Melissa Brinckmann runs her small pastry business, Cake and Spoon, behind an unmarked door on the outskirts of Austin. But her fragrant, handmade pies are remarkable in every sense. Upon entering her kitchen, your senses take in the smell of buttery pastry dough, subtle spices from savory quiches, and sugary halos atop her ginger scones. For the past two-and-a-half years, Melissa has made her mark not only in the local farmers markets but also with her followers, including one shy customer who depends upon two of her blackberry almond shortbread bars every week.
Cake and Spoon Bakery delivers hand-sized cakes, quiches, scones, and other sweet and savory pastries. Born and raised on a ranch in Texas, Melissa has never been far from the country. Her parents worked a ranch in near Bellville, Texas and her childhood memories include meat from the neighboring ranchers, milk from the local cows, fruit from her family orchard. As a child, she baked in her parents’ kitchen to please herself, especially with her own peanut butter cookies. She has lived local all her life.
Her pastries reflect her local grounding. Local honey, eggs, vegetables, and pork fill her quiches, brimming with her enthusiasm for quality products at a reasonable price. Because of her philosophy and the Texas drought, some of her creations combine cheeses and other ingredients produced elsewhere in order to provide her customers with reasonably priced food, a suiting compromise for a cook who loves her customers.
From a family of four girls, Melissa spent her years before founding Cake and Spoon learning how to bake as a professional. About twenty years ago, she left the oil and gas business to begin a long and varied education in the pastry world. She worked in small and large restaurants, catering businesses, and kitchen management before teaming up with another baker who introduced her to the small tarts and quiches that now make their mark in Austin. The baker, Tracy Carlos of Sticky Toffee Pudding Company (also in Austin), turned over her spot in Austin’s downtown farmers market, enabling Melissa to grow her own presence in the market. With her business she built on her partnership with Stacy to develop her own style and flavors.
The fillings in her quiches reflect her roots and imagination: Fresh bacon with vintage white cheddar and spinach with fresh sheep’s feta and ricotta (which she makes in her kitchen). Her sweet tarts envelop their fillings with flaky, hand-wrought crust: Chocolate hazelnut, Texas pecan, and frangipan with seasonal fruit are some of her signature desserts. Flapjacks, double ginger scones, lemon and lavender shortbread, all using available local ingredients appear at the three farmers’ markets that she attends.
Her kitchen is small and so is her staff. She and one other baker, Jasmine, turn out hundreds of small confections for her customers, some of whom have come to rely on her simple and fresh pastries. “My style is rough, simple, and fresh,” she explains. And her instincts are good. Seems that her style fits the tastes of Austinians who appreciate her answer to overworked and complicated food. Melissa has earned her following and wants to keep things uncomplicated and small, just like her quiches and tarts.
Robyn Metcalfe, Winter 2012, Austin Food Warrior