Busy Bakers by the Half Dozen

A behind-the-scenes look at a sweet paradise.

Put aside Edina’s cake-eating reputation and you still have a bounty of locally made baked goods: cookies, pastries, doughnuts, breads, bars and muffins to choose from. Lest we forget the cakes—everything from practical and portable to elaborate custom-designed sculpted cakes are available in town. In each sweet or savory creation, fine details show the marks of true craftsmanship.

But bakers do more than prepare food. They are gifted artisans who create visually appealing edible goods with a little bit of personality baked into the mix. Expert baking professionals dedicate their lives to mastering their craft. The hours are long and physically demanding, with untold laborious steps along the way. But the rewards are many. Here’s our salute to a few of Edina’s bakers.

Queen of Cakes
Terri Leckas, owner

Edina has reigning royalty. Terri Leckas was dubbed “queen of cakes” by her son and it stuck. Luckas earned her title creating show-stopper cakes for family and friends. A hobby turned into a small business, and Queen of Cakes was born. While custom orders comprise the bulk of her business, Leckas keeps ready-made cakes on hand. Look for the “teeny” cakes—cupcakes without the wrapper dressed up as everything from Minnie Mouse portraits to red robins darling enough to chirp. Leckas does much of the custom decorating herself, often in the wee hours of the night. She and her staff turn out over 300 wedding cakes yearly, with most needed at peak times. “God only gives you 52 weekends a year,” says Leckas. Three things inspire her culinary passion: the people she serves and her staff, the creativity involved with cake decorating, and process improvement to her business. “I like to see how the little gears work in the store and making them work better,” Leckas explains. Management has its challenges, too. “The hardest part is being a boss in this tiny space,” she says. Leckas keeps a friendly demeanor, and the cakes speak for themselves. They are equally pleasing to the eye and the tongue. ”No matter what type of work, you have the opportunity to touch people’s lives,” says Leckas. “We try to do that with cake.”

Jerry’s Foods
Steve Hobbs, bakery manager

A tradition of baking goes back decades at Jerry’s Foods in Edina. “We’re the neighborhood place to go,” says bakery manager Steve Hobbs. Long-tenured bakers share a passion that drives the excellence of their work. A staff of 20 bakers get along like family and enjoy working with each other, according to Hobbs. From hand-shaping bread to cake decorating, each baker has a favorite task. “The teamwork here is great. This is one of the best places I’ve ever worked,” he says. “I love it—I got a baking tattoo, for crying out loud.” It’s a nonstop business that changes flavor with the season. The volume is impressive, with 800 to 1,200 doughnuts made every weekend, but there’s much more. The huge selection is almost overwhelming. Look around and you’ll see innumerable variations of doughnuts, pastries, bars, tortes, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, muffins and breads. Every item is made from high-quality ingredients. “Scratch is the difference. We do almost everything from scratch here on the spot,” says Hobbs.

Cocoa & Fig
Laurie Lin, bakery owner

The act of baking and the love of baking inspire the cakes and sweet treats created by Cocoa & Fig owner Laurie Lin. Her boutique bake shop and dessert catering company celebrates special occasions. “I love the joy our products bring to our clients,” she says. Lin creates beautiful desserts, ranging from baby’s first smash cakes to delectable items for large catered affairs. Her interest in Food Network cooking shows, preparing food for her family and eating out led to formal culinary training. Lin honed her baking and pastry skills at the Culinary Institute of America and the Napa Valley-based Bouchon Bakery pastry program. Learning from the best strengthened her baking prowess. She says, “Time management, efficiency and quality are all things that are instrumental in being a success.” Her accomplishments are readily visible. The Edina store resembles a French patisserie. Even the cookies have regal lines. Elegance radiates from every Cocoa & Fig creation. The cakes, cupcakes, cake balls and macarons look almost too beautiful to eat, but you will be compelled to try a morsel that leads to a mouthful. Make no mistake, every Cocoa & Fig dessert tastes as good as it looks.

(Laurie Lin, owner of Cocoa & Fig)

Patisserie Margo
Margo Bredeson, owner

With a resume that reads like a who’s who of the Twin Cities restaurant scene, Margo Bredeson knows the business. Her start began as a college student in Madison, Wis., when she took a part-time job making Swiss and Austrian pastries. The experience led to a variety of food work in the Twin Cities and mastering French pastry skills. “My favorite thing is to do the actual pastry dough. I like the direct contact with my dough,” she explains. In 1996, Bredeson opened her own place, specializing in wholesale breads and breakfast pastries. “I grew up in a family owned business. It’s all-consuming,” she says. Her wholesale business led to retail requests for cookies and other bakery treats. The business grew into a bigger product line and a staff of 30, including her children. “I have a really great crew. I have a lot of people who have been with me for a while. The kids have been involved their whole lives. It’s great to have relationships with people for a long time.” Last year Patisserie Margo moved to its new Valley View Road location. A community-based Kickstarter campaign helped make the move happen. Bredeson was touched by the support her business received from her customers. “People in Edina are great. They are very aware of what’s happening in their community."

Sweet Retreat Cupcake Boutique
Stephanie Kissner, owner

A second career move proved a sweet success for Stephanie Kissner. A background as a creative director, along with a baking certificate and an apprenticeship at Sweet Retreat primed her for taking over the business from Robin Johnson. Kissner’s transition to a small-business owner went well. “It’s come full circle for me,” she says, explaining her father had a small business in Edina. “I grew up in Edina. I love Edina and I love the bakery.” Cakes are a her creative outlet. “It’s almost like you’re creating a 3-D sculpture—very artistic,” says Kissner. Most of her staff of nine are “artists in their own right.” The talented crew turn out wildly innovative customized designs. In-store cupcakes change with the season: gingerbread with edible holly decorations for Christmas, and yellow chicks for Easter—to name a few. Quality made-from-scratch cakes take all forms: a violin, a stadium, a pizza, a purse, a pair of shoes or whatever else the customer desires, along with more standard decorated cakes. “A lot of people come in and don’t really know what they want so we help them,” says Kissner.

David Wright, owner

Making great bread requires more than a recipe. Fresh, made-from-scratch bread is a way of life at Breadsmith. Dedicated staff bake bread with an eye toward perfection, right down to every last crumb. Production manager and head baker Francisco Reves is one of 10 highly experienced bakers who practice their jobs as diligent craftspeople. Consider the hours—the day begins at 3 a.m. weekdays and 2 a.m. weekends. The demands of high quality dictate the hours and guide each step of the bread production process. Everything from the taste and appearance of the bread to the outside store sign has to be right, according to owner David Wright, who manages three Breadsmith stores. The Edina location produces all of its breads on-site in a proud tradition that goes back to 1994. Out of 50 different products, 20 to 25 breads are available daily: loaves, buns, pretzels, scones, muffins and more. The chocolate-cinnamon swirl babka roll is a favorite. “It requires attention to detail to get all of those breads,” says Wright. The team works hard to keep the shelves stocked. At day's end, leftover breads go to selected charities in a carefully administered charitable program.

(Francisco Reves, head baker at breadsmith.)