Dawn Olson-Wallerus never imagined she’d bake custom cakes professionally, but a change in employment and sudden interest in baking eventually led her to open her own storefront Feb. 3, 2020. Sugar & Spice Sweetery, in Maple Grove, is a joint effort between Olson-Wallerus, Rock Elm Tavern owner Troy Reding, Honey & Mackie’s hand-crafted ice cream, and Cookies & Cream edible cookie dough. The result? A menu of delectable desserts that dreams are made of.
But how did this former event planner with no baking experience find herself owning her own bakery? It all started when her first daughter turned one.
A First Birthday to Remember
More than two decades ago, when Olson-Wallerus’ firstborn daughter turned one, she attempted to bake a smash cake. “Everybody always dreams of the big first birthday smash cake,” she says. “I felt like I was no different, except I didn’t have any money, so I was going to do it myself. How hard could it be?”
She purchased a Wilton preformed cake pan and a box of cake mix, but things did not go as planned. “It was 18 hours later, and I was still decorating,” she says. “I was crying because it was two in the morning and I didn’t think I was going to make it to the party. I turned to my husband and said, ‘I am never baking another cake as long as I live.’”
If At First, You Don’t Succeed
For years she stayed true to her word, but she was intrigued by all the baking TV shows airing—Ace of Cakes, Ultimate Cake-Off—and often paged through baking magazines. Four years later, when her second daughter turned one, she summoned the courage to try baking the smash cake again. Only this time, it wasn’t your average sheet cake. “Instead of just doing another preformed sheet pan, which would have been easy, I decided to do a teddy bear in a highchair,” she says. “I had to build the highchair and make the teddy bear. Talk about an overachiever! That’s who I am. I am an overachiever.”
According to Olson-Wallerus, the cake turned out better than her previous attempt. This time, she stuck with it, continuing to learn new tips and tricks from the pros on TV and in magazines. For a long time, the only cakes she made were for her family. It was a hobby she maintained while working as an event planner. Eventually, a neighbor or two wanted one of her cakes and colleagues at work loved her sugary potluck contributions.
One Door Closes and Another Opens
In 2009, when the economy crashed, she lost her job. “It was really a long, six-month process to figure out what I was going to do,” she says. “I knew I couldn’t go back and do event planning because the industry was changing so much.”
In an effort to find a new calling, she took a personality test and career assessment to determine where her natural skills might lead. Her results pointed toward culinary, which she expanded to include pastry chef. That was all it took for her to go back to school. With a four-year degree already under her belt, Olson-Wallerus attended the former Art Institute’s international culinary school to earn a certification as a pastry chef.
Home Bakery Business
Her new skills as a pastry chef led her to work for a bakery, a gourmet cupcake shop, and a grocery store, but she wanted to challenge herself. “What was unique about that was I had the three experiences—bakery, gourmet/custom, and production,” she says.
A friend recommended she start a home bakery business. “Well, surely that’s illegal,” she recalls saying. “But there was something about that that just stuck in my head, so I Googled ‘How do you open a home bakery?’” She was surprised to find that in 2015, a law was passed allowing people to bake and sell baked goods out of their home as long as they followed some simple regulations. The Cottage Food Producers Law allows individuals to bake and sell a small number of products out of their home as long as everything is shelf-stable. “It can’t be a time-temperature sensitive item,” she says. “It cannot contain whipped cream, it cannot be a cheesecake, it cannot be meats. You can sell candies, cookies, pickles, salsa, that kind of stuff.”
In 2017, she started a home bakery business. Although Olson-Wallerus was limited to what she could bake, she was able to tap into the wedding market with her buttercream-frosted custom cakes. “That’s really where my business took off,” she says. She attended wedding shows, networking groups, shared her business on social media, and received a lot of business via word of mouth. “In three years, it grew so much that I had to register my husband underneath me (which was allowed) because the law limits how much business you are allowed to bring in.
Sugar & Spice Sweetery is Based on Partnerships
In winter 2018, Olson-Wallerus had outgrown her home bakery business and was looking for a storefront to call her own. One day, she attended a chambers meeting hosted by Reding. The two got to talking and Olson-Wallerus mentioned she was on the hunt for a storefront. As fate would have it, Troy had an empty storefront he was looking to fill next door to his Maple Grove restaurant.
On Feb. 3, 2020, Olson-Wallerus’ dreams became reality when she officially opened her very own bakery, Sugar & Spice Sweetery. “The partnership [with Troy] has been absolutely, just insanely awesome!” she says. “Troy brings so much to the table in regard to all of his business skills and knowledge and contacts that I never, ever would have even thought about.”
In addition to her partnership with Reding, Olson-Wallerus also partners with Honey & Mackie’s (a partnership first started by Reding) to serve their hand-crafted ice cream and Cookies & Cream owner Ashley Boeshans to serve their edible cookie dough. “When I took this step, I knew Ashley was an integral part of the brand,” Olson-Wallerus says. “I know what I’m really good at, and I know where my limitations are at, also. Ashley brings to the table all the things I’m not able to bring to the table. I do cakes, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls. Ashley makes an amazing cheesecake and started the cookie dough business.” Sugar & Spice Sweetery offers beautifully elaborate custom cakes, cupcakes, tortes, cakelettes, cheesecake, tartlets, cookies, ice cream, cinnamon and caramel rolls, and edible cookie dough.