By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
Cake and coffee — it’s a match made in heaven.
In December, Veronica Stendahl opened her Antler Baking Company in the Flatiron Woods Coffee shop in downtown Bellingham.
She sells cake by the slice, cupcakes, pie, cookies and other desserts from 3-9 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays.
This is her first permanent storefront, but her business dates back to last summer.
Her baking experience, however, goes back much further than that. When she was a kid her parents would bake elaborate cakes with three-dimensional shapes for her birthday. She’s been fascinated by baking ever since.
“I have been baking for so long I can’t even remember how I got started,” Stendahl said.
In high school she was in the running start program, and studied at the culinary school at the New Market Skills Center in Tumwater at the same time she was taking her high school classes. Then she moved to Bellingham to study economics at Western Washington University.
She tinkered with recipes, and tested them out on her roommates, and now her husband.
“My husband, he tastes everything,” she said. “He’s like my guinea pig.”
Through college, she worked at a number of local places, and always found a way to bake. At Mallard Ice Cream, she made the baked goods that go into the ice cream, things like cookies and brownie pieces. When she worked at Temple Bar she ended up designing their dessert menu.
“I always knew I wanted to open up my own space,” she said. “That was the plan.”
When she got a job at Pure Bliss Desserts, it only inspired her even more to open up her own cake shop.
In June, she officially set up shop, taking special orders and selling desserts at the downtown, Fairhaven and Lynden farmers markets.
“I really like working with flavors that take people out of their comfort zones,” she said.
Her creations include combinations like a tequila, blackberry and mascarpone cupcake and a dark chocolate, coconut and porter beer cake with caramel sauce.
She enjoys playing with making different types of caramel sauce. She makes everything — even her vanilla flavoring — from scratch. Her carrot cake is most popular. That’s what got her noticed by Wes Herman, founder and CEO of Woods Coffee.
“My wife came across this great baking company making cakes and selling them at farmers market,” Herman said.
He and his wife became big fans, stopping by every week.
“We felt that she had some of the best tasting product we’d had,” he said.
Stendahl’s desserts are balanced, with good flavors, he said. Not too sweet. They had already been been considering ways to introduce a more evening-focused dessert service at their Flatiron location, which has a lot of space.
“We had been looking for someone to occupy some space in that store,” Herman said.
They offered to sublease Stendahl a corner of their coffee shop to set up a permanent location.
“She was very excited about that,” Herman said. “Her ambitions are to have her own bakery some day. This creates a great environment for her to test that market.”
Stendahl never dreamed she would get to open up a permanent shop this quickly.
“I thought for sure it would take me like three years to get a storefront,” she said.
She set her hours so she can bake all her product fresh every morning and sell it at the shop in the afternoon and evenings. By the time farmers market and wedding season rolls around, she said she’ll probably need to hire someone to help.
The partnership gives Stendahl the chance to incubate her business, and will also, Herman hopes, bring in new customers to the coffee shop.
“I think it’s a win-win,” Herman said. “I think businesses succeed when they can feed off of each other, and this is a great example of that.”
And not only do coffee and cake go together, the styling of the two companies — both rustic and minimalist — looks a lot alike.
“It’s a harmonious branding. Antler fits so well with the Woods,” he said. “It looks like they grew up together.”