Batch Baking Company's king cake orders are fully booked for the 2020 season, but Sarah's mini king cakes are still available at City Roots Coffee Bar at the Electric Depot on Mondays and Thursdays. Photo by Geaux Garcia.

Batch Baking Company’s Sarah Gardener is taking the cake

Sarah Gardner knew that she must perfect the king cake to make it in the baking world of south Louisiana. This Tennessee native—with a penchant for mixing it up in the kitchen—moved to Baton Rouge to get her MBA from LSU. All the while, she worked on also mastering this newfound pastry that wasn’t being created en masse outside of our region.

“King cakes are so unique to Louisiana,” says Gardner, who began baking variations of the cake while still in school and sharing them with friends for feedback. “It’s almost a sacred dessert. And people can be pretty snobby about it.”

Armed with the knowledge that mediocrity would never do, Gardner devoted three years of baking trials and errors to the task of creating this south Louisiana specialty. When she launched Batch Baking Company—a from-scratch cottage bakery—in November 2018, king cakes were as much a part of her menu as scones, muffins or cookies. And as soon as Twelfth Night came to a close, king cake orders started rolling in like a parade.

“A good king cake dough can be a canvas to a lot of flavors,” says Gardner, who notes that she keeps her variations pretty classic. “Before coming to Louisiana, I had never even had a praline before. But now one of the top sellers is my Praline Cream Cheese King Cake. It’s fun to integrate food associated with the area into a cake.”

Baking each cake from scratch means that it takes time—three hours per cake, to be exact. And her apron strings aren’t part of her day-job work attire: she’s actually a project manager for Baton Rouge Area Foundation. But in the evenings and on the weekends, Gardner can be found sifting flour and rolling dough. Her business sense only flavors her baking skills that much more. She believes she has the best of both worlds.

“It is so rewarding to get a note or a phone call from someone telling me how much they love my king cakes. It means so much to me,” says Gardner, who admits honest feedback from true Louisianans lets her know that she’s on track. “I love that, through my baking, I can actually bring moments of joy to other people through food.”