Who would’ve thought that toilet paper would be such a hot commodity? As rolls (and hand sanitizer bottles) continue to fly off shelves in the Hudson Valley, the search to score the stuff is quite the conversation topic both locally and online.
Even so, we never expected it would lead to this.
What is it, you ask? It’s most certainly not the roll of single-ply you’ve got going in the bathroom right now. Instead, it’s a sweet treat that looks just like TP – and it’s trending in the Hudson Valley now.
Pre-COVID-19, Caked Up Café was on a roll. Known for its Insta-famous cakes, cupcakes, and sugar-filled sweets, the New City bakery was a one-stop shop for over-the-top confections in the Hudson Valley. Yet when the outbreak put a squeeze on food service operations in New York State, café owner Denise Byrnes had to think on her toes.
“We had to change the whole trajectory of our business,” she admits. Since her signature custom cakes for large parties were no longer on the table, she took a new look at making curbside pickup and delivery feasible. While her top priority was to keep Caked Up afloat, she craved a way to bring joy to her customers, too.
Luckily, Byrnes is nothing if not creative. Since Governor Cuomo’s NYS on Pause mandate declared that food businesses can offer delivery or takeout only, she’s rolled out a series of quarantine-approved treats that make self-isolation in the Hudson Valley so much more delicious. First up are the quarantine boxes, the café’s assorted containers of treats that vary in theme and come filled to the brim with everything a sweet tooth could crave. So far, she’s created a DIY cupcake kit, an assorted cookie box, a breakfast box, and a dessert charcuterie kit filled with everything from Italian rainbow cookies and brownies to sprinkle cookies and muffins.
“I just had a customer who bought every single box we do,” she says. “We donated a few, too.”
For cupcake aficionados, Byrnes serves a new take on happy hour with her Quarantini cupcakes. Infused with orange liquor and topped with orange butter cream and a mandarin orange slice, they’re just like creamsicles in cake form. Since debuting those, she’s assembled a virtual happy hour pack with Patrón, peanut butter whiskey, limoncello, and Fireball cupcakes. Around the same time, she also brainstormed her custom toilet paper cakes and cupcakes. The cake looks just like real rolls of TP, while the cupcakes feature a bitty roll atop a creamy swirl of chocolate frosting.
“We make [the rolls] out of fondant and create a little core on the inside,” she explains. “People are thinking of really interesting things to say [on the cakes].”
As for how customers can get the sweet treats for themselves, Caked Up currently offers curbside pickup and local delivery. Byrnes’ husband takes care of deliveries while Byrnes, her daughter, and a few part-time staffers take charge of the baking. Due to the decline in business, she was forced to let some employees go, although she’s working with them to come in a few days a week in order to provide as much support as she is able.
“We’re changing what we’re baking,” she observes. “You want to create some joy in people’s lives if you can. We’ll be open as long as we can.”Next up, keep an eye out for Caked Up’s cookie bar boxes and custom Easter baskets. Fingers crossed, the new Kit Kat blondies might even make an appearance.
When Troy’s River Street Market announced its temporary closure in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Sweet Sue’s Copper Pot owner Susan Dunckel felt the hit. Her eatery takes up prime real estate in the Hedley Park Place building, so she didn’t know how she was going to cope with shutting down her business.
“Like so many other businesses, just because you’re closed doesn’t mean the bills stop. You have purveyor orders and insurance. I was getting really nervous,” she admits.
So, when her friend Duncan Crary, of Duncan Crary Communications in Troy, sent her an image of a toilet paper cake that someone made in Australia, she felt a spark of hope. Knowing she could recreate the confection, she returned to the kitchen to whip it up. From there, she and Crary connected with Troy City Council member Anasha Cummings, who is “an awesome graphics guy,” Dunckel says. He helped them perfect the cake’s tongue-in-cheek Troylet Paper branding. Drawing inspiration from the Scott toilet paper logo, the trio chose “Troylet” as a way to reclaim the historically negative local term.
“Troy has gone through such a renaissance,” she declares. “We’re owning the joke.”
Since Dunckel laid off her entire staff, she was the sole baker and order taker when the Troylet cakes debuted on March 28. Just a few days later, she found herself with 400 cakes to make and a list of backorders to April 17. Word about her cakes blitzed across local and national news outlets and even earned a nod on social media from the team at Scott.
So what’s the deal with Sweet Sue’s cakes? Made of vanilla pound cake and topped with vanilla buttercream and white fondant, the creations come wrapped in tissue with their very own Troylet label. Cakes are available in one-ply (two servings) or two-ply (four-servings) sizes and are available for pickup or delivery within a five-mile radius.
“We have lots of companies buying them for employees,” she says. “People are so supportive.”
Thanks to the positive feedback, Dunckel was able to hire one of her employees back to assist with baking (her slogan is “Don’t hoard, she’ll bake more,” after all). With about 50 cakes on her production schedule per day, she welcomes the helping hands during this unprecedented time.
“You have to be creative and you have to be willing to pivot,” she notes. With this in mind, she’s also excited to launch a collaboration with Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen and Foam Brain Games to put together isolation date night packages for the Troy community. In each package, locals can receive pie from Sweet Sue’s, wine from Sunhee’s, and a board game from Foam Brain. Stay tuned to Sunhee’s Facebook page for more information as the packages become available.