'Tis The Torte Season

At any one time, Kretchmar’s Bakery in Beaver, Pennsylvania, carries eight different specialty tortes that offer unique flavors. Four of the tortes are sold year-round, according to Lincoln Kretchmar. Three of the specialty tortes are seasonal and are swapped out every quarter. The remaining spot is occupied by Kretchmar’s Torte of the Month flavor.

“We have a Torte of the Month, which is a specialty flavored cake we produce for an entire month,” he says. “With the holidays, we try and match the flavor to a popular holiday flavor.”

Holiday tortes are gaining popularity across the country, as retail bakeries seize the opportunity to rotate in seasonal flavors on unique pastries and cakes that are as indulgent as they are decadent.

As you plan ahead for the hectic holidays, don’t neglect to showcase at least one of your signature cakes or tortes for the Christmas season.

There’s never a more important time to differentiate your bakery than when hordes of customers are out shopping in full force, looking for that extra special something to treat their families and friends during the holidays.

Manderfield’s Bakery in Wisconsin features seasonal tortes throughout the year and includes (for fall and winter) Red Velvet Torte, which is made with chocolate red velvet cake with whipped custard and chocolate ganache filling, topped with cream cheese icing & white chocolate truffle. For winter, the bakery makes a Toasted Almond Torte, which is inspired by the San Jose “Burnt Almond Cake.” This torte features three layers of moist almond cake, homemade custard filling, vanilla buttercream and toasted candied almonds.

In October, Kretchmar’s Bakery produces a Banana Split Torte, which is two layers of chocolate cake with a layer of white cake in the middle and strawberry and pineapple fillings. The torte is then iced in whipped cream icing and garnished with chocolate curls and decorated with Maraschino cherries. In, November Kretchmar’s makes a Pumpkin Cheesecake Torte, which is two layers of pumpkin cake with a layer of pumpkin spice flavored cheesecake in the middle. The torte gets a pumpkin spiced flavor butter cream icing, which is garnished with graham cracker crumbs.

In December, the bakery creates a special Peppermint Torte, which is a white cake with a peppermint flavored icing and decorated with candy canes.

At Sweet Perfections Bake Shoppe in Waukesha, Wisconsin, their signature Cheez Torte is a baked vanilla cheesecake that’s filled with red raspberry preserves and tiered with sponge-like dark chocolate cake layers. And for a finishing touch, the cake is covered in scratch buttercream. Customers can order it with ganache instead of raspberry preserves, or butter cake instead of chocolate.

Tortes are becoming increasingly popular throughout the year, and provide a perfect platform for seasonal flavors.

Amélie’s French Bakery & Café, a French-inspired café known for their sweets, savories and beverages in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently introduced Blueberry Peach Torte — made with streusel, blueberry marmalade, almond sponge, peach gelée, almond sponge, peach mousse, and topped with blueberry glaze

“Our menu and selections were inspired by salty côte d’azur air, fields of provence lavender, freshly clipped garden herbs and the balmy breeze welcoming a new season,” says Mary Jayne Wilson, executive chef at Amélie’s.

Dobra Bielinski of Delightful Pastries in Chicago recommends that your bakery make sure to start off each season with seasonal items right from the start.

Popular flavors at Delightful Pastries for the weeks leading up to Halloween include bars and pies that are filled with pumpkin and cranberries. “We do our Cranberry Fudge Pie, Brandied Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake Cayenne Brownie and our Cranberry Orange Bars.”

As the Chicago bakery heads into Thanksgiving, pies and their famous Death By Chocolate Torte are top sellers. For Christmas, she makes a wildly popular Poppyseed Walnut Vodka Torte.

Since 1930, Weber’s Bakery has earned a reputation as a high-quality, full-service bakery that offers everything from donuts to wedding cakes to loyal customers in its home town of Chicago.

This retail shop specializes in signature banana split tortes, whipped cream cakes, cake donuts, buttermilk poundcake and hard-to-find products like Kolacky (fruit-filled pastry) and Hoska (a braided sweet-dough bread filled with golden raisins).

Innovation is a constant challenge, owner Michael Weber says, “since we’re a 99% scratch bakery, we still need the hands-on labor to get things done.” Tortes, in particular, are a specialty item that retail bakeries can truly showcase one-of-a-kind creations.

Being retail means they also experience large swings in business due to the holidays. “There may be times during the year when it seems we have too many bakers, but the holiday season hits and we could use even more,” Weber says. “Then vacations start and someone is gone for X number of weeks. That’s the balancing act we try to manage day to day.”

The bottom line, in Weber’s opinion, is that a retail bakery is a very specific business with hands-on production and personal customer service in the front end. “We’re not fast food, never will be,” he adds, “so I don’t see robots waiting on customers anytime soon. Of course, I could be totally wrong!”