Becky Nels Lewis and Melody Richey met as teenagers while working at Woody’s, where they baked and decorated cakes. Woody’s had a standard menu of the cakes they offered, but Becky says she dreamed of doing fancier designs, and sculpting crazy cakes into different shapes. In 1997 the duo started a home business, A Taste of Elegance, creating wedding cakes.
After Woody’s closed in 1999 the ladies knew it was time to open their own bakery and ele Cake Company was born. Lewis shares that she was a student at the University of Dayton and it was just before her 22nd birthday that they signed the lease for their 700 square foot shop on Alex Bell Road. They expanded that space a few times before eventually opening their current East Dixie headquarters in 2008.
I reached out to Lewis to talk about King Cakes. ele has been making them for about many years, but she shared in the last couple of years the demand for them has really exploded locally. About 10 years ago Lewis & Richey took a trip to New Orleans, a meet of sorts with a network of bakeries that get together to talk trends, tour shops and there they met the owners of Paul’s Pastry Shop from Picayune Mississippi. Paul’s was known for going beyond the traditional cinnamon king cake, and began filling their King Cakes with an assortment of Fruits and Cream Cheese, then topping them with the brightly colored Mardi Gras sugars and sliced almonds. Their business had grown so vast they couldn’t keep up with the orders. So they approached ele to become their official midwest baker, using their recipes to bake and ship the cakes in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Pennslvania.
While king cakes have a long history and come in many forms, most people in the U.S. know them as doughnut-shaped cakes topped with icing and generous handfuls of purple, green and yellow sprinkles, the colors of Mardi Gras.
King cake is only eaten during the Carnival season — which begins 12 days after Christmas on Epiphany, the twelfth night of Christmas — and ends on Mardi Gras Day. Mardi Gras — which literally translates to “Fat Tuesday” — is always the day before Ash Wednesday. King cake tends to be a brioche-like dough swirled with cinnamon and cream cheese, braided and then baked into a circular or oval ring — to resemble a king’s crown — and finished with icing and sprinkles. Sometimes king cakes are filled or topped with fruit, and there’s typically a plastic baby inside these ones, too. The plastic baby is reportedly meant to symbolize baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby — or whatever hidden item is baked or embedded in the cake — in their slice is crowned “king” for the day. Tradition says hat getting the baby means they have to provide the next king cake or host the next party — so the celebrations continue throughout the season.
Becky shares that King Cake season doesn’t really take off in Dayton until about a week before Fat Tuesday. But it’s now in high swing and the are working to keep up with all the orders.
You’ve got until Sun, Feb 19th to order your cake for pick up on Tuesday. Place your order online here.
When it comes to ordering you have options. A Medium King Cake serves 16-20 one-inch slices for $19.99 or a Large King Cake serves 25-35 one-inch slices for $35.99. Then the next decision you need to make is filling. Fruit flavors include apple, blueberry and cherry. lemon, peach or raspberry. Or pick a Chocolate Bavarian, Mississippi Mudpie or my favorite the Pecan Praline.
Not familiar with King Cake? Pick up a small packaged slice to try it out at one of ele’s three locations. Oh, and tell them DaytonDining sent you!
810 E. Dixie Drive
1279 N. Fairfield Rd
3680 Rigby Rd