to bake and sell. That led to custom orders every week which left me waste in the form of cupcakes and nowhere to sell it!” This was in 2009. “Then I decided being the hopeless romantic that I am I wanted to focus more on wedding and special occasion cakes. At this time Marie's business was growing and there were children 7 days a week until midnight so it wasn’t the best place to meet with brides to plan their cakes.”
“Another local business owner Jocelyn Weiss emailed me the listing for what is now Robin’s Nest Cakery. I had planned to wait another year, but the space was too good to turn down! So, I contacted some of the shop owners downtown to get a feel for the environment and my husband and I figured out how to open up and move in on a shoestring budget. I keep improving from that point but the first year sure has been interesting!”
For the cash and carry cupcakes, customers may follow Robin’s Nest Cakery on Facebook to learn the day’s flavors. On average there are nine cupcake flavors a day, but that can range from eight to 12. How often does the cupcake menu change? “Daily, the menu really depends on the season, what's on sale, and what custom orders I have that week. Or what blog/book/facebook post I saw that day...” There are usually the standard few flavors and then what Robin calls fun ones.
The standard flavors are: vanilla, double chocolate, and bumble bee (butter cake with fudge icing). The fun flavors include man cake (beer & bacon), hot mamma (chocolate cake and frosting with cayenne pepper), confetti (vanilla cupcake & buttercream with rainbow jimmies baked in), and tutti fruity (strawberry cake & buttercream with nerds candies). Additional flavors include: apricot, lemon, mixed berry, chocolate cherry, mandarin orange, peach mango, tropical punch, chocolate raspberry, cookie & cream, neopolitan, chocolate kissed strawberry, tiramisu, coconut lime basil, and banana toffee. The list goes on! Is Robin always coming up with new flavors? “Always! I love being challenged and customizing a cake that reflects my customers’ unique tastes.”
What’s the most product Robin has ever had to make at once? “Keeping in mind that we are a really small bakery - my oven only bakes six dozen cupcakes at a time and I have a staff of three - the largest number I've ever brought to a function was The Iron Cupcake Competition held in Milwaukee in 2010: 1,000 cupcakes.” At the time of this interview, she had her busiest weekend ever coming up: nine custom orders with 800 servings of cake/cupcakes and 215 hand decorated sugar cookies. In addition, she expected to sell 20 dozen or so cash and carry cupcakes that weekend.
In Robin’s line of work, she gets to be a part of a wide variety of functions. Such as two over the hill birthday parties that she created toilet cakes for. Purses, fashion, and flowers are also common adult party themes. Popular themes for children’s parties include Lego, Minnie Mouse, and Rock N Roll. Steam punk, vineyard, and bohemian are among the prevalent themes for weddings these days. As are cupcakes: “I would say half of the weddings that I do are cupcakes with a cutting/display cake.”
How does a customer’s idea translate into a beautiful masterpiece that’s ready to serve? “A photo really helps as a starting point. More often than not a customer gives me a theme and I research photos online and sketch out ideas for them.”
Robin runs the shop while also holding a full-time job. “My dad was a very practical man. My artistic side was not considered a positive thing while growing up. My very sensible banking career does not let out my natural creative flow. On top of that I do not like to be still unless I am reading so that helps! Before I married routinely I had more than one job. Once Colin and I got married and had children I was pretty restless until I found my love of cake.”
“My support network is amazing. My husband is very involved in our home and with our three children. The addition of my sister-in-law Brigid in the last few months has allowed me to get some much needed sleep and honestly while she uses my recipe, her chocolate chip cookies taste better than mine! My daughter Maggie is a fabulous artist and does not mind painting and decorating cookies (although it is not her passion).”
“To spend time with my son Connor and youngest daughter Audrey they each come in with me separately one day for a few hours and we chat and work and just pass the time together. Additionally since starting cake decorating I have made the best cake friends - they are always willing to come in and play sugar with me when I need help (thank you Cindy White).”
Robin is happy to be a Kenosha Area CVB Tourism Partner. “I have never seen such consistent passion for promoting Kenosha in a positive, professional, and fun manner as I have seen from your staff!” She considers partnering with the CVB the best advertising money she has spent yet.
One final question posed to Robin was how the name of the business came to be. Her response? “It was between Robin's Nest and Robin's Egg. I like the hominess of Nest.”
Welcome Robin’s Nest Cakery into your own home: stop by for a tasty treat or two … or a dozen!
(262) 652-1054, www.robinsnestcakery.com