It's no secret that cakes can set your bakery apart. And at the 2011 All Things Baking show in Chicago, Mary Gassen, owner of Noe Valley Bakery in San Francisco offered advice on how to promote them to set your bakery even further ahead of the competition...and the main strategy is focus.

In the Fall of 2009, the Noe Valley neighborhood received welcomed a Whole Foods market - and Noe Valley Bakery, a full-line shop, took a hit in almost every category. So the bakery had to take a step back and evaluate what they offered that differentiated them from Whole Foods. The answer was cakes. "So 2010 became the year of the cake," Gassen says. "We still sell scones, cookies and breads, but we just wanted to change the focus to cakes."

Gassen took the "If you build it, they will come" approach, and built a 3D pirate ship cake for the bakery's display window, which gets a lot of exposure due to the foot traffic in the shopping center where they're located. The pirate ship got the cake business going, and they were off.

Now, Noe Valley Bakery uses their cakes to promote the bakery in some low-cost ways, such as showcasing their best cakes on Facebook, promoting with an A-Frame sign outside the bakery and creative window dressing to accompany the window display cakes. They also have recently launched a virtual cake book on the bakery's website.