Cakes by Erin, a bakery that specializes in designing and creating custom cakes, has opened its doors for business, completing a seven-month project that gives co-owner Erin Erler a chance to combine her natural drawing and creative skills with her passion for designing cakes.
"I've always loved to draw, always loved to paint," Erler said. "Cake is just a different medium."
Cakes by Erin, located at 58 Kenoza Ave., opened quietly on Tuesday and will celebrate a grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13. The store's hours are 12 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and will expand to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. later in the fall.
The 33-year-old Erler has been baking cakes for friends and family for 11 years and became a licensed baker three years ago.
With her sister and brother-in-law, Lynnfield's Kelly and Tim Mackin as co-owners, her business has been growing ever since. She decided to open the bakery when the business grew too large for her Haverhill kitchen.
Before the career change, Erler taught students with special needs at Pentucket Lake Elementary School, leaving in April to fully devote herself to her "passion.
"I had to make the jump," she said. "I'm kind of risking everything on this."
The location on Kenoza Avenue had to be gutted.
"We overhauled everything," Mackin said, There are new kitchen appliances, plumbing, cabinets and floors and an additional wall. There is a separate room for wedding consultations and bridal cake tastings, as well.
Cakes by Erin will employ two full-time and two part-time employees, while providing a variety of baked goods, from cakes and cupcakes to mini cheesecakes and brownies.
There's also a morning menu of different types of muffins and beverages changing daily.
Every product made by Cakes by Erin is nut-free, an important distinction for Erler. Her 10-year-old son has a severe allergy to nuts.
Kelly Mackin said that while the nut-free standard does create challenges — Ghirardelli chocolate, for example, is processed with nuts — Erler is creative enough to overcome them.
Mackin said she and her sister also plan to create vegan and gluten-free recipes.
Mackin, who purchases Vermont Nut-Free Chocolate and Hershey's, said that she and Erler spend hours finding the right ingredients for their custom-baked goods.
"When I'm supply shopping, I'll call Erin 1,300 times just checking the label," Mackin said. "We can't use any kind of product that was processed in a plant that also processed nuts."
Erler, who has provided baked goods for everyone from Conan O'Brien and Ernie Boch Jr. to the Make-A-Wish-Foundation and the cast of "Jesus Christ Superstar," said she wants Cakes by Erin to become the go-to bakery for the region.
"I want to make my mark," she said. "This is Cakes by Erin, but it's more than that. So many talented people here."
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Erler said a large, custom-made cake can take 10 to 12 hours to create and cost more than $300, but she added she can work with any price range for any event.
"I cannot personally put out a bad cake," she said. "I can't let that happen."
Still, she finds baking relaxing. "It doesn't feel like work."
Over the next five years, Mackin hopes to add a location closer to Boston and perhaps expand the current location to become a retail bakery, while giving Erler her own warehouse space to bake her custom cakes.
"It's a plan," she said. "A dream."
Erler shares the dream.
A die-hard John Lennon fan, she has a quotation from her hero on the front, inside wall of her store:
"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
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