Mary Grace Café has a knack for baking new cake recipes for special occasions. Call it 'limited edition pieces,' if you will. As Mother's Day rolls around, the pressure on them is high. And rightly so as this business was born from the heart of a mother. How were they going to honor the women of our lives this year? The Caramel Vanilla Bean Cake, that's how. With its homemade caramel cream filling in between layers of a light and airy sponge cake, wrapped in vanilla bean cream frosting and covered with feuilletine flakes (and topped with three piped roses - perfect for 'I love Mom!') -- phew!
Needless to say, I had a slice each day, five days in a row. So bad for my wedding preps, so good for my cravings. Finally, I thought, I found my perfect Mary Grace trifecta (Mango Bene, Tiramisu, and this!). That third place was waiting to be filled for so long and finally, I found it. Something was done right. I had to go straight to the maker and unlock the story. And would you be surprised -- it was not Mary Grace who whipped this up (pun totally intended), but her very own daughter.
The process began with a question (didn't I tell you? It always does!): 'What do moms like?' But her daughter, Mian, pushed it further and asked, 'What reminds me of MY own mom?' That's when inspiration started flowing. 'Mom is comfort, is familiar. She isn't a passing fad, she is constant. Mom is light, full of laughter. Mom isn't saccharine, she is sweet with the right amount of love and discipline. She is balanced.' With that in her heart, she had to find the recipe that encapsulated just that. Easier said than done.
And sometimes, to get to where one needs to be, inspiration has to ebb even just for a while. 'I made the cake and mom didn't like it. There was too much caramel which made it too sweet. On the other hand, the cream frosting was too bland so it didn't contribute to the flavors. Something was missing; a lot actually.' So she tweaked it and presented the cake again. 'Mom didn't like the cake... again. She didn't like the visual presentation of it.' Strike 2. 'It's hard as a daughter to hear critique from your mom; it's hard as an employee to hear that from your boss. I had to hear it from both.' But as the old adage goes, critique takes you higher.
'A day before the photoshoot for the Mother's Day campaign, I presented the cake with with the new visuals: feuilletine on the cake's body with a clean and smooth top, with three beige-pink dainty roses as decor. And finally, my mom said, YOU GOT IT! What a moment!' The third time is always the charm, isn't it? 'I had to eat a lot of humble pie', Mian admitted, 'but mom really knows best.'
It was after hearing this story I understood why their Mother's Day campaign had the words 'Back To You'. It wasn't just any mother-child story they wanted to highlight; it was theirs. They might not have intended it that way but it was just meant to be. Mary Grace Café has always rested on the makings of the mother but this time, her children are giving back to her. Its stories, moments, and experiences like these that make Mary Grace more of an ode to life, love, and family rather than just a business. And when you feel the authenticity of it all, you suddenly become attached to it. Like I have all these years. People don't want to just buy products; they want to be part of a movement no matter how personal. And Mary Grace Café knows this well.
Behind every great product is a beautiful story. While businesses around the world are churning out countless of products by the minute, it has always been rather easy to distinguish between those that are blindly made and lovingly crafted. Which ones actually represent something larger than itself? Which ones are born from a singular, creative idea? People may laugh at my seeming attempt to wax poetic and nostalgic about stuff but this isn't just stuff. You can't call it stuff, especially when what I'm talking about is one damn good pastry.
(This is my way of saying, 'Please make the Caramel Vanilla Bean cake a regular.' Thank you.)
Photography by Gabby Cantero.