Tag Archives: Ryan Jarahian

Cake Croutons—What a Concept

An idea so crazy it just might work. The Sweetery in South Carolina makes Cake Croutons in five flavors.

by Bakery Boy

Cake Croutons from The Sweetery. Photos by Bakery Boy.

Who needs dried cubes of bread when you can have dried cubes of CAKE instead? And these Cake Croutons aren’t just for topping salads anymore.

“What we do,” says Ryan Jarahian, head baker at The Sweetery in Anderson, South Carolina, “is start with basic pound cakes, cut them into cubes, spread those out on baking sheets, and bake them again for 4 to 5 hours at a low temperature like 200 degrees. They get good and dry, just like bread croutons, only they’re cake. Everyone likes cake.”

Cake Croutons add a sweet crunch to salads, soups, ice cream, dips, pie crusts, grilled meats, and more.

Cake Croutons in regular production are Original, Chocolate, Butter Pecan, Cinnamon Espresso, and Southwestern, the latter dusted with hot chili powder. Except for the spicy southwestern version, each adds a sweet crunch in places you might not expect to find a sweet crunch.

"Inventing new treats such as or Cake Croutons makes this job fun," says baker Ryan Jarahian of The Sweetery.

“You can sprinkle Cake Croutons on green salads, just like other croutons, and create a whole different experience,” Ryan says. “Chocolate Cake Croutons go well on spinach salad or ice cream. Crumble the Butter Pecan Cake Croutons to use in pie dough. Drop Southwestern Cake Croutons into soup or crumble them to use as a rub for grilled meats.”

“Just like bread croutons, only they’re

cake. Everyone likes cake. – Ryan Jarahian

 

Photo by Linda Askey of http://www.lindaaskey.com.

WHOSE IDEA? “We enjoy creating new desserts around here all the time, but we can’t take full credit for Cake Croutons,” says Ryan, whose mother Jane founder The Sweetery 25 years ago (click here to see separate story). “An intern from Clemson University was working here and overheard us talking about new product ideas for a trade show we were going to. We were looking for something that might go over well with a younger audience. She took a few cakes with her to a culinary class, the students brainstormed, and what they came up with was the idea of croutons made of cake. We took it from there and ran with it.”

WINE STICKS TOO Before long, Ryan and Jane had modified the basic Cake Crouton idea into a second line called Wine Sticks. “They’re the same as the croutons except they’re cut long and thin like biscotti,” Ryan says. “You can use them like crackers with dips or spreads, or you can put cheese on them. The Chocolate Wine Sticks go well with red wine.”

 

And then there were...fewer: These Butter Pecan, Chocolate, and Southwestern Cake Croutons were all that remained near the end of my photo shoot.

A BAKERY BOY CONFESSION I brought home three kinds of Cake Croutons—Chocolate, Butter Pecan, and Southwestern—and the challenge was to NOT eat them before photographing them. Quite a few didn’t make it through the photo shoot. There are too many to fit in the frame anyway, I reasoned, so I culled out (yum) any slightly imperfect ones. Then I culled out (gulp) a few perfectly perfect ones. Then I decided to go with a smaller grouping (crunch). Then I zoomed in on what remained (mmm). When I finally got the shot I wanted, the rest disappeared in seconds (ahh). I guess it better be the shot I want, because it’s too late now!

TO ORDER Go online to www.thesweetery.com to explore the wide variety of cakes, pies, cookies, and more that The Sweetery makes, then call 864-224-8394 or toll free 800-752-1188 to place an order. The base price of a 8-ounce package of Cake Croutons is $4.25. Tell them the Bakery Boy Blog sent you.

The Sweetery, Anderson, SC

Try the Uggly Cake. What it lacks in good looks it makes up for in great taste.

by Bakery Boy

Uggly Cake. Photos by Bakery Boy.

The name alone makes us curious. We want to see if something called an Uggly Cake really is ugly. So here’s one for your inspection, a genuine Uggly Cake (the extra “g” added for trademark purposes) from The Sweetery in Anderson, South Carolina.

“They’re not pretty, but we sell a whole lot of them,” says Ryan Jarahian, head baker and son of The Sweetery founder Jane Jarahian. “We put a layer of yellow cake batter with a hint of caramel on top of a cream cheesecake base and toss on a handful of pecans. It rises while baking and then sinks as it cools, leaving a funny-looking dip in the center that’s kind of ugly. But it tastes great. A couple of years ago it won a best dessert award at AmericasMart in Atlanta, and our orders took off.”

Ryan Jarahian with (clockwise from left) Mimosa Cake, Banana Split Cake, Peach Delight, and Uggly Cake.

“And he’s just talking about the regular Uggly.” Jane adds. “We also make Chocolate Uggly Cakes and Key Lime Uggly Cakes.” Price: $9.40 each.

BEYOND UGGLY The Sweetery is no one-trick pony of a bakery, though. Jane has been steadily building her business for 25 years, starting in a home kitchen not far from today’s retail location. A vigorous mail-order operation (you can get an Uggly Cake home-delivered for $26) helped the operation grow beyond her town in northwestern South Carolina. The extensive lineup boasts richly frosted layer cakes including carrot, coconut, German chocolate, Italian crème, red velvet, chocolate peanut butter, caramel, and more. The strawberry layer cake is the best selling item year ‘round. Among the pie selection, standouts include those with pecans from local groves. There are also pound cakes, cheesecakes, brownies, and at least two-dozen kinds of cookies in the showcase. The place goes way beyond Uggly.

Jane Jarahian started her bake shop at home 25 years ago. Photo courtesy of The Sweetery.

NO JOKE Did you hear the one about the biologist, the factory worker, and the potting soil dealer? That might sound like the start of a silly joke, but it describes the trio behind this family business. Jane worked in sales at a plastics factory before it closed. A self-taught baker with a passion for food, she started baking cakes at home and selling them to friends and restaurants, and when the orders outgrew the house, she moved first to a small shop nearby and then to a larger shop next door, adding staff as needed. Her son Ryan graduated in 1998 from The Citadel in Charleston, became a wildlife biologist, and worked at the Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas while also conducting research on desert tortoises for the University of Nevada, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Geological Survey. He left all that to come home and bake cakes with his mom. Jane’s husband, Steve Jarahian, an an executive at Oldcastle (the potting soil company) as well as an expert cookie maker.

Ryan's Mimosa Cake tastes "like a drink that you eat."

"We all enjoy inventing new treats," Ryan says of his baking family between bites of Mimosa Cake.

INVENTIVE TYPES The reason Ryan left his wildlife biology career in Nevada to be a baker in South Carolina, besides the chance to come home, is similar to why his parents stay in it. “We all enjoy inventing new treats,” he says. “My contribution to the lineup is a Mimosa Cake, based on the drink. It has two layers of orange cake with champagne in the batter, it’s covered with butter cream frosting, and the top is sprinkled with clear sugar flakes. It has a light, sparkly character and looks and tastes kind of like a mimosa. So it’s like a drink that you eat. How fun is that?”

Sweetery croutons made of cake instead of bread find many uses. Photo by Linda Askey of lindaaskey.com.

COLLEGIATE CAKES The Jarahians had a little college-level help with another Sweetery innovation: Cake Croutons (click here to see separate article). “An intern from Clemson University was working here and overheard us talking about new product ideas for a trade show we were going to,” Ryan explains. “We were looking for something that might go over well with a younger audience. She took a few cakes with her to a culinary class, the students brainstormed, and what they came up with was the idea of croutons made of cake. We took it from there and ran with it.” Produced in five flavors—original, chocolate, butter pecan, cinnamon espresso, and southwestern—the toasted sweets can be used to garnish salads, top ice cream, rub meats for grilling, crush into pie crusts, drop into soups, and more.

ON A MISSION Jane is currently president of the South Carolina Specialty Food Association, an organization that promotes authentic foods and supports independent farmers, producers, retailers, and other small businesses. Working closely with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, its nearly 140 members produce everything from cakes to chocolates, wines, flour, pet treats, barbecue sauces, pecans, peaches, honey, tea, crab cakes, sausages, dairy products, and more. “We’re all about eating real, fresh, local foods,” she says.

LOCATION The Sweetery, 1814 East Greenville Street, Anderson, SC 29621 (south of Clemson and Greenville, SC, about 120 miles northeast of Atlanta, GA)

HOURS Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

INFO www.thesweetery.com; 864-224-8394 or toll-free 800-752-1188

AREA INFO Discover Upcountry Carolina Association; 864-233-2690 or toll-free 800-849-4766

SPECIAL THANKS Friend and garden writer/photographer extraordinaire Linda Askey (www.lindaaskey.com) contributed the photo of Cake Croutons on salad, on chili, and as snacks.