The start of something beautiful

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It was a NC hot and humid summer day.  Kristen enthusiastically greeted customers under her Big Bundts hot pink and white tent at the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market, and encouraged passerbys to sample her yummy baked treats.  She confidently knew if she could just get people to taste her product, they would purchase time and time again.

Christine needed some fresh, local veggies for an impromptu dinner with friends, so she ventured to the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market to peruse the colorful bounty.  As she strolled by the local meat guys, and the aromatic coffee roaster, a tall, happy woman in a chef coat caught her eye...and so did the samples the lady was pimping.  “Hi, would you like to try my bundts?” Kristen proposed.  “That’s quite an intimate offer!” Christine giggled.  The two cracked each other up!  It was inevitable that a friendship would begin…

That day, many years ago, began another vital relationship, too.  You see, Christine’s client, Merritt’s Store and Grill in Chapel Hill, was, by chance, looking for a local baked good to sell, “for a little something sweet after a delicious BLT,” the owner, Robin Britt requested.  As luck would have it, Christine took one bite of Kristen’s Brownie Bite, and knew Merritt’s had to have it!! “THESE!! So good!  Are you interested in making and packaging these for a quick-serve restaurant that I work with?” Christine inquired.  “YES!!” Kristen replied with much zest!

This is where the beauty happens in small business.  Relationships.  One person works with a business, meets another person who has a great product, introductions are made, and before you know it, the relationship is going on longer than most marriages.  But they can’t be taken for granted.  There needs to be mutual respect for each other.  This is the foundation of a GREAT business relationship.  Some will argue, “The customer is ALWAYS right.”  Well, in most instances this is true, but in a small business relationship, there is almost a “family-like” quality to the relationship.  When you consistently see each other, and have conversations, you truly begin to care about the people in that business, as well as, the business health.  You know family member names, employees’ names and their family names...it becomes something bigger than the initial “courting.”  

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The Merritt’s Store and Grill relationship with Big Bundts has evolved into a beautiful commitment...each business is truly vested in the other’s success.  Several years ago, Merritt’s envisioned “throwback” sweet treats to sell at the nostalgic Chapel Hill BLT empire, and Big Bundts was thrilled to develop a line of scratch-made Hostess-like treats -- chocolate snack cakes, cinnamon-sugar vanilla Twankies, and oatmeal cremes.  These childhood favorites are a huge success at Merritt’s, and we couldn’t be more proud to have our beloved products savored after a double BLT!

The Big Bundts relationship with Merritt’s Store and Grill has continued throughout challenging times, too.  It was with extreme sadness that Kristen, Christine, and the Big Bundts employees had to say goodbye to the lovely matriarch of Merritt’s, Robin Britt.  Losing Robin to illness was like losing our best friend or sister.  She understood the value of relationships in life, business, and love...and boy, could she love.  Her love exuded out of Merritt’s and out of everything she did to build Merritt’s Store and Grill to the success it is today.  The relationship with Robin Britt has impacted Big Bundts beyond her death.  We use her wisdom and love to guide us in our decisions daily...she taught us how to put “love” into all of our cakes.  Happily, the current Merritt’s management and staff have continued to cultivate a nurturing relationship with us, and we are always trying to find ways to mutually benefit our respective businesses.

Relationships.  The heart of our successful businesses.  Be open to exploring new places, new things, and meeting new people...you never know what beauty may lie around the corner...or what fun you may find creating a new relationship.

*Next time you're in Chapel Hill, NC, be sure to stop at Merritt's Store and Grill, 1009 S. Columbia St.  Try the BLT with pimento cheese...YUM!!!  And finish off with one of our delicious sweets...chocolate snack cake, Twankie, or oat creme!!!

I’m baaaaaackkkkk!

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Like a Phoenix, I arose out of the oven and onto a cooling rack.  It’s so good to be back!  Customers have always LOVED me and never gave up hope for my return.  They begged, they huffed, they puffed, heck, some even used an occasional swear word when a Cake Lounge employee told them, “We are focusing on all the cakes and cake balls right now…”  But this brownie, yep, me, knew they all could not live without me!  

I was born from Kristen’s son’s idea, “Mom, I have an idea.  You need to make a really good brownie for your business.”  Little did he know I wouldn’t just be a really, good brownie, but the most incredibly fudgy, decadent chocolate treat that would become THEE best-selling baked good my owner would sell!  My gooey batter was poured into this thing called a “mini bundt pan,” and I would bake into what Kristen called a Brownie Bite.  I felt so special.  Customer after customer would seek me out at the Chapel Hill Farmer’s market and would say such lovely things about ME!  “That Brownie Bite...To. Die. For.”  “What on earth is in that Brownie Bite?  Never had a brownie that addictive!”  “Honestly, I can’t wait to get my Brownie Bites every Saturday!”

For years, I was such a superstar.  If Kristen ever ran out of me, which happened on occasion, crowds would riot...ok, maybe not that extreme, but everyone would be disappointed, like they really could not handle the fact that they would not be able to use me to soothe their sorrows, or alleviate their broken heart, or celebrate a job well done!  I was so proud of myself.  I had the ability to really make someone’s day better.

Then came the day Kristen and her staff broke up with me.  They said, “Honestly, you’re so so good, it’s not you, it’s us.  We just can’t focus on you right now...we have other things that need our attention.”  I was so devastated.  What?!!!!  Your money maker for YEARS, your tried and true product that everyone loves?  You are going to just toss me like trash?  I was angry.  I really didn’t ever hear the saying, “If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it was meant to be.”  But I think that’s exactly what happened here.

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Apparently the story is...Kristen couldn’t find a way to make me - she was DONE with those bundt bite pans.  Also, her “new” creation, those snarky cake balls became the superstars, and she was all starry-eyed for them the way she used to be for me.  And then, just a couple of days ago, Kristen told her staff, “I need to make and send my son some brownies.”  Her staff perked up, “Brownies?  Yum….!!”  So she nostalgically worked on me, and she was happy.  She loved how I smelled in the oven, and all the customers who came in while I was baking were salivating.  

So back to the beginning.  I cooled on the rack while Kristen and the staff patiently waited to taste and marvel at my delicious personality.  And when they did, magic happened...they LOVED me again.  And they decided to never let me go.  I’m not in that “bundt bite” form anymore...they now serve me, cut from a pan, and I’m okay with it!  It’s just so good to be back!  Like a lost love set free, they came back to me.  And now I understand that saying!!  I can’t wait to see all my favorite customers again, and some new ones, too.  I know they will soon come to LOVE me the way my people at the, now called, Cake Lounge do.  It’s good to be back!

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print recipe

I’m baaaaaackkkkk! Brownies

I was born from Kristen’s son’s idea, “Mom, I have an idea. You need to make a really good brownie for your business.” Little did he know I wouldn’t just be a really, good brownie, but the most incredibly fudgy, decadent chocolate treat that would become thee best-selling baked good my owner would sell!

Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon powdered instant coffee granules
  • 11 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1 ounce unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Butter and flour a baking pan of your choice (brownie bundt pan, square, rectangle, round, etc). Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a double boiler on moderate heat, combine butter, chocolates, and coffee granules. Melt & stir until smooth. Remove from heat. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sugar and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, sift together flour and salt. Set aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, add melted butter/chocolate mixture.
  7. On medium-low speed, add sugar/cocoa mixture. Mix until combined, about 1 minute.
  8. On low speed, add egg/vanilla mixture. Mix medium speed until thick and glossy, about 1 minute.
  9. On low speed, add flour/salt mixture. Mix until everything is well blended together.
  10. Remove mixing bowl and hand mix mixture with a spatula to incorporate all ingredients that have settled on the bottom of bowl.
  11. Spoon batter all over the prepared pan of your choice and smooth top.
  12. Bake brownies until some crumbs remain on toothpick when tested. Do not overbake.
  13. 9 x 13 x 2-inch Pan: bake about 35 minutes. Bundt Bite Pan: bake about 18-22 minutes.

What the h$ll to do on a snow day?

What the h$ll to do on a snow day?

It happens often in North Carolina.  The threat of impending snow.  Most of the time the “blizzard” ends up being a light dusting of what looks like confectionary sugar (we are bakers, you know), or some icy roads.  Residents who are from the north or Midwest often laugh at the “stock up on bread and milk,” chaos…we know better!