CARMEL — They didn't plan for a national pandemic to occur when planning their 25th-anniversary celebrations, but Classic Cakes in Carmel is making the best of it — literally.
Megan Ritz, the owner of Classic Cakes, had central Indiana's first big cake off planned for Wednesday, April 1 — the day that marks 25 years for this small business. But as the coronavirus outbreak has shut down shops, restaurants, bars, businesses, and events across the nation, Ritz's "Indy Cake Off" also had to be postponed.
"I didn't know what to expect, all I could do was focus on sharing kindness and looking for new ways to be helpful," Ritz said.
Ritz and the Classic Cakes crew launched four programs — 'The Cake Fairy,' 'Cake it Yourself,' 'Cake Donations,' and a 'Cake Video Series' — in a matter of hours to better support their community in a big way.
Money made through 'Cake Donations,' allows the decorators to make special cakes for local emergency responders and community support workers.
Ten cakes for emergency responders are scheduled to go out this week, and the team anticipates more.
"As the owner of a cake bakery, I'd love to share my gratitude as the community has come together to support our small business," Ritz said.
The other three programs are Classic Cakes' way to keep families entertained, learning, and spreading kindness while social distancing.
Through the program called 'Cake Fairy,' patrons can have a cake made and sent directly to family, friends, co-workers, and new parents. People can also 'Cake it Yourself' when buying a Classic Cakes at-home decorating kit, which includes cake mix, that will be delivered to the front door. The Classic Cakes crew also launched a video series where they record live cake decorating videos every night through Friday, March 27.
So far, Ritz has seen a tremendous response from the community.
"Our community is looking for ways to help, to engage in a way I have never seen before," Ritz said. "Families are looking to reclaim a little piece of normalcy. Our customers are going out of their way to make payments and purchase gift cards. With continued support like this, small businesses may just survive this."
25 Years of Cake Art
There's nothing basic about the cakes made at Classic Cakes in Carmel.
The team at this Carmel cake shop can often be found curating cakes that push the boundary from creative to innovative. Whether it's a tiger, a car, or even Dungeons and Dragons themed — the Classic Cakes team can custom design just about anything.
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Megan Ritz acquired Classic Cakes last year from Ilene McHone, who founded the shop in 1995.
Ten years ago, Ritz started as an intern at Classic Cakes after graduating from culinary school, and she quickly fell in love with every part of the baking experience.
"I have always loved food," Ritz said. "The thing that I've loved about food is getting to create something and giving it to somebody else. Getting to create something for them; that translates really well with cake."
For the greater part of two decades, this Carmel cake shop has thrived by classic word of mouth when gaining clients. Clients, that according to Ritz, come from near and far. However, within the last couple of years, Ritz has been working hard to show the world their cake art.
"The thing that we really love to focus on, and the thing that we really do well, is creating unique, custom cakes," Ritz said. "So, a cake hanging upside down from the ceiling? We can totally do that. Baby Yoda? We can totally do that,"
Ritz's team is comprised of 12 people. They typically average about 60 orders a week, ten of which are wedding cakes, and 100 walk-ins.
"I just love that food is something that we do every day, and we get to decide if we want to make that a good experience or not," Ritz said. "And I think there's something really beautiful about getting to choose the food that makes us happy, the food that makes us feel close to our culture or our family — there is such an emotional response in food and connecting people with that is really exciting."
What the team loves the most, though, is being challenged with their edible masterpieces.
They can make just about any design work, but it's about timing and copyright laws. For example, copyright laws restrict Classic Cakes from making Mickey Mouse cakes, or anything Disney. Lucas Studios, on the other hand, quickly gave them onetime usage rights to create a Baby Yoda replica cake recently. Something they wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.
"I think designers will tell you their favorite cake to make is something they've never done before," Ritz said. "It's frustrating, it's scary to learn something new, but that challenge and getting to figure out how to make it actually happen is really exciting."
"We get to join people on their favorite days, on their best days ... that's beautiful," she said.
The cake curators can only take a certain number of orders per week; therefore they recommend people make an order two to three weeks in advance for walk-ins and ask for six months in advance for weddings.
"I have always loved food. The thing that I've loved about food is getting to create something and giving it to somebody else. Getting to create something for them; that translates really well with cake," Ritz said.
"We get to join people on their favorite days, on their best days ... that's beautiful," she continued.
Ritz loves to teach people about cake art and, within the last couple of years, started a Classic Cakes decorating class.
"We've had some amazing people come in who are just are artistically inclined but have never touched a cake before and just kind of adopted very quickly. Cake decorating is very hard, and so it's cool to see people appreciate that, and we get to see that in the classes."
You can learn more about the Classic Cakes decorating classes on their website.
1752 E 116th St
Author recommendation: Black Velvet Cake. It has chocolate pound cake, chocolate chips and truffle, coffee and espresso.