For Garnet Terri, the vivacious owner of bakery Terri’s Cakes Detroit, the secret to her success is simple: You make what people want and you bake in a way that ensures people can only get what they want if they order it from you. That’s the philosophy behind one of her signature creations, the cognac caramel sauce.
Caramel is one of Garnet’s favorite ingredients. It is drizzled across her bourbon salted caramel oatmeal cookies, baked in her batters, topped onto her cheesecakes and mixed into her one-of-a-kind Hipster in a Jar cupcakes. The latter travel so well that they have gained her customers across the United States.
“What we choose to bake comes from what customers request. We have our staples – those things that sell out every time – but we also bake what people call and ask for,” Garnet said. “The oatmeal cookies are an example of that. A customer called and asked for them and everyone loved them. … They’re a comfort food, and a lot of what we do happens to be comfort foods. During the pandemic, that’s all people want.”
It’s an easy ingredient to work with and anything she makes with caramel always becomes a bestseller. It is sweet and savory, rich and decadent and can be used as a garnish or sauce. Really, any dessert Garnet makes with caramel ends up on her menu as a regular item because people enjoy the taste and texture of a good caramel.
Her signature caramel, which is made with cognac, started out as a fluke, Garnet said. She was making a cake for a family celebration per someone’s request and she wanted to mix it up a little. Garnet has been baking since she was a child, learning alongside her mother, Terri, who is a masterful baker. Garnet took the family hobby and turned it into a business she named Terri’s Cakes Detroit in 2014.
She wanted to surprise people with the cake, so she added the cognac as a nod to the drink that her family likely would enjoy together at the celebration. The resulting sauce and cake were so good that she started offering it at her bakery. The rest, as they say, is history. Any dessert she makes with this sauce now becomes a local favorite.
But Garnet’s work goes well beyond Metro Detroit. Granted, she can deliver anywhere around the city, and she brings her desserts to many local shops as part of their regular dessert displays. But she also ships her goods across the country – something that also started her Hipster Cupcake in a Jar business.
Her brother was missing the family cake recipe and wanted her to send some her way. But shipping a cake or anything like it – even with caramel in it or on it to hold its shape – tends to end up messy, Garnet said. So she was shopping at a hardware store when the idea struck her: You can bake inside a glass jelly jar and it is the perfect container to ship. She developed a mini cupcake recipe to put inside, satisfying both her brother and many other customers along the way.
Brides particularly like the Hipster Cupcake in a Jar because it is an ideal wedding favor, Garnet said. You can have it on the table for guests and they can transport it home with them safely. It is an ideal way to give them something they want and you can personalize the jar with pictures or other wording as you need, she added.
It is this kind of innovation and fluidity that has made Terri’s’ Cakes such a success. Garnet has survived starting her small business, getting through those early bumpy years and the coronavirus because of this philosophy, which has a strong and unwavering focus on the customer. That is why her no-touch delivery – something she has done for years – has served her well during the pandemic and shutdowns that otherwise could have derailed her bakery.
“When we first started, we were a business from home – I’ve been a home baker for years. When I knew I wanted to start a storefront, I wasn’t sure where. In the food industry, brand loyalty is important but there’s also location loyalty. If you move around a lot, people get confused and don’t know where you find you,” Garnet said. “Delivery made it easy for us – it doesn’t matter what kitchen we’re using because we always provide delivery. Now, here we are, living in a pandemic and delivery only is an advantage.”