When it comes to wedding food, the best is always saved for last: dessert! Whether you choose to serve a traditional wedding cake or offer a variety of treats to satisfy your guests’ sweet teeth, your wedding desserts will be the centerpiece of your reception. You’ll want to choose the best sweets to fit your style and theme, and Pretty Please Bakeshop offers a fantastic spread of baked goods and confections to suit your every need. In the final part of our series, we visited Pretty Please Bakeshop to learn about their bakery and what inspires them to make these delicious creations.
Pretty Please Bakeshop
291 3rd Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118
Telephone: (415) 347-3733
Hours: Tuesday – Friday 11am – 7pm; Saturday 11am – 6pm; Sunday 11am – 5pm
Pretty Please Bakeshop was founded by Alison Okabayashi, a UC Berkeley graduate who took her love for baking and chose to turn it into a fulfilling career. After attending California Culinary Academy’s Baking and Pastry Arts program, she and a fellow student started their very own custom cake design studio. Their goal was and always will be to create wedding cakes that truly taste as fabulous as they look – without costing a small fortune. After gaining a reputation as one of the best wedding cake bakeries in the San Francisco Bay Area, Alison expanded to create Pretty Please Bakeshop in 2012. We sat down with Alison to sample a few of her most popular creations and to learn a little bit more about her bakeshop.
1. How long has your company been in business?
Pretty Please Bakeshop opened in August 2012, so we just had our 2 year anniversary. I founded and owned another custom cake design company called Two For Two Cakes, which was founded in 2003 – almost 12 years ago. When I decided to open a retail space, I rebranded and that’s when the name changed. I’ve been in the business for awhile but the store is new. The whole time when I had the other business I had another full time job.
2. How many weddings do you serve per year?
We specialize in high-end custom cakes for weddings, but we also do lots of baby showers, corporate clients, birthdays – any occasion that someone might want a custom cake for. Even if it’s a first birthday, people are ordering custom cakes for everything. For weddings, we do cakes and dessert bars so we do quite a lot of weddings every year.
3. What are your most popular cake/dessert flavors?
The banana cake is a family recipe from my maternal grandmother. People have always liked the banana cake, but now more and more people are ordering it. People are realizing that the wedding cake doesn’t have to be just chocolate or white cake. Salted caramel is popular for our brownies, macarons and cupcakes. We can customize flavors to fit a couple’s design and wedding and we always recommend ordering about 4 to 5 items or flavors. Any more than that can be overwhelming.
There are things that I won’t do in my store because it’s not part of my vision of what we’re going to sell. Up to this point what falls in that category are things that are flower flavors – for instance, lavender, rose, orange, etc.
4. What does a typical wedding cake cost?
Our cakes are priced per serving. We start at $8 per serving for buttercream cakes and $10 per serving for fondant cakes. For San Francisco, I’d say that’s about average. I’m sure there are places that are far below that, but we offer custom cakes. I liken it to a custom dress versus one off the rack. It sounds like a lot but this whole thing is coming together for this moment for you, and you’re determining every detail on it, which costs more because you’re not working from a mold or pattern.
People typically order about the same number of servings as the headcount. A serving is the height – typically 4 inches – by a 2-inch deep cut and a 1-inch wide slice. I’ve heard planners recommend to their brides to order enough cake for 80% of the headcount. Here, once you place your order you can always adjust it once the final headcount comes through.
5. What are the most important questions brides should ask their bakeries?
It’s helpful for the bride to bring ideas and opinions to the tastings because the biggest portion of the tasting meeting is dedicated to design. It takes a lot of time to work through sometimes. A lot of times it’s surprising to see the groom’s reaction – it’s like the first time he’s hearing about this stuff. He’s here to learn what kind of cake they’re getting and get caught up to speed. We don’t schedule tastings unless they have their date and venue booked. This way the design has begun and there’s already a vision for the event as a whole. Sometimes we’ll have them email us links to their pictures ahead of time. That way I can take a look and start to know what they’re going for. A lot of times I’ll ask them to describe their vision with just a couple words. Soft, fun, whimsical, romantic. Is it black tie? That helps me to best guide them later when we hit forks in the road.
6. What qualities define a good cake?
It has to taste good. Wedding cakes get a bad rap for not tasting good and just being pretty. For me, it’s only successful if it tastes good. I want to eat the whole thing and have one more bite. We try to keep things well-balanced, so not too sweet or too heavy, and it should achieve the vision. You’re going to pay all this money for it, you might as well get what you want.
7. Tips for preservation?
For me, preserving wedding cake is only about the tradition – the sentimental feeling behind it. I recommend preserving your cake if it means something to you. If it means something to you, and you’re going to be excited to cut into it a year later and have that moment, then do it. Why not? But, I personally wouldn’t do it. For me, my freezer space is super valuable and the top tier of a cake looks small, but when you bring it home and put it in your freezer it’s actually not that small. I’ve had clients email me a year later saying they ate it and it was so good.
I’m seeing more couples saving that tier but maybe enjoying it the next day when things have died down; bringing it to the brunch with the family; or, having it when they get home from their honeymoon. Where it still has that feeling, it still is meaningful. They’re still taking time to have that ‘ceremony,’ but not waiting a year. We see that more and then ordering a fresh one at their anniversary.
Alison provided us with a few of her most popular dessert items and flavors to sample. There was a red velvet twinkie filled with cream cheese frosting, a mini pumpkin pie, a banana cake with Swiss meringue buttercream and Heath bar topping, a chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut frosting and a brownie, cupcake and macaron all in salted caramel.
Each of these treats gives off a “vintage American” vibe, essentially embodying your favorite American childhood treats in a grown-up fashion. The red velvet twinkie is made from scratch and is the perfect size for an adult. Its rich, velvety flavor is decadent enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, and the glaze adds to the overall sweetness of the treat.
The mini pumpkin pie is a seasonal offering, and the flaky crust evenly balances out the rich and smooth pumpkin pie filling. These mini pumpkin pies are available from October to January.
The chocolate cupcake with chocolate hazelnut frosting was decadent and rich – any chocolate lover’s dream come true.
Next, we sampled the banana cake with a Swiss meringue buttercream and crunchy Heath bar topping. The classic buttercream was light and silky, and was not as sweet as a typical frosting. The banana cake was deliciously moist and the combination of the chocolaty Heath bar on top made for a truly excellent flavor. The banana cake was reminiscent of banana bread and tasted very comforting and homey with a real banana flavor without being overly sweet, making it our favorite treat.
We then moved on to the salted caramel trio of desserts: the macaron, the brownie and the cupcake. We started with the macaron which had a very light and subtle flavor. The brownie was not too chocolaty and still had undertones of the salted caramel in every bite. Finally, we decided to end our tasting with the salted caramel cupcake which looked as beautiful as it tasted. You can really taste the salted caramel notes in the flavor profile and was our favorite of the three. The cupcake was rich, sweet and gooey – the perfect way to end our day.
Pretty Please Bakeshop’s storefront is the perfect place to try out Alison’s goodies to see if they’re the right choice for your wedding. The locals in the neighborhood frequently stop by for their usual order and Alison has established a personal relationship with many of them. Every event and order is custom made and tailored to fit every need, making Pretty Please Bakeshop one of the best wedding dessert vendors in the city.