In the RBA Member Spotlight series, we'll be profiling valued members of the Retail Bakers of America community.

This week, we’re learning more about Scott Calvert, outgoing RBA board president and until recently, renowned creator of elaborate cakes in the Austin, Texas area.

After nearly 30 years of creating wedding cakes (and more), including decades as owner of The Cake Plate, he’s using this huge career transition to further increase his mentoring within the baking industry.

“Let’s advance the baking industry.”

Scott Calvert: The reason I like RBA is because we're so education-focused. I've been around a lot of bakers for a long time, including many older, generational bakers. I repeatedly heard them say, “If I'm going to teach them this, then they're just going to leave me to work for another baker down the street and use the advice over there.”

I take the approach that if you have all this knowledge and die with it, what was the point? Instead, share what you know! Share what you know whether they leave and go somewhere else or not. Let's advance the baking industry.

When I started, I didn't have anybody to ask questions. I was insulated and pressed for time. So I always thought if I can help somebody not have to reinvent the wheel every single day like I did, I should help them do that. 

It seems like the folks I've met at RBA have that same drive, which is great.

Favorite part of specialty cakes

Cakes were fun to make for 28 years, but I loved meeting with the brides and the mothers of the brides.

It was fun to make cakes for a kid’s first birthday, second birthday, and then do their wedding decades later. And then THEY had kids, and I did their birthday cakes.

The Cake Plate’s signature flavor - Mexican vanilla cake

I would have people tell me “I went to someone's party…That was your cake, right?”

It was nice to be recognized and have that consistency and people liking it.

Career transitions

I started the Cake Plate 28 years ago. And then about 6 years ago, I merged it with my now business partner who owned Tootie Pie. It was a good fit. He really lived in the retail world and only did pies. So it made sense that he would bring in a bigger mix and start offering cake. He had the online shipping platform, and did a lot of business gifts.

Biggest business disaster? 

Cake jars! The mason jars / layered cakes from 12 or 14 years ago. We jumped all the way in.

My director of operations now was my sous chef at the time. She said let's do it, and within 2 weeks, I had already dumped about $20,000 into the project!

Then we realized it was really difficult. I don't tend to do things simple. So when considering the flavors and fillings that we created plus the labor, she said, “This killing us.”

After about 2 months of it, we pulled the plug and I thought, “Well, $20,000 down the drain”

Economic ups and downs

I found early on that cake and desserts fall in the same category as alcohol. People drink when they're happy, they drink when they're sad. Similarly, people eat cake when they're happy, they eat cake when they're sad. So it stays fairly even despite economic hardship.

What we found with weddings through those dips is that people would still get married, but instead of having 300 people, they'd have 100 people to bring their costs down.

More on mentoring

I've met a lot of people at IBIE, and when I give them my cell number, they’re surprised. I tell them that if I can answer a question for you, I will. If I can't, I'll send it to somebody else who might be able to.

I love that I can glean things from people who have nothing to do with baking industry. But business is the same.

Business-focused or art-focused?

I was asked to do some wedding cakes by a coordinator I had known for a long time. Once I did a couple of cakes and got the feel for it, then I was having fun. 

I feel like when you do wedding cakes, you know by the first four or five whether this is for you or not. So I made it over that hump and kept on doing it.

There were a couple of fails right at the beginning. But looking back, I got into baking because I liked baking, which is not really the way to start a business in hindsight.

So for people like me, I hope that they realize that they need to ask a lot of questions and talk to a lot of people to help them get through the business side of it.

We have the opposite also. Board member Brian Pansari is an example of someone from corporate America who bought a bakery knowing nothing about baking.

I think it’s harder to start a business doing what you love and not knowing a lot about business.

I grew up in a house of engineers. I had a strong science background. When I started baking, it just clicked because I realized–this is just formula. It made sense to me immediately. It was after I had the basics down when my creative side started coming out. I've always had a good balance.

But when you're really creative, it's that business side that can become difficult.

Interested in learning more about becoming a member of the Retail Bakers of America so you can have mentors like Scott and fellow members who offer solidarity, advice, and community? Click here.

Current RBA members, email Marlene O’ Connell ( to learn how you can be featured in an upcoming member spotlight.