April Anderson knows a thing or two about running a successful business. She did earn an MBA, after all, from the University of Michigan, but it’s her baking (finessed by a pastry degree from Macomb) that brings in the customers at Good Cakes and Bakes in Detroit.
“I get a real peace when I’m in the kitchen,” says Anderson, who started baking under her mother’s watchful eye at 9. “Being in the kitchen calms all my nerves and fears. It’s like I was made for this.”
Anderson and her wife, Michelle, use only organic, locally sourced ingredients and even offer vegan options. The bakery menu changes daily, but carrot cake cupcakes and gooey butter cake are usually in the mix. Oprah Winfrey enjoyed the latter when she visited FoodLab Detroit, an organization dedicated to sustainable food that Anderson is actively involved in. But it’s when she’s kneading together yeast, flour, cinnamon and sugar that the pastry chef is truly in her glory.
“My favorite thing to bake,” acknowledges Anderson, “are cinnamon rolls.”
Good Cakes and Bakes has earned many accolades and fans since opening in 2013. Just this year: The Detroit Free Press called it the “hottest bakery in Detroit,” its owners were invited to be the official pastry chefs at the James Beard Media Awards in New York, and more than 80 percent of its Yelp reviewers give it five stars. Anderson’s most treasured testament, however, came courtesy of the late Aretha Franklin. Fond of the bakery’s red velvet and pineapple upside down cakes, the singer and Detroit resident instructed her team to order 40 for the annual community holiday dinners she hosted. Following Franklin’s death in August, Anderson posted a tribute to the Detroit icon on the bakery’s Facebook page noting, “It was an honor to know she knew about our small bakery, and loved it.”
Working in finance until her son graduated high school, Anderson decided in 2010 to make a bold move, buoyed by the encouragement of her wife and parents. “I knew that if I didn’t take the leap then, I was never going to do it,” says Anderson. “It was the perfect time in Detroit to start a business – there were so many new programs aimed at helping entrepreneurs.” A Detroit native whose longtime dream was to open a bakery in her hometown, Anderson now began researching culinary programs.
“Macomb was the school offering pastry arts as a degree, and that was very important to me. I loved that all the chefs were either still working in the industry or had worked in the industry for several years,” says Anderson. “I am so happy I chose Macomb. Without…Macomb, we wouldn’t be able to create some of the unique recipes we have. And, without the community support, we wouldn’t be growing the way we are.”