by Vickie Lewis
Sherry Hoang, owner of Encorecake Cakes and Cupcakes in El Cerrito, is truly a “one-woman show.” Not only does she run the business, but she does all of the baking, design and decorating for all of the treats that she sells. And that’s not all. Sherry also does all the shopping, and handles all the customer service, including telephone orders, in-store sales, and tastings for those ordering custom cakes.
Encorecake opened on April 18, 2013 in a small shop located in the Peppermint Tree Plaza. Sherry established the business after years of baking cakes and cupcakes for special occasions hosted by family members and friends. Everyone loved her cakes and told her she should go into business. So after looking at a number of locations, Sherry decided to establish Encorecake in the city where she resides with her four children, ages 9 to 14. The kids come to the shop after school each day, and Sherry often prepares their dinner on-site.
A native of Viet Nam, Sherry has lived in the U.S. since 1980. Prior to establishing her own business, she was a stay-at-home mom and housewife. She always liked cooking and working in the kitchen, perhaps because she started cooking at the age of 10 for her family, which included ten siblings! So when deciding to pursue a career, Sherry decided to enroll in the California Culinary Academy, where she earned her certification in Pastry Arts. Sherry has a passion for art, and as a child she won numerous awards for her drawings. Today, that creativity is channeled into her cake designs and dessert displays.
When entering Encorecake, you immediately see a colorful array of cupcakes, beautifully displayed inside a glass case near the counter. Sherry typically offers eight or nine flavors of cupcakes during the week, and twelve to fourteen on the weekends. Each day of the week, she features a special cupcake so that customers know when they will find their favorite treat available. Some of the cupcake flavors include: Boston Cream Pie, Strawberry Surprise, Cookies ‘n Cream, Meyer Lemon, Tiramisu, Sea Salt Caramel and, of course, Chocolate Lover. Is your mouth watering yet?
In addition to yummy cupcakes, Encorecake offers fresh French macaroons each week Wednesday through Friday. Why only Wednesday through Friday? The simple explanation is that the German Chocolate cupcakes and fresh pastry cream that Sherry makes daily only require egg yolks. Rather than discarding the egg whites, she saves them to make macaroons, in multiple flavors, including Green Tea, Raspberry, Vanilla, and Cookies and Cream. There are usually enough egg whites to make macaroons for only a limited number of days. If you want to pre-order a batch of French macaroons for a special occasion, Sherry will make them for you any day of the week.
When we arrived for our visit, Sherry generously offered six different cupcakes for us to sample, as well as a several French macaroons. As we chatted and tasted the desserts before us, we sat around one of the round white metal tables, which are arranged inside and outside of the shop. Each cupcake boasted a light and colorful frosting, with a decorative touch on top, such as a strawberry, blueberry, or caramel or chocolate drizzle. My favorite of the six samples was the “My Love” cupcake, which is a silky, red velvet cupcake with a wonderful cream cheese frosting. My companion especially liked the Strawberry Surprise, which is a moist strawberry cake with fresh pieces of strawberry baked into it, topped with a light, home-made buttercream frosting. We also sampled the Sea Salt Caramel, Chocolate Lover, German Chocolate, and a special blueberry cupcake. Although Sherry has nearly 20 varieties that she offers regularly, she sometimes makes special flavors, such as blueberry or mango, when these fruits are in season.
The French macaroons, each of which is about the size of a half dollar coin, are light and colorful, and each is filled with a generous amount of fresh buttercream jam. It is easy to put an entire macaroon in your mouth, which we both did—multiple times—until our samples were gone! My favorite macaroon was the raspberry, which had colorful pink meringue “cookies” on the outside and a sweet, fruity raspberry cream on the inside. My guest liked the vanilla macaroons the best, and we both enjoyed the green tea samples also. A macaroon is very sweet, so it is hard to eat more than one or two at a time. But the meringue exteriors are light and delicious, and crunchy. These are very enjoyable, just the right size to serve after dinner, or as a decorative and tasty treat for a party.
Several local customers visited to purchase cupcakes while we talked with Sherry. They were regular customers, and she greeted them warmly. Sherry said that most of her business comes from local customers, but she also gets a fair number of corporate orders for cupcakes and desserts. She even told us about a customer who eats a gluten-free diet, but still comes in regularly to purchase his favorite cupcakes, stating that it is worth suffering the side effects!
Proudly displayed on the walls of this bakeshop are colorful pictures of custom cakes that Sherry has designed, baked and decorated. Cakes are available for all occasions, including wedding cakes. Sherry didn’t have any custom cakes to show us on the day of our visit, as she bakes them to order. But the variety of different shapes, sizes, and decorations displayed in her photo albums showcase her creativity. Sherry designs cakes from photographs, internet pictures, and can also match party themes and colors, and invitation designs. She sometimes uses her drawing skills to sketch cakes based on customers’ descriptions, and then bakes and decorates the cakes to look just like the drawings. She loves to make figurines out of fondant to adorn her cakes, and we saw photos of some really amazing fondant figures, including Disney characters, flowers, people and toys.
All products that Sherry bakes are made from local ingredients and baked on-site. Fruits are usually purchased from local farmers’ markets. She makes her own flour from almond meal, and also makes fresh buttercream and pastry cream daily. Custom cakes and special orders usually require a week’s notice, but Sherry will accommodate requests in a couple of days if possible.
There is also somewhat of a “secret” menu available at Encorecake—but we have Sherry’s permission to share it with you! Sherry makes cream puffs, fruit tarts, cake pops, and other sweet treats upon request by special order. And if you’re interested in a fresh “dessert bar” display for a special occasion, Sherry is happy to be of service. Dessert bars can include a selection of secret menu items, as well as her special cupcakes and French macaroons. These can be complemented with fresh fruit, candy, or other items requested by the customer.
Stop by Encorecake and meet Sherry Hoang, and try one or more cupcakes and macaroons. Check out the pictures of her cakes and dessert displays, and I think you’ll agree that the next time you need a cake or dessert for a special occasion you’ll want to take your business to Encorecake. Sherry provides cake tastings by appointment, and will discuss how to make your cake just right for your special event.
Cupcake prices are $2.95 to $3.25 each, and are slightly discounted when purchased by the half dozen or dozen. French macaroons cost $1.00 each. Custom cakes start at $45.00. And if you’re interested in a bargain, “day old” cupcakes, when available, are $2.00 each.
10178 San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito | (510) 936-2673 |
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:00am to 8:00pm; Sunday: 11:00am to 7:00pm