England Dining >>> Shancakes, Leominster MA
Shannon Sylvia, owner of Shancakes Bakery in Leominster, consults with a customer
Article and photos by Eric H. (except cake photos)
Upon entering Shancakes Bakery just outside downtown Leominster, Mass., in north central Massachusetts, the customer immediately feels at home in this small storefront. They initially feel at home, perhaps, because the bakery is actually located in a cozy, inviting old house but the reasons for this welcoming aura go far beyond just a home.
Because of Shancakes' small size, visitors immediately sense the makings of an authentic bakery with a display case that includes freshly made cannolis, one pound whoopie pies, cupcakes, brownies, cream puffs, baklava, cheesecake and peanut butter buckeyes.
"Peanut butter buckeyes, where are you going to find those around here?" asked Sylvia, referring to the peanut-butter-dipped-in-chocolate confection, most popular in Ohio.
Whether peanut butter buckeyes, red hot chili pepper filled cupcakes (surprisingly good) or huge candy apples sourced from a local farm (the apple, not the candy!), it's apparent that Shancakes prides itself on thinking out of the baked goods box. That's not to say that Sylvia ignores the every day, family favorite baked goods -- there's plenty of that to go around here. It's just that Sylvia clearly has an overall business mission to do better than the typical bakery no matter what form of baked goods.
"It's home-like here, small and we are able focus on the customer," said Sylvia. "We source locally here, too. You'll never see a Sysco truck in front of our business!"
The display case filled with baked goods would be enough to attain bakery greatness, but the real story here are the custom made cakes. Sylvia's in store cake book reveals an impressive visual resume that clearly shows a "Your Hired!" pattern that has pleased those attending birthday parties, anniversaries, graduations, baptisms, weddings and other special occasions. The 35-plus cake flavor choices are astoundingly diverse and, at times, truly innovative. From strawberry daiquiri, orange creamiscle and blueberry cheesecake to gold and white and wedding cakes, Shancake's often makes other bakeries look half-baked when it comes to variety, artistry, and final product. In keeping up with necessary market demand, Sylvia also offers 20-plus gluten-free cake flavors.
Sylvia has fun in the process, tapping into her creativity and somehow finding time to engage in conversations with the customer. She is humble about her craft, but very confident in her skill set and to meet a customer's specific need. Overall, it's kind of like a New England version of Cake Boss without the histrionics and over-the-top plot twists -- just the talent.
Cakes are clearly made to order here, and can be delivered within a 55 mile radius of Leominster.
"We can pretty much do anything, just let us know ahead of time," said Sylvia, matter-of-factly.
Sylvia has eight employees, including experienced pastry chefs. Sylvia's mom, Laura Casey can be often found at the bakery, as her unconditional support of her daughter's business lends a true family business presence. Laura's husband, Dave Lavoie, a talented woodworker in his retirement years, created the menu board inside and the business sign outside.
In addition to the bakery showroom, Shancakes also has a cake consultation room, an office and a function room -- the latter used to host children's birthday parties, girls' and guys' nights out and cake decorating classes. The clientele is building steadily as Shancakes, for example, is the official cake designer for the Leominster Doubletree Hotel in Leominster and Butternut Hill Golf Club in Stow, Mass.
Sylvia has clearly found a passion with Shancakes. A long-time graphics design and marketing professional who also appeared as a personality on the SciFy Channel's Ghosthunters during its its first season, Sylvia took cake design class at Michael's craft store in 2010 and eventually found her true calling through hard work and a love for the profession.
Shancakes actually debuted its business at another Leominster location, but eventually moved to the current Central St. spot in early 2014 where business is brisk and Sylvia has expanded her baked goods and cake offerings. The move was a good one: there's no place, after all, like "home sweets home!"
Shancakes is located at 368 Central St., Leominster MA. (978) 840-4343
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