Field Work Friday – The Mad Hatter Bake Shop

This week our playgroup traveled to Durham to visit the Mad Hatter Bake Shop. We met with Dorian, the head pastry chef, for a ‘backstage’ tour of their kitchen.

After seeing the prep areas for the meals and the coffee bar, Dorian showed us the areas where she works the most.  We saw the ovens, where all of her cakes, pies, and other goodies are baked, and the racks where they are stored.  All Mad Hatter cakes are served the day after they are baked because they must cool before being decorated.  Each cake begins in the mixer, though. Isn’t this a doozy??

After being mixed, the cakes move to the oven.  It can hold several at one time!  Here’s a peek at the cakes in progress …

When everyone had finished the tour, we returned to the pastry station for a demonstration.  Dorian showed us how to decorate a coconut cream cake.  First, she piped in the filling and added the top layer, bottom side up so that she would have a flat surface to decorate.

Next, she piped buttercream icing all over the cake …

 and then she smoothed it out.

The cake was almost finished; it just needed coconut.  Dorian added it by the handful and pressed it in.

With our brains full of decorating know-how, Dorian sent us out to the cafe to decorate
our own Mad Hatter cupcakes.  (The really great thing about these cupcakes is that they are part of a cupcake kit that you can buy anytime – and that also comes with any kids’ meal.  How cool is that?)

Dorian brought us each a cupcake, a small piping bag full their yummy buttercream, and three varieties of sprinkles in small cups.  Luke began by piping his icing …

and finished by eating every last sprinkled bite.  He loved it!

Of course, before we left we had to check out the bakery cases to see what else looked good.

We decided that everything did!

Yes, we bake at home, and we decorate cakes at home, but there’s something about doing this in the middle of the hustle and bustle of this busy cafe that made it seem extra special.  Maybe it was having your very own mini piping bag.  Maybe it was the cute little cups that the sprinkles came in, or maybe it was seeing the fancy cakes just begging to be devoured in the cake case up front.  Maybe Dorian’s ease when decorating the coconut cream cake made us all ready to put on our own chef’s hat and dig in.  I think, though, that it was a little bit of all of these.

The Mad Hatter was busy and crowded and rumbling with computers, coffee machines, and study sessions, but it was a fun kind of busy, and when you top that with beautiful sugar, who wouldn’t want to go back?

We definitely will!

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