Cheri Christian has a treat for everyone in Sweet Tooth Bakery and Cafe.
The 23-year business owner bakes cakes, cookies and everything in between in her tiny kitchen at 120 Miller Alley.
“You get to show your artistic side,” she said. “I think a lot of people that come in are happy to come in, because we’re helping people celebrate important events in their life. We did a gender reveal cake just last week and dyed the batter blue, so that they could tell the grandparents. It’s fun to be a part of that.”
Christian first baked with her grandmothers when she was 5 years old and hasn’t taken a break from learning.
Q: How did you learn to bake?
A: I used to bake with my grandmothers when I was growing up. We do a lot of Hungarian treats for Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving that we usually don’t make any other time of the year, because it’s pretty time consuming. I also used to go watch a family friend do wedding cakes, and she started teaching me how to do roses and things like that. So, I learned from family and friends and then I went to school in Chicago, and I still take classes. I have a class coming up for sugar-blowing.
Q: You’ve been doing this for more than 20 years. Why do you still take classes?
A: Because there’s always new techniques to learn. Also, people see things on Pinterest and expect you to be able to do them, so you have to learn how to do them. Some of those things on Pinterest cost hundreds of dollars because it takes hours to do those cakes.
Q: Is that the challenging part of the business?
A: Yes, because people are coming up with new techniques everywhere. Something may have been done in New York City, and then a customer may want you to duplicate it in State College. Everyone has to do continuing education.
Q: How do you find time to run the business and take classes?
A: You’ve got to organize your time, and that’s probably like anyone running a business. We’re also not open Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, so I have that time to fit things in those days.
I like to make the Hungarian nut rolls at the holidays. It reminds me of baking with my grandmothers.
Q: You make most most of your products made-to-order, right?
A: Oh, yes ... We pride ourselves in being fresh and not frozen. You can’t just come in and buy a cake. You can walk in and buy brownies, Oreos, cookies and pretzels, but just general things.
Q: How far in advance do you hope people order things like cakes?
A: We’d really like two days. Sometimes we can do it the same day, but it depends on the ingredients we have. If someone wants fresh fruit and I don’t have it, we can’t do it.
Q: Is it challenging knowing what you’ll need week-to-week?
A: Yes, because I don’t want to have to run to the grocery store every day. I also have to order from different companies for different ingredients. We’ve done other people’s recipes for something like wedding cookies where they don’t have time to bake, so I need time to practice, to get the ingredients and make them right.
Q: How has construction of the Fraser Centre impacted business?
A: Well, a lot of the construction workers do come over for coffee and sweets. I think we’ve had less walk-ins, because people are a little intimidated driving around the construction. But a lot of our orders are over the phone. So, really, we’re pretty much the same.
Q: Do you think walk-in traffic will increase when it’s built, when people are staying in the hotel?
A: It would be nice. I think so.
Q: Does anyone call in advance for Valentine’s Day?
A: They really don’t. The parents (of Penn State students) are usually really good about calling ahead. Right now a lot of people are calling. And the men will come in at the last minute for chocolate-covered strawberries.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to make?
A: I like to make the Hungarian nut rolls at the holidays. It reminds me of baking with my grandmothers.