Betsy Thorleifson is a magician.
Every day, she achieves the extraordinary in the kitchen, making something (in this case, lots and lots of cake) from pantry nothings like flour, sugar, and butter. Her spells are so enchanting that they’ve lured sweet teeth from far and wide in search of the frosted, tiered confections of their sugarplum dreams.
Thorleifson, a baker since childhood, took her first leap into the culinary scene in 2008, when she founded Nine Cakes in Brooklyn.
“I wanted to do something of my own,” she says of her motivation to open the shop. “Having grown up always baking, cooking, sewing, gardening, and building, I mulled some ideas over of what I could make and then decided everyone needs a birthday cake, so I might as well make cakes.”
With a commitment and a vision, she dove headfirst into all things cake. Her first year in business was a whirlwind, filled with Google searches on topics like “What is a wedding cake tasting?” and “how to tier a cake.”
Soon enough, however, she found her flow and took baby steps toward wedding cakes and, ultimately, the wedding industry as a whole.
Fast-forward more than a decade, and Nine Cakes is one of the leading cakeries in Brooklyn and New York City. Thorleifson isn’t just a baker, but a visionary who crafts multitiered confections from the simplest of ingredients.
Her cakes drip caramel, ooze fresh fruit filling, and sit light as air atop layers of homemade Italian meringue buttercream. They grace editorial spreads (hello Martha!), tempt prospective brides, and make even the simplest of celebrations feel extra special.
Yet for Thorleifson, something was missing. While she loved (and still loves) crafting custom cakes in her Brooklyn studio, she couldn’t help daydreaming about opening a second shop upstate in the Hudson Valley. Nine Cakes already had a strong network in the region, thanks to its sweet deliveries to wedding parties along the Hudson River, so she felt the area was a perfect fit.
In fall 2018, she ventured up to Hudson to celebrate her birthday. As she spent time wandering Warren Street and savoring the peace and quiet of the charming town, she realized it was exactly the type of place she idealized for her second location.
“There was something so romantic about the idea of having a ‘real’ bakery, a place someone could come in and enjoy a slice of cake or an extra delicious cookie,” she says. “I’d heard from many people that there aren’t many places to find a delicious cake [in town] and, after falling in love with Hudson, it seemed like a perfect fit.”
To differentiate between her Brooklyn headquarters, where she concocts the edible masterpieces for which Nine Cakes is known, and the Hudson spot, she opted to make the new shop a dedicated bakery instead of a studio and cooking space. While her Brooklyn location has no front retail counter, her Hudson outpost is all retail and café.
Visitors can stop in for cake by the slice, along with cookies, muffins, and scones as they please. Whole cakes are available too, as are scoops of ice cream. Currently, Thorleifson is working to perfect her ice cream sandwiches, which rely on Nine Cakes’ homemade cookies as a base.
Nine Cakes Hudson opened in early May 2019 on Warren Street. Inside the space, the décor is just as confectionary as the treats that line the counter. Pastel plates and party favors color the shelves, while bitty black and white tiles and wicker chairs add a Parisian feel. Under glass covers and on prettily rimmed plates, teatime temptations like ginger chocolate scones, raspberry macarons, and four-layer slivers of cookies and cream cake sing their siren songs to passersby, who are welcome to rest their feet as they sip La Colombe coffee and Harney & Sons tea.
During summertime, Thorleifson plans to serve fresh lemonade, then transition to spiced cider in fall and hot chocolate come winter.
Nine Cakes may be a Hudson Valley transplant, but it carves a place in the hearts of local sugar lovers. According to Thorleifson, the single slices of cake are top sellers, as are the fresh chocolate chip cookies and French macarons.
“There’s something nostalgic about being able to sit at a little café table with a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy a slice of cake,” she notes. “We bake off fresh chocolate chip cookies throughout the day as well, and those practically sell out before they get stacked up on the front table.”
As the ringleader behind Nine Cakes, Thorleifson currently treks back and forth between Brooklyn and Hudson during the week, spending half her time at each location.
“The Hudson Valley reminds me of home,” she reveals. “I grew up north of Seattle in a small town, so I have a fondness for the countryside I’ve found throughout the state of New York.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, the cake-making whiz already has visions for the future of Nine Cakes. In the future, she hopes to collaborate with local businesses in Hudson and maybe even roll out classes or workshops. First and foremost, however, she wants to make really good cakes.
“Before we opened [in Hudson], we already had wedding cakes on our calendar for the summer,” she explains. “I’m looking forward to making even more wedding cakes for couples getting married in the beautiful Hudson Valley…but this summer, we won’t have to go as far to deliver them!”
748 Warren St, Hudson