Food and Drink

The Top 3 Layers of KC’s Cake Makers

Meet the sweetest gals in town who are boosting Kansas City baking to a tasty new level.

Natasha Goellner, Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott

Natasha Goellner doesn’t like sugar or sweets. “Not at all,” she says.

But though she admits to not having a sweet tooth, Goellner loves to create “pastelly, pretty things” to line the shelves of Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott, the Country Club Plaza patisserie she co-owns with her mother, Vicki.

Her éclairs, macarons, tarts, cookies, marshmallows and more are so pretty customers often ask if the confections are real, which baffles Goellner.

It all started when her brother gave Goellner a book of wedding cakes one Christmas “only because it was so beautiful.” The next day, the University of Kansas anthropology major started searching for culinary schools, and two weeks later, she was enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.

“We weren’t a frozen dinner kind of family, but we certainly didn’t grow up baking either,” Goellner says. “I was strictly doing this just to make beautiful things.”

After graduation a decade ago, she moved back home to Kansas City, leased a kitchen and started making wedding cakes, sometimes two or three a day. And then she got tired of it.

“I knew how to do all this other stuff, and I wanted a retail space,” Goellner says. “I think we thought we’d just have a cute bakery where people could buy a cookie.”

But not just any cookie.

“We make chocolate chip cookies so huge,” she explains. “Obviously, it has to taste really, really good, but it should also look like something special every time.”

Her inspiration for Mulberry & Mott’s French pastries and decadent ice creams comes from an unlikely place: American cartoons.

“Have you ever noticed in the old Disney cartoons, whenever they have food, it’s over the top? Mickey would never have an ice cream sundae that didn’t have fruit and nuts and a big giant cherry. And sure, it’s just a cartoon, but it makes you hungry for that ice cream cone that has three scoops and not just one. It’s all so much bigger than life, and colorful.”

Bigger than life and never brown.

“I don’t enjoy making brown food, and a lot of American desserts—brownies, muffins, pies—are brown,” she says. “But French pastries are light and fluffy, and you just don’t see them everywhere. If I made the best brownie in the world, that’s what we’d be doing. But our thing is French pastries.”

That said, Goellner is branching out to collaborate on a new endeavor with a former employee, chocolatier and pastry chef Megan Piel, who now lives in New Orleans. They’re hoping to have Lanmou, which is Creole for “love,” chocolates available in the Plaza shop in August.


 

Erin Brown, Dolce Bakery

Erin Brown wasn’t your typical kid.

She remembers spotting four whole pounds of butter while riding by on a flatbed cart at Sam’s Club as her dad was picking up supplies for his construction business.

“I’d beg him for it, and he’d buy it,” she says. “I’m sure most little girls aren’t asking for 25 pounds of flour and sugar, but it really set me up to be able to play and experiment.”

The owner and chef of Dolce Bakery in Prairie Village says she believes she was built for the business.

When she opened her original shop in 2007, “there wasn’t a place to be a part of that was baking from scratch. If I wanted to make scratch baked goods with the TLC I think baking deserves, I had to build a bakery from scratch. Of course, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so at the age of 24, I just jumped in and went for it.”

Her business has grown every year since, and in October, Brown moved to a nearby location that’s nearly double the size of her first bakery café. It boasts her dream kitchen, perfect for making “unfussy things you miss from your grandmother’s kitchen” like cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake.

“Rolling out croissants or my Aunt Cindy’s cinnamon rolls—anything with my hands in dough is calming to me,” Brown explains. “And I just love it when a big order comes in and we say ‘yes’ and then tie on the apron to figure it out.”

Much like her childhood, Brown is happiest inventing in the kitchen. But she also loves popping out into her new café space to check on customers.

“It’s so fun to see all these darling children with frosting all over their faces,” she says. “And last week, we sat a whole cake down for a few people who took forks to it. It’s awesome. Some days, I think a nice cup of coffee and a fork and a cake would solve a lot of issues.”

Thanks to the extra space in its new kitchen, Dolce Bakery started selling its popular cinnamon rolls and scones at Kansas City-area Whole Foods Markets in January. And Brown is working toward creating a gluten-free line for the shop to meet customer requests.


 

Sarah Rami and Colleen Kirk, Colors Macarons

Sarah Rami is a business-savvy Australian. And Kansas City-native Colleen Kirk has the desire to create.

They’re both excited about food and have been following the local food scene as it has grown and thrived. So when their husbands introduced them, the two almost immediately started strategizing a way to be a part of it.

“When I came to KC, I fell in love with how passionate people are here and how when a new restaurant opens, everyone gets behind it and supports them,” Rami says. “Kansas City people want to build people up and see them succeed. That’s what I love about it here.”

Rami had apprenticed under a baker, so she introduced Kirk to macarons, “and once we knew the craft, we got really excited about the product,” Kirk says.

They weren’t the only ones.

“There were a handful of people who had said, ‘We want your product. How soon can we get it?’” Rami says. “Everything just fell into place really easily. It was like there were no excuses not to do it.”

The duo rented kitchen space and began making and delivering Colors Macarons in September.

“We had to give people a chance to try it because, for a lot of people in KC, it’s a new concept and a bit exotic,” Kirk says.

The delicate pastry sandwiches have a thin and crispy outer layer with a buttercream, chocolate ganache or fruit purée filling. They’re made with almond flour, so the macarons are gluten free.

Colors offers nine flavors, including a few with a seasonal twist and a rotating macaron of the month.

“It’s such a pretty product; people are just drawn to it,” Rami says. “Salted caramel is really popular. It goes perfectly with a cup of coffee. My personal favorite is the goat cheese and fig, for the combination of sweet and savory.”

She says she’s had to ration herself.

“Instead of 10 a day, now maybe I keep it to just six,” Rami laughs. “You can’t get sick of them.”

And even though they’re spending nine hours a day in the kitchen, Rami says, “every day is a new day.”

“We’re always strategizing and thinking out of the box, and there’s lots of dancing,” she says. “At the moment, it’s Lady Gaga.”

You’ll find Colors’ latest flavors at locations around town, including The Roasterie Café, Hen House, Cosentino’s, Opera House Coffee, The Mixx, Chez Elle and Nordstrom.

Story by Lindsey Corey  |  Photos by Paul Andrews