Gateau means, quite simply, ‘cake’ in French. After a year of baking alone in her kitchen in Plaza Midwood, Cara Jorgensen has taken her Gâteau Baking Company to a new level. In November 2016, the pastry chef unveiled her first storefront in the 7th Street Public Market in Uptown.
“The goal with the new shop was to bring a fresh, local, and sustainable take on baked goods—something Charlotte did not have until now,” Jorgensen says.
Local is important to Jorgensen in many ways.
“At the Gâteau Baking Company we know we must lead by example; how can we expect shoppers to value handmade if we don’t value it enough to shop it ourselves?”
The ingredients used in Gâteau’s pastries are about as local as they can get. The best example is Jorgensen’s mother, who makes her own homemade vanilla extract for use in the store’s delicacies. Jorgensen also sources ingredients from local farmers markets, Cloister Honey, Lindley Mills, Commonwealth Farms, The Dutch Kettle, and Salts of the Earth to mention just a few.
“No other bakery in Charlotte has a focus on community the way we do,” says Jorgensen. “It isn’t just about giving back with monetary donations but about stimulating the economy with the way we stock our ingredient shelves.”
Before the move to the 7th Street Public Market, Jorgensen said she was selling between thirty to eighty pastries a week on her own. Since opening the storefront in late November, the company has averaged an astounding 2,500 items per week.
“I think that it is our amazing pastries and our strong sense of community that has allowed us to grow so rapidly. People love us because they know we’re never going to feed them bleached white flour at the Gâteau Baking Company.”
While Jorgensen doesn’t have a formal pastry education, she has always had a passion for baking.
“I always enjoyed baking as a hobby but never realized that it could be a career so I never pursued it as a serious thing in college.”
But after working several waitressing jobs, she knew she had to do something that she not only enjoyed, but also felt valued for.
“Looking back it’s crazy because home baking and commercial baking are not even in the same ball park so it’s pretty amazing that I’ve made it this far without that education in pastry.” Jorgensen jokes, “sometimes I feel like ‘real’ pastry chefs are like ‘what is she doing?’ but that’s part of what keeps it interesting!”
We asked the chef what new treats she might make for the holiday season. She had a few tasty tricks up her sleeve: almond shortbread triangles, gingerbread men, and possibly even ginger orange donuts. These are in addition to all of the regularly available cakes, cupcakes, and other baked goodies.