Pastry chef Lexi Malmros highlights local beers with her tasty business venture, Philly Beer Cakes.
A business startup gaining momentum in Philadelphia is telling of what might happen if Betty Crocker started frequenting the frat-party scene – no, it’s not getting knocked up, experiencing a violent case of brownie-batter morning sickness and pushing out a set of Little Debbies in nine months.
After a few keg stands, the baked-good goddess would be inspired to whip up edibles featuring her favorite brews. While Bucks County, Pa. native Lexi Malmros isn’t the poster child of boxed sweets, she’s working to garner attention for her business, which merges two key ingredients – beer and cake – to create a dessert that epitomizes the stereotypical college diet.
“The fun part about these cakes is that people who don’t like beer have tasted them and love them,” Malmros said. “It’s not just for beer lovers, it’s for everybody, but beer lovers especially love them.”
“I don’t want to make cake with beer, I want to make cake that tastes like beer,” she added.
Malmros, 29, turned to culinary school after trying to establish herself in Philadelphia’s art scene for 10 years while simultaneously holding down a nanny gig in Center City.
She decided to relocate to Vermont where her parents live and attend the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier. After numerous pub-hopping nights and brewery visits with her father, Malmros noticed a void in dessert menus.
“They never had any good desserts, and being a pastry chef I was like, ‘What the hell?’ so it just kind of occurred to me that people make liquor cakes all the time and rum cakes, so why not beer,” Malmros said. “I saw the opportunity and started to experiment.”
Post graduation, Malmros lived in Boston for seven months working as a cake decorator for award-winning pastry chef and Food Network frequenter Jorg Amsler. After he sold his business, Malmros chose not to stay with that bakery and spent a month in Vermont further developing beer cake recipes before accepting her current job as a cake decorator in Center City.
“I love the Philly spirit,” Malmros said. “The city has a lot of passion for its beer. There’s a lot of craft breweries, so they’re very into the different flavors and playing with things, and there’s a lot of different flavors for me to experiment with.”
Malmros currently prepares orders for Philly Beer Cakes out of her home kitchen and rents out space in Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market for larger orders. Cupcakes cost $3 each, and Malmros said she’ll deliver within a reasonable distance for those placing orders of at least a dozen. She juggles her business with working double shifts at a Center City bakery.
“It’s the happiest tired I’ve ever been,” Malmros, who admitted her refrigerator has been overtaken with buttercream and beers, said. “I would love to just be able to wake up in the morning and put all my energy toward this, but I know it’s coming – I have to be patient.”
Malmros plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign this week to raise money for equipment including an oven, display case and refrigerator to occupy the storefront location she hopes to soon secure. The fundraising goal is set at $21,000.
Malmros said that her bakery will be sans doilies, lace and “froofy” decor. Instead, she said her ideal store vibe would be that of a dive bar, providing an outlet for local artists and photographers to showcase their work, as well as give patrons a place to enjoy beer both on tap and in dessert form.
“Having spent time as an artist who didn’t really know how to get their stuff out there, I’d like to get people involved and make it a very community-oriented kind of business,” Malmros said. “Just being a part of the Philly community is really exciting for me. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to get involved and do fun events.”
Malmros said she imagines Philly Beer Cake’s brick-and-mortar location as having fresh beer on tap that customers could choose to have incorporated into their cupcakes. While they sit and enjoy a pint, Malmros said she could bake their custom order in 30 to 40 minutes from beginning to end if she has everything prepared, in addition to offering already baked cupcakes to those who don’t want to wait.
The store would be open early afternoon to late at night because, “who needs beer cake in the morning?” Malmros joked.
“I’m not really picky on a location,” Malmros said. “I just don’t want it to be too much off the beaten path, because I think that’s what’s going to be really fun is to have people come and walk in late at night – the hours is what’s going to make it stand a part from other bakeries.”
“It’s going to be very much like this,” Malmros added, looking up at the paper snowflakes, tinsel and art instillation hanging from the walls and ceiling of Dirty Frank’s Bar on South 13th Street. “I want people to walk in and be like, ‘Is this a bar or a bakery?’”
In addition to working with established Philly beers, Malmros said she wants to support the homebrewing scene that’s become a huge fad in the city.
“People are really proud of their beers, so since my cakes actually taste like the beers I make it with, it’s exciting for people,” Malmros said. “My dad used to make beer, so I really appreciate what goes into developing the different flavors. I’d love for people to bring me their own beer [to bake with].”
Down the road, Malmros said she sees Beer Cakes expanding to different cities to celebrate other local beer cultures, but said no matter how much her business expands she doesn’t want to ever stop practicing her passion for cake decorating.
“I don’t ever want to put on a suit and be the owner of Beer Cakes, I want to be in the kitchen making awesome cakes,” Malmros said. “I didn’t know how it was going to go, and so far it’s gone really well. I feel like I’m in a bit over my head, but it’s exciting and I’m thrilled.”
Cara Stefchak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.