Buttercream Bakeshop’s flakie is a sweet muffin-shaped croissant. Its breakfast bomb conceals egg, cheese, and meat wrapped in dough. Its cousin, the handwich, summons milk bread filled with a savory blend of meat and vegetables. Then there’s the self-explanatory cinnascone, and other sweets like the 808 bar, a nod to chef/founder Tiffany MacIsaac’s native Hawaii made with layers of chocolate fudge, whipped coconut pudding, macadamia nuts, coconut flakes and bittersweet ganache. Buttercream Bakeshop has been cranking out atypical pastries like this since it opened to lines about a year ago.
Today, in honor of its first anniversary, Eater catches up with MacIsaac and lead decorator/partner Alexandra Mudry-Till about everything from skyward-reaching cakes to the much appreciated help they’ve received along the way.
What was the biggest surprise?
Tiffany MacIsaac: When we opened, I was hesitant to hire too many people in case business didn’t support the payroll. I actually convinced myself that we would be so slow we’d have time to do our own dishes. Within a week, we realized we needed two full-time dishwashers and twice as many cooks as we previously thought. It was a great problem to have, but made for an insanely crazy month.
I can’t count the number of hours both Alex and my husband [Kyle Bailey, fellow Neighborhood Restaurant Group alum and executive chef of the forthcoming Salt Line] came to Buttercream after work to help with dishes and cleaning. We also had so many friends pop in for a shift here and there to help us stay afloat. It really reinforces the incredible network we have in D.C.’s restaurant industry. The Shaw neighborhood really embraced us and, even though I had a feeling we would hit it off with our neighbors, the kindness and deep sense of community really surpassed our expectations a million times over.
Alexandra Mudry-Till: One of the things that surprised us the most is the number of celebration cakes we sell each week. We knew that would be a big part of what we do, but had no idea we’d need three people baking and decorating cakes full time. It was a wonderful surprise and we love getting to contribute to our customers’ special moments in life. We have such an eclectic clientele because of the stream of people who come in for conventions. It can be a book convention one week, a volleyball tournament the next and Awesome Con after that. We really appreciate and enjoy that diversity of customers.
AMT: We had a lot of cake firsts this year: our first seven-foot-tall wedding cake, our first set of 3D cakes that required us to use power drills to build the base, our first nearly three-foot, 3D wedding cake of Darth Vader and Cookie Monster fighting with lightsabers, and our first time taking more than 100 celebration cake orders in one week. We use more buttercream than I ever could have imagined, even though it’s in our name. We currently use between 240 pounds and 300 pounds of butter a week just for buttercream, which constantly blows my mind.
Reading your social media feeds, it’s clear you have a supportive relationship with much of the restaurant industry.
TM: We were really touched that, while we were struggling to keep afloat during opening, our chef friends did everything they could to show their support. Most of it came in the form of amazing lunches (The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Mandu, Taylor Gourmet, Espita Mezcaleria, All-Purpose Pizzeria) or just stopping by to help in the kitchen for a day or two. Everyone was cheering us on and it really helped us keep pushing through. I remember the day Scott Drewno [formerly of The Source by Wolfgang Puck] dropped off a dumpling feast right when Alex and I were at our breaking point with exhaustion. It was exactly what we needed to get our energy back. It wasn’t just the food that picked us up, it was the gesture. About five or six months after opening, our regular vendor ran out of the flour we use to make the pizza dough for All-Purpose Pizzeria next door. Marjorie [Meeks-Bradley] and her crew at Smoked & Stacked were kind enough to order it for us for about a month and help us schlep it across the street. We’re talking about a dozen 50-pound bags a week. Marjorie always did it with a smile on her face and occasionally a gift of pastrami. The amount of generosity in the D.C. restaurant community is truly one of the most special things about this city. It’s incredibly humbling.
MacIsaac and Mudry-Till plan to mark the career milestone with a party on Wednesday, May 24, treating the first 100 customers to complimentary slices of birthday cake.
This interview has been edited and condensed.