DRACUT — Trays of cookies wrapped in cellophane and ribbon. Festive cakes covered in white icing and accented with red and green. Cupcakes with classic holiday toppings. Gingerbread houses all decked out in colorful confections. Bone-shaped cookies that read “Good Girl” or “Good Boy” — made strictly for man’s best friend.
Delectable delights to sweeten up the holidays are pretty much sugar-covered at Sugar Coated Bakery. There, Jennifer Dumais, owner and a graduate of Johnson and Wales University’s pastry chef and entrepreneur program, is a one-woman show. At age 28, the award-winning pastry chef has energy to spare for building up the business that she started nearly two years ago in Bridgewood Plaza.
Dumais recently spoke with The Valley Dispatch about holiday baking, trends and making life easier for the many whose plates are too full in December to fill with their own home-baked creations.
Q: What’s most popular over the holidays?
A: Gingerbread — houses, gingerbread men. I’ve already baked over 200 of the gingerbread men and have 15 houses on order for Christmas. Gingerbread is very traditional. That’s what people are looking for at Christmas; something that reminds them of making gingerbread men or houses while growing up. Some people order them plain, and we’ll provide the frosting, pastry bags and decorations on the side so they can decorate them at home. We try to make things easier for people.
The other popular item is the bread that I created while working at Sel da la Terre (French restaurant and bakery) in Boston. It’s a white bread with white chocolate chips and nutmeg. I gave away samples at first because it’s different, and people really liked it. We serve it with our Christmas dinner since it has the flavors of Christmas, and then we have the leftovers for French toast the next morning. It makes a great French toast.
Q: Is this your busiest season?
A: No, surprisingly. It’s actually Easter. The weather may have something to do with that. Also, the florist next door (Forget Me Not Florist) does more walk-in business at Easter and more home deliveries for Christmas. So there are more people who will walk in here at Easter time, from the florist, looking for bunny cakes and mixed pastry platters.
Q: Is demand up for cupcakes with the popularity of cupcake bakeries?
A: It was for a little while, especially during my first year. Now people are more interested in the carved, hand-sculpted cakes. They always ask me, ‘have you seen the Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes?’ Recently, I created my first big-name carved cake — for Jeff Dunham, the ventriloquist who won America’s Got Talent. He was performing at Tsongas (Center), so Tsongas hired me to do a cake that replicated his popular dummy, the Skeleton Guy. They absolutely loved it. One of the pictures taken made it into a national magazine, so that was exciting.
Q: Do you get a chance to catch your breath after Christmas?
A: There is a lull between Christmas and Valentine’s Day. At that time I look for more competitions to fill up my time because I get bored easily and like to keep busy. I’ll be doing a competition in February in Connecticut. I’m also toying with the idea of hosting a competition myself that will include children, students in culinary programs and professionals. It drives me nuts that I have to drive all the way to Connecticut to be in a competition.
Q: What do you see as the next big trend in the bakery world?
A: There’s nothing specific that I’ve noticed, although there does seem to be a bigger interest in miniature, bite-sized pastries, like petit fours. I think that may be because they’re easier to eat and also everyone is trying to watch their weight.
Sugar Coated Bakery; 1794 Bridge St., Dracut, Unit 13A; 978-226-8367; www.sugarcoatedbakerylowell.com; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Open today (Friday) until 6 p.m.; open tomorrow (Saturday, Christmas Eve) 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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