It was just after Thanksgiving and I hadn’t been able to be with my family for the Holidays. I drove home, unpacked and knew something wasn’t right. I hadn’t had my mom’s mincemeat pie. We had eaten at a friend’s home in the hunt country of Virginia and the food had been fabulous, but it wasn’t my traditional Thanksgiving meal and I missed it. “Hunt” took on a new meaning as I called every restaurant I could find who might serve mincemeat pie. I finally found Harry Browne’s in Annapolis on State Circle and enjoyed the pie, but it still wasn’t like my mom’s. I need not have looked so far if I had lived near downtown Berlin at the time.
Holidays and tradition are synonymous with food for most of us and that is no different for the fabulous owners and chefs at Baked Dessert Cafe and Gallery in Berlin, MD. For Shelly Eppard and Robin Thomaselli, the holidays mean family, food, and friends. They grew up in a family with 6 girls in Camp Springs, MD near Washington, DC. They enjoyed Sunday dinners at their Grandmother’s home nearby where ANYBODY was welcome. They brought friends, dates, and anybody who wanted to enjoy a great meal with a great family. The grandmother didn’t care and welcomed all. This tradition has continued. For Thanksgiving this year, Thomaselli, Eppard, and their family and friends enjoyed Thanksgiving with 51 other people. “It’s casual, it’s huge, and it’s fun” said Eppard. My grandmother is gone now, but the inclusive atmosphere and cooking tradition is in full swing, both for the family and for the Baked Dessert Cafe.
It’s this inclusive, loving feel that you find when you enter their bakery and gallery on Bay Street. The smells that waft out of the door — and through the ventilation system to the offices upstairs — smell like the very best of holiday preparations. There are always happy people enjoying a light snack or scrumptious dessert. Children stare wide-eyed at the bakery case with dollar bills clutched tightly in their hands. Women come in groups to take a break from a day of shopping in downtown Berlin. Business people scoot through for the much needed coffee or sugar boost.
“If you asked me two years ago if I’d be running my own bakery, I would have told you that you were nuts” said Shelly Eppard. I was a court reporter and have always loved working for myself. My sister and I used to drive by the tiny bakery on Main Street near the parking lot with the farmers’ market and think that we could really do something great if we ran a bakery like that. When we heard that the present occupant was leaving, their casual talk turned into reality in less than 4 months. Shelly and Robin started the Baked Dessert Cafe and won the OceanCity.com Best of Ocean City award for 2011. The award was presented at their new location at 4 C Bay Street, a location Eppard says is superior even to the first. “We have more walk-in traffic, we are more centrally located, and being across the street from the police station, Berlin Town Hall, and the large municipal lot is a huge benefit.”
The shop is filled with pies. cupcakes and bundt cakes; cheese cakes, and coffee cake and peach dumplings; bread pudding, and lobster tails (the sfogliatelle type — a flaky pastry filled with a citrus ricotta filling, only barely sweet and absolutely the best breakfast treat you will find anywhere.) You can find soup — today’s was spinach sausage in a clear broth– and cheese spreads. There is coffee and, for those of us who like soy or almond milk, the Baked Dessert Cafe almost always has one or the other or both. Their philosophy is all natural and healthy. “We think less is more” said Shelly Eppard. “The better the ingredients, the better the end product and we strive for the highest quality we can find.” The effort pays off. Caryl and Hugo Cardenas come all the way into Berlin to buy the cupcakes for guests and clients at the Park Place Hotel in Ocean City, MD. There are lots of places where you can buy cupcakes, but not like these cupcakes.
Robin Thomaselli is responsible for the famous cupcakes — and the cakes, granola. lasagne, ziti, and cheese spread. Her sister Shelly handles the pies, cookies, pastries and they tag team the soups. What you want is what they want to make for you. They will cater to food allergies, favorite recipes, and even ingredients brought in by customers. “We aim to please” seems to be their motto, and please they do. Patrick Henry, the local artist who occupied the space with a gallery devoted solely to his art prior to the Baked Dessert Cafe moving in, was sitting happily at one of the tables enjoying a hot piece of bread pudding with caramel drizzled over the top. When asked about the bakery, all he could say was, “They are absolutely the best! It’s a wonderful space, it’s a win-win for me to have them selling my prints and some of my originals, and it’s nice to visit the best bakery anywhere around. They certainly have the BEST pastries — and bread pudding!” he adds with a sparkle in his eye.
When asked what the Holidays meant to them, Shelly immediately responded with, “Food, Family, and Friends.” Patrick Henry agreed whole-heartedly and food, family, and friends is exactly what you will find inside the Baked Dessert Cafe and Gallery. You might encounter Robin and Shelly’s mother enjoying some of the delicious food or helping out in the back. You might see Shelly’s kids stopping by for a snack after school. Michael Day, the economic development officer from the Town of Berlin swings in to drop off news or sample a new baked treat. 60% of the visitors are family, old friends, or newly made friends who are coming specifically to the bakery. The remaining 40% are walk-ins who couldn’t ignore the smells drifting up the street or out the door. These new friends become hooked if they live anywhere in the area and return time an
d again for food and comraderie.
Zac Tilton from Berlin waiting to buy a treat.
Right now, Shelly and Robin are taking holiday orders and preparing for their Holiday Open House on December 10th from 10 am – 4 pm. They will sample their offerings and if you place a holiday order during the open house, you will save 10%. Choose from their comprehensive list — cakes; bundt cakes; cheese cakes; pies of any variety — all 10” with butter crusts; strudel, cupcake, vanilla, or pumpkin bread pudding; breakfast, dessert, or cupcake platters; homemade sauces; or cheese spreads. You can also place an order with your own recipe and even bring in your own ingredients.
The Open House will not only feature their baked goods, but will also offer many gift items for under $20 — jewelry, homemade baking mixes, and much more.
Let the Baked Dessert Cafe handle your baking for you for the holidays and remember to save 10% if you order during their Holiday Open House on December 10th.