Erica Stewart is the kind of baker who never backs down from a recipe or a baking challenge. If you ask her to make a sweet treat you remember from your childhood or challenge her to come up with a new flavor combination you’ve been craving, Stewart is happy to pick up her mixing bowl and deliver something as memorable as it is delicious.
Stewart is the owner of Mrs. Erica’s Babycakes & Sweets, a specialty bakery based in Detroit. Stewart believes in “baking smiles, one cake at a time,” and she has devoted her business to giving people homemade treats, cupcakes, cakes, poundcakes and anything else they can dream up.
Her love for baking has grown into a regular customer base, but it started small, Stewart said. It all came about because of a get-together where she got tired of making the same thing, over and over.
“My business started off with family, truth be told. I wanted to do something other than making macaroni and cheese for dinner one year, so I decided I was going to make some cupcakes,” Stewart said. “My family raved about them. My sister asked me if I sold them, how much would I charge.”
Those first orders from her sister and her sister’s friends soon blossomed. The one-time home cook who loved to watch Food Network like some kids like to watch cartoons was now willing to create specialty event cakes, unique treats and one-of-a-kind desserts for not only family functions but for lifetime celebrations, big and small.
“My first love was cooking but my passion is baking,” Stewart said. “As word of mouth grew, I got more requests from clients, asking if I could make this or that. As I got more requests, I felt obligated to have more things, so I started a menu.”
Today, that menu has grown to 25 different cupcake flavors now. Some were Stewart’s idea while others came through customer suggestions. If she made a cupcake for an order and people asked for it again and again, Stewart added it to her regular rotation. Having people tell her how much her work tasted like their mother’s or grandmother’s touched Stewart’s heart and made her bake even more.
“It can be very sentimental,” Stewart said. “Having someone tell you that you’ve brought their mother’s recipe back to life puts a different feeling on things. Every time I make that recipe now, I think of my customer. And people tell me they can taste the love in my baked goods.”
That includes her grandmother’s famous caramel pound cake – and Stewart is the only one with the recipe. She also got a lot of positive reviews from family and then customers for her individual creations, like when her son asked for a birthday cake with chocolate, peanut butter and peanut-butter candy. Her kids are allowed to come up with the wildest of ideas for their birthdays, Stewart said, and that peanut-butter creation truly took the cake.
Innovation and a slavish devotion to her customers will always be Stewart’s signature.
“There’s so much more to learn and for me to tap into,” Stewart said. “I always want to continue to learn and expand.”