MANCHESTER, Conn. — Highland Park Market's in-store bakery created a customer favorite out of a mistake, and officials still speak of the fortunate mishap with some awe.
In an order mix-up, too many refrigerated service cases were delivered to the independent's newest location the evening before the store was scheduled to open.
The store's bakery department responded by hurriedly filling the extra service case with cake slices, which proved to be an unexpected hit with customers. Quick thinking saved the day, and sales have kept on going.
In short, individual cake slices, some frosted, some dipped in ganache, became an overnight sensation — by default.
“Now, they consistently make up 15% to 20% of total in-store bakery sales,” Bakery Director Bob Thatcher told SN.
If Thatcher and his team had not gotten to work quickly filling the four shelves of the extra 6-foot case, it would have sat empty when the doors opened early the next morning, Highland Park Market owner Tim Devanney explained.
“That was a night — and a day — I'm not apt to forget,” Thatcher said, and Devanney heartily agreed.
Thatcher wasted no time getting associates together to slice cakes, bake more of them, slice those and then frost all of them. Chocolate ganache production was put into emergency mode. Dipping them in ganache was quickest.
“We worked all night, but we got it done. When we opened the door the next morning, that case was full of slices, and it looked great,” Thatcher said. “Customers loved it. They bought a lot, and so we kept it up.”
Shortly after the slices case proved to be such a hit, the bakery's percentage of total store sales doubled, to between 6% and 10%, Devanney said.
Years ahead of its time, the individual cake slice became a draw at Highland Park Market, as the 6-foot, four-shelf display of slices was duplicated in all the independent's stores.
“Sales just keep growing as households become smaller. People don't want to buy a whole cake, and this way they can try a whole lot of varieties,” Thatcher said.
“We have 25 varieties, slices for every variety of cake we sell. We have interesting one like tiramisu, and peanut earthquake. Depending on the variety, the slices retail for $2.99 or $3.99.
“Mousse mice” slices, decorated with whiskers and ears made of almond slices, are one customer favorite. These retail for $3.69 each.
Slice production has been streamlined since the original emergency.
“It's more of a bar cake. We bake them in pans 18 inches long and 4 inches wide. Then, we cut them into slices 2 inches thick. Then, each one is iced [and] decorated with a rosette or a carrot if it's carrot cake,” Devanney said.
“It's labor-intensive, but we do sell a lot of them. What started out as a blunder has worked very well for us.”