by Michael Vyskocil, photography by Nikola Tzenov
Sweet dreams are made in Carroll County’s bakeries. From cakes and cookies to pastries and tarts, you’ll find a dazzling array of delectable delicacies from Sykesville to Hampstead. Come with us as we crisscross the county in search of the finest desserts.
Starry Night Bakery, Westminster
Funky, fun and stylish … these cakes exude personality in edible form. At Starry Night Bakery in Westminster, crazy cakes, simple cakes and creations in between are what you’ll discover from this hometown bakery. In the 18 years since owner Shannon Clarke opened Starry Night, her establishment has set the tone for its signature style of decoration.
Whether it’s a lifelike trout or a “Nightmare Before Christmas” inspiration that a customer wants to create in cake form, Clarke said that she isn’t deterred when she receives a phone call or an email that starts with, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but what I’d like is…”
Clarke approaches every cake request with ingenuity and planning. “I start with the theme, how many people they’re serving and what’s within their budget,” she said. She often receives requests from individuals who bring her shots of elaborate cakes they’ve seen in print or on television. Taking the time to work with her customers, she identifies the elements of the cakes they want so that she can create distinctive designs that fit their desires and their budgets.
Clarke said she came into cakes as an extension of her interest in graphic design and digital imaging, which she studied while attending college. While she liked the idea of creative design, she didn’t want to spend her days sitting behind a desk. The inspiration to unite her flair for art with her love of baking helped her take the leap into starting her own business.
Believing that “everyone deserves a birthday cake,” Clarke said she has adapted her baking to respond to the needs of vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, keto and other dietary considerations.
Crediting Carroll County’s tight-knit community of small companies helping other small companies, Clarke believes collaboration is an important part of her business growth. During the recent business closures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, for example, Starry Night partnered with Local Homestead Products in New Windsor, which offered the bakery’s products for sale alongside its own fresh produce and market specialties.
Clarke treasures establishing connections with customers over cake and frosting. “I did a wedding cake for a couple right after I opened, and, now, I just did their 10-year-old’s birthday cake,” she said. “They took their wedding cake to New York — it was just a little tiered cake — and over the years I’ve done their baby shower cake and their child’s first birthday cake. Every year, I look forward to that time when I get to create a cake for them.”
Starry Night Bakery
330 One Forty Village Road, Westminster • 410-871-9131 • starrynightbakery.com
Bertucco’s Bakery, Hampstead
Homemade treats are at the heart of Bertucco’s Bakery in Hampstead. When your sweet tooth just can’t be satiated by a cookie or a slice of cake alone, Bertucco’s offers an assortment of desserts to tantalize your senses — from cheesecake cups and lemon bars to baklava and napoleons. Owner Jennifer Bertucco feels that the variety of desserts sets her business apart from other bakeries in the area.
In addition to custom cakes and wedding cakes, Bertucco’s is the place to find rainbow cake, a yellow cake embellished with different colors inside. “It’s kind of a Baltimore tradition,” Bertucco explains. “We get customers who come from out of town and are surprised and excited that we have it.”
Chocolate and peanut butter mousse bombes are also popular picks among customers, as are the eclairs, sugar cookies and chocolate top cookies. “We also have pies, parfaits and a huge line of gluten-free items, which have become popular,” she said. “We can do custom cakes that are gluten-free.”
During the fall season, Bertucco said, the bakery incorporates the scents of the season with pumpkin- flavored items, including a pumpkin bread pudding and apple spice cakes. “We do gourmet cupcakes, and all our gourmet cupcakes start to change to the fall flavors. We also bring in apple dumplings.”
Bertucco acknowledges the help of her husband and daughter, who lend their support to the business. “It’s family-run, but we also have full-time employees. My daughter and I do the decorating. One of the gals does the mixing, and I have those on the counter who also help with production for items like our cake pops.” Bertucco’s love for the pastry arts is intertwined with the love of her life, her husband, whom she met while both attended culinary school in New Jersey. They moved to Maryland to be close to family, and Bertucco went on to open a bakery in Hampstead.
“I really felt there was a strong need for a bakery in Hampstead,” she explained, adding that she eventually sold the business so that she could spend more time with her children. After her children were grown, she decided to pursue a new bakery business. “I’ve always had a passion for owning a business and the entrepreneurship.” Her current location in the North Carroll Shopping Plaza on Hanover Pike affords her a great location, she said.
When asked what she thought makes Carroll County a special place for her business, Bertucco said, “I think people really enjoy that we’re a hometown bakery.The colors and the look I have in the bakery is not only welcoming to adults but also children when they come in. I think people also enjoy being able to go to a party and say, ‘Hey, I got this from my local bakery.’ I get a huge amount of feedback from people who are just loving our stuff.”
330 One Forty Village Road, Westminster • 410-374-2500 • bertuccosbakery.com
Dandelion Bakery, Sykesville
Dandelion Bakery gives Sykesville residents a taste of the sweet life through doughnuts, cookies, scones, custom-order cakes and macarons. Pastry chef and owner Gabby Watson, a Sykesville native, unites classic bakery confections with modern creations within this charming Main Street bake shop.
Inspired by her dad, whose career as a chef spans more than 40 years, Watson attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Upon graduating with an associate’s degree in baking, she helped her family open Dandelion Bistro in Glenelg. But it was the Sykesville community expressing a need for a great bakery that Watson couldn’t ignore.
“What makes us really unique is that I make everything here from scratch,” she said, “but I think our doughnuts have really pushed us to being special. People here have responded well to our doughnuts … we’ve been selling out almost every day.” This season, Watson will reveal her experimentations with savory doughnuts. Get your taste buds ready to sample a pulled pork mashed potato doughnut or a nacho doughnut.
Finding her niche, she said, meant understanding what people were looking for from her bakery. “I started perfecting the homemade cookies and scones and trying to get that feeling like when people would make them with their grandmother when they were little.”
Mindful of her customers’ interests and her own business goals, Watson said she’d eventually like to create a bakery-cafe concept offering morning breakfast sandwiches, lunch specials and grab-and-go items.
If you crave macarons — delicate meringue-based sandwich cookies made from egg whites, almond flour and sugar — you’ll find them in delicious flavor combinations at Dandelion Bakery. “We do flavors like blueberry lavender and peach ginger. We’re trying a margarita one. One of my employees likes making them, and we’re going to try offering specialty ones that look like tacos or animals.”
Being a part of Sykesville’s Main Street business community, she said, “is like a dream come true. For years, people here have been wanting a bakery, so it was nice to be able to fill that void and bring the home goods feeling here. I’ve made our space very homey with pictures of my dogs on the walls. My family always wanted to be on Main Street, and being able to make homemade bakery items for the town is incredible for me.”
7556B Main St., Sykesville • 443-398-8025 • www.sykesvilledandelionbakery.com
“Can you make …? Have you ever made …?” When owner Lois Trout receives calls and emails that begin with these questions,
she knows another Stone House Cakery and Cafe creation is about to be conceived. Anniversary cakes, birthday cakes, cupcakes, pies, tarts, wedding cakes and more … Stone House Cakery and Cafe helps people celebrate life’s special occasions.
In addition to the bakery, Stone House also showcases its savory side with a charming cafe offering delightful salads, sandwiches and soups. “Joe [Nemec] makes fabulous sandwiches, and he has specials every day,” she said. Maryland crab soup, cream of crab soup and more make stopping in for a bite to eat like taking a culinary vacation for the taste buds.
“I’m very blessed to have a great staff and great people to work with who have helped pull all of this together,” Trout
said. “My staff is very endearing. For example, Joe can tell you whether you want American cheese or cheddar cheese on your sandwich. Donna Kelly treats everyone like they’re a long-lost family member. Our intern Emily Kleser is just a delight. I think the way we treat people well makes us stand out and it enhances what we do. We create the experience where people feel welcomed and wanted.”
Stone House Cakery and Cafe has also dedicated itself to offering customers experiences with cakes and creativity. In the past, Trout and her team have hosted cake parties for small groups. These parties allow guests to come in, practice their cake decorating techniques and leave with cakes they’ve hand-embellished themselves. Looking back at her years in business, Trout said she’s grateful for the support she’s had from individuals both in the Taneytown community and beyond. “We get people who will drive to us from Baltimore, and that’s quite a compliment, as there are plenty of places between here and Baltimore.”
While the coronavirus pandemic has shifted customer requests from dessert bars with miniature trifles and pies, Trout said she sees “more wedding cakes going back to the tiered cakes versus a small cake to cut and cupcakes. The women I’ve seen just want a textured cake that’s simple. They’re just grateful to have a cake they can share with a small group of family and friends and celebrate their day.”
Stone House Cakery and Cafe
12 E. Baltimore St., Taneytown • 410-756-2100 • stonehousecakeryandcafe.com