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After a year with few special occasion orders, Night Kitchen Bakery owner Amy Edelman and her staff were almost giddy when the request came in.
A customer looking to surprise his wife on her 40th birthday was ordering one of the Chestnut Hill bakeshop’s signature sculptured sugar creations. Despite inviting just six people to the party where it would be revealed, he wanted it to be a showstopper.
“Most of the custom and wedding cake business that we would normally have over a year was near nonexistent,” Edelman said. In this case, she explained, “They couldn’t have a grand party, so he ordered a grand cake.”
Based on “Pride and Prejudice,” of which the recipient is apparently a huge fan, the resulting dessert turned out large enough to feed 30 people.
Fashioned by pastry chef Jackie Swain, a 15-inch chocolate mocha cake formed the shape of the Jane Austen book, with marbled swirls and lettering from a special-edition cover iced across the top. Beside it was a fondant rendition of Pemberley Mansion, its two-and-a-half-foot facade etched with columns and detailed stonework.
Figurines placed on top, based on the movie version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, were also edible. Wording along the “lawn” spelled out the birthday message: “You are a timeless classic.”
The early March order turned out to be a sign of things to come, with businesses finally starting to pick back up for Night Kitchen, Edelman said. “The beautiful spring weather is bringing people out in droves.”
Like many food and drink entrepreneurs, she’s carefully hopeful as the city and region ramp up vaccinations and edge closer to reopening.
Twelve months ago, the situation was “scary,” Edelman said. Her store, which has operated on Germantown Avenue for more than 30 years, saw sales drop by 75% when walk-in service shut down and all wedding cake pre-orders were canceled. A PPP loan was a lifesaver, along with a customer-supported GoFundMe for out-of-work employees, and a slew of gift card purchases.
At Night Kitchen, business came back in waves, Edelman said. Holidays like Easter, Passover and Mother’s Day were stronger than she expected. In June, when the city allowed it, she rehired all her staff. They tried out same-day ordering with curbside pickup, then pulled back when it became obvious the complexity wasn’t worth the effort.
All staff members have gotten at least one shot, but they’re all still wearing masks in the small, tight, hot kitchen. While creating the “Pride and Prejudice” cake wasn’t easy, it was an encouraging sign.
“We got through it, and business is returning,” Edelman said. “I am looking forward to hugging many of my customers [and] going out to eat again with my friends!”