Who doesn’t love cake? At weddings, they’re certainly a highlight and signify a time-honored tradition that dates back to Roman times! Local baker Jessica Parrott, owner of Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott, has mastered the art and thensome, as she offers a range of treats from dessert bars to fabulous cupcakes in a jar. We were intrigued with the idea of the jarred goodness and asked if we could document the process for this week’s Inside Peek. Enjoy!
L&L: Tell us a little about you, your background and the history of Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott.
PARROTT: I have always loved food. I remember being small and watching Two Fat Ladies on the Food Network and being absolutely mesmerized by their desserts (and their accents). Growing up, there was always something cooking or baking in the kitchen so my love for food continued. I actually remember the first cake I ever made: I was probably 11 or 12 and it was a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I remember seeing the Two Fat Ladies bake the cake and thought it was the coolest color and looked delicious and my love affair with cakes and sweets became a staple in my life.
Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott came to be, I believe, by accident. Throughout college I had always thrown dinner parties for birthdays and would make a cake (either a simple layer cake, a pig, and a Guinness bottle) I love coming up with creative ideas and that continued after I graduated.
After teaching for a couple of years, I would find myself day dreaming about sweets and this was when I decided I should focus on something I love and try to make it work.
The name “Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott” (strange, yes I know!) obviously comes from my last name but the rest of it actually comes from a slogan finder my sister and I jokingly used probably about four years ago. The name was initially a joke but then it just stuck!
L&L: Describe the range of services that you offer. What is the bulk of your work?
PARROTT: I love sugar and anything that has to do with sugar! This leaves me with a very WIDE range of services for any type of event beyond weddings. The bulk of my work does seem to be mostly weddings which include cupcakes, cakes, whoopie pies, sea glass candy and really anything in between. As dessert tables have become more popular in the party and wedding scene I have gravitated towards them more because: A. they are a blast to do! And B. they allow me to be creative beyond just the desserts – including prop work, art and painting, and design.
L&L: Of all the treats that you bake, what is your most favorite? And how do you have the will power to not sample all your sweets? Or do you?
PARROTT: I do have a couple of favorite treats that I make. If I sampled and ate everything I made I probably would be 5000 pounds so I try to keep my sampling to a minimum but I am not made of steal and crack sometimes! I LOVE carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, coconut cake, anything with chocolate Ganache, and COOKIES (seriously any cookie! Yum!)
L&L: Baking for a wedding is a daunting task. Where do you do your baking? How long does it take? And do you have help?
PARROTT: I try not to make a wedding cake more stressful than it has to be. I organize and plan by writing out lists of what I need grocery wise and what I need to bake. I do my baking in a professional kitchen that I rent in Portland that works out fantastically! It allows me to bake larger quantities.
I usually start my wedding cake process on the Thursday before the wedding (if the wedding is on Saturday, Wednesday if it is on Friday). I never freeze any of my products so I try to bake the closest I can to the day of the event. So, baking starts on Thursday, filling and frosting happen of Friday and Saturday is reserved for any last minute details or details that cannot be placed on the cake until “day of.”
Oh help, how I love thee! Thankfully I have a fantastic husband, mother, father, sister and mother and father in-law who help out when I desperately need it (either it be deliveries or putting 150 whoopie pies in to bags and tying them with a ribbon!). But the large majority of what I do, I do by myself.
L&L: How do most of your wedding clients find you? How far in advance should couples order their wedding day yummies?
PARROTT: Most of my wedding clients find me through word of mouth and referrals.
I love to meet with brides at least three months before the wedding (but earlier is always nice!). I like having enough time to plan, come up with ideas, and do research on design and flavors. But I have done a number of “emergency” cakes with a couple of weeks notice (I don’t know if I would ever be able to turn down a bride or groom in need!).
L&L: Describe the process of working with Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott.
PARROTT: Most of my initial consults start via email and sometimes phone calls. What I usually do is ask what the bride or groom is thinking they would like for their cake (cupcakes, cake, dessert table, etc.), how many people are attending their wedding, where their reception is and the date. Once I have received that information, I give them an estimate of cost and if the bride or groom like what they see I set up a time to meet. For meetings, I ask couples to give me a list of different flavors of cakes, frostings, and fillings they would like to try and I prepare them. At this meeting, we sit around the table, try cake, discus their wedding designs (colors, flowers, feel, look…), look at pictures, and so on. I try to have a super relaxed environment for any tasting because its cake… it is suppose to be fun!!
L&L: What is the most challenging part of your job (we’d guess the delivering!), and the most rewarding?
PARROTT: Delivering is a huge challenge, especially in the hot summer months! Another challenge is taking on large projects and multi-cake weekends. Weekends are usually are an absolutely crazy time with little to no sleep and it can sometimes be a challenge with more than two or three cakes, but I always pull through and I love the hard work.
The most rewarding part is delivering the cake (even though that can be the challenge!)- the actual dropping off or setting up and seeing the finished product is just fantastic! And obviously the “Thank You” emails and notes, that is always the best to know people love what you are providing for them!
L&L: What was the most memorable wedding dessert you have baked and/or seen and why?
PARROTT: My most memorable wedding dessert was the first wedding where I did a dessert table, candy table, and a wedding cake. We had a lovely two tiered cake, 400 mini desserts (including Bride and Groom chocolate dipped strawberries, mini cheese cakes, brownie pops, and Red Sox sugar cookies) along with 75 pounds of candy. It was a huge challenge but everything came out so gorgeous that I could not be anything but excited and happy!
L&L: You currently live in Portland, and also grew up in the area, too. What “must-see” places and eateries do you suggest folks from out of town check out while visiting Maine?
PARROTT: I love Portland because it is right on beautiful Casco Bay. I would suggest anyone who is out of town for a visit to hop on a ferry and head out to the surrounding Islands. If you hit up Peaks Island check out the Inn on Peaks; they have amazingly delicious food and great local beer. In Portland on a beautiful summer day or evening, the Portland Lobster Company on Commercial Street is also a great place to hit up because you can sit on their dock drink some great beer and eat fresh sea food… fantastic combination!!
L&L: Thank you for giving us an inside peek into Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott. If readers want to get in touch with you to schedule an appointment, what is the best way for them to reach you?
If you would like to reach me there are many ways! Please check out my website www.nothingbakeslikeaparrott.com, follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/jessparrott and my phone number 207.650.1579. The business aspect of Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott is home based at 37 Arlington Street. This is where we would meet for tastings and creative process meetings. I am always available on my phone and my email at Jessica@nothingbakeslikeaparrott.com.
Thank you so much for showing us how you create your fabulous portable cupcakes, and sharing a bit of insight into your business, Jessica!