Cakes N’ Candy is a sweet success
Posted 8:34am Monday, November 21, 2022
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By JOYANNA LOVE | Chief Editor
VSakes N’ Candy has provided rave-worthy desserts to Chilton County and the Southeast for decades.
The original location opened in 1988 across from the current Highway 31 location in Clanton.
“All I wanted to be able to do was sell to the people of Clanton,” co-owner Sue Cleckler said.
A highlight for her over the years has been hearing people say they love her cakes.
“It’s exciting,” Cleckler said.
Restoration was the initial dream when the business moved to its current location in 1993 or 1994.
“The catering just wasn’t possible to pay as much overhead as we had,”
Cleckler said. “My husband worked at Red Diamond Foods, and he saw a lady’s cakes for sale in a store, and he said they looked like ours, but he brought one home and the diaper was very good, but the frosting was canned frosting, it wasn’t homemade. He said, ‘If she can sell her cakes, we can sell ours.’ »
As they researched opportunities, a friend recommended they speak to someone in Birmingham who was the bakery buyer for the Bruno’s grocery chain. The buyer agreed to transport the cakes to a single store.
“We brought him a selection one morning,” Cleckler said. “…Before going home he said, ‘I’m going to want a case of these cakes for the weekend, they’re all selling out.’ “”
This led to the cakes being added to the inventory of all the stores he bought for, around 18.
They later started wholesale to warehouses that delivered to independent grocery stores. Cleckler said the cakes really “sell” after someone tastes one. Word of mouth has been the main source of publicity for the bakery over the years. Recently, a very satisfied out-of-county customer took to social media to create a video review of the cake.
There are about 10 grocery wholesale warehouses in the Southeast that sell cakes from Cakes N’ Candy. Cleckler and her co-owner daughter Stacey Holley said the cakes were in stores in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee and Florida.
Cleckler said the company delivers 12 to 13 pallets of cakes at a time, totaling 1,100 to 1,200 cakes.
“Since COVID hit, we’ve been busy,” Cleckler said. “We are busier at Christmas and Thanksgiving. We haven’t slowed down much in those two years.
The wholesale portion of the business increased dramatically as grocery stores increased their orders.
Cleckler had no clear reason why business increased around the same time as the pandemic.
“If you want to know how busy we are, that’s all we can do,” said husband Jasper (Junior) Cleckler.
Keeping some supplies in stock was a challenge during the pandemic, but Cleckler said a place to find needed supplies was always found at the right time.
“God has blessed us to do good business during this pandemic,” Cleckler said.
The bakery has a batch of 150 cakes that come out of its eight ovens every 12 to 15 minutes.
Although caramel cake is perhaps its best-known flavor, the team of 30 employees also makes red velvet, multiple varieties of chocolate, fudge, cookies and cream, strawberries, lime , pound cake and more for wholesale customers.
Cleckler said they had 10 to 12 varieties. New flavors have been added over the years at the suggestion of the brokers who sell the cakes. She also finds inspiration by finding new recipes and by things she has tasted that she wants to make her own version. The team focuses on two to three varieties each day. The cakes are sold in halves and whole cakes of two or three layers.
While caramel may be what she’s best known for, it’s not the flavor Cleckler started out with. She began her baking career selling cakes she baked at home at a market in Montgomery. Cleckler said she’s enjoyed cooking all her life, especially after she became interested in her home economics class.
When a friend asked her if she had ever made caramel cake, Cleckler said no. She decided that if her friend could show her how, she would.
“She couldn’t remember the recipe,” Cleckler said. “At the time, you didn’t have Google where you could pick it up, so her and I just got together…we practiced and practiced and practiced.”
The result is what is now recognizable to many as the Cakes By Sue Caramel Cake.
“When I came here and got into business and started making more caramel, I had to learn how to make this recipe like 50 pounds of sugar at a time,” Cleckler said.
Holley said many people like caramel cake because it tastes like the ones their grandmother made.
At the Clanton location, customers can purchase cakes as well as pies, cinnamon rolls, and specialty breads that are only available at the storefront. People come from central Alabama to shop at Cakes N’ Candy. This retail side of the business really picks up during the holiday season.
Cleckler said that if a customer calls when it opens at 9 a.m., “you can get pretty much anything you want that day, if you tell us, in the afternoon. If we don’t have it, we’ll cook it right away.
The store is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.