Wild Willow Farm & Bakery

Where is your bakery located?

This is our most frequently asked question. Today’s business world is very different from your mother’s; no storefront is required for many businesses because the younger generations are so nimble at maneuvering through social media which can substitute for a social life and a shopping life. We bake our products in a commercial kitchen that is rented hourly until our business grows enough to support our own space. The commercial kitchen is located at 4000 Creekside Loop in Yakima, WA.  I bake for special orders only which means I do not fill freezers full of cakes to put out on the shelf each morning. When you order a loaf of challah bread, for example, I make it.  Infrequently, people order a dozen of something when the recipe makes 18, so I would put the extras out on the counter for sale, but that is not my plan.  I hope you can plan ahead and call me at least a week in advance if you want a large order.  I can usually squeeze a small order in on two or three days' notice.

Where will I pick up my order?

You will call Gail at (509) 952-1709 to arrange pick-up or delivery. If you are picking up, the Health District requires that you receive your order at the commercial kitchen at 3108 W. Washington Avenue, Yakima, WA. That is a difficult situation because Gail only bakes three or four hours at a time when she has orders, so her hours are irregular. Since Wild Willow Farm & Bakery pays hourly for that kitchen, if a customer doesn’t show up on time or forgets all together, Gail will be paying a considerable sum of money for waiting time. Staci’s Catering, the primary tenant, also has irregular hours. Thus, it is easier for us to deliver to you or meet you somewhere to hand off your order. It just takes a phone call to make this work smoothly. I carry an ice chest in my delivery vehicle so your product will stay fresh and chilled, if required, until we hand it off to you.

Do you make gluten-free products?

We certainly do and they are delicious. We do not, however, attempt to convert regular recipes containing wheat flour into gluten-free because they often lose their characteristics that made them so special during recipe development. We have five very special desserts that are naturally gluten free such as a chocolate decadence-type tort, coconut macaroons, French macarons, chocolate-espresso dacquoise, chocolate tarts made with a coconut crust, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and more. I just picked up a new cookbook today that features an entire chapter on gluten-free desserts. Just call us.

How can I order from you when I can't see or taste the products?

We offer a description of each product on the ordering section of this website. If the description is not enough to tempt your taste buds, we are happy to prepare a mini-version of the items you are interested in so you can be assured that you will love it before ordering. Since we bake fresh when people order things, we do not have stockpiles in the freezer. You will need to allow time for us to bake your test items. Call 952-1709 to discuss a taste-testing session.

Do you plan to have a physical bakery someday?

Absolutely – but only if Yakima proves to us that a bakery is needed. Our bakery is different than grocery store bakeries, ethnic bakeries and even Essencia in the following ways: We offer a large menu of items that are tested three times before they go on the menu. The items are made right here in Yakima and we use regional or local (within 32 miles) ingredients when available. Most grocery store items are mass-produced in the Midwest and shipped here in various stages of completion. All it takes is reheating in Yakima for a grocery store to say it is made “in-house” and we don’t believe that is honest. We pick organic fruit from local orchards for our fruit pies and jams. We make jam from locally grown organic fruit and tomatoes, spices and herbs. We use organic dairy products, eggs, nuts and coconut. We have given up on organic flour because the quality is inconsistent and often results in a soggy, squishy baked item. We do use the highest quality flour possible (usually King Arthur) with no GMO’s.

Most important, our baked items are fresh and baked the day you intend to pick them up or take delivery. On several occasions, we have ordered baked goods from a local bakery only to arrive for pick-up to find that the order was never written down or was lost. Just as bad is the local bakery that stockpiles its goods in the freezer and warms them up for your special order, or worse, they give us day-old items to fill the order so they are hard and dry. That is not good customer service! They still expect us to pay the same price as though their items are freshly made. At our “virtual” bakery, we bake only when you order something so you know it is fresh. Our promise to you is that your special order will never be filled with yesterday’s stale product.

So, the short answer is yes, we would love to have a physical bakery someday, but we must first know that Yakima will support it.

Everyone has jumped on the healthful eating bandwagon. Do you really think a bakery helps that movement?

Well… we are humans, after all, and denying ourselves occasional sweet treats may not be so healthy (psychologically speaking) either. We would never attempt to convince people that our baked goods are “good for you.” But those preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, added starches and glutens, GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup, and trans fatty acids have never been welcome in our business. Our business model is to prepare delicious, beautiful baked goods made from real butter, eggs, good-for-you oils such as GMO-free canola, olive and/or coconut, the best flour we can buy, real organic fruits (as opposed to blueberry flavored bits, or oil and sugar-coated cherries). The chemicals that we do use are baking soda and baking powder. We use pure sour cream (Daisy) with only one ingredient – cream. Do we really need guar gum in our sour cream? The butter is just unsalted European-style cream with lower water content than other types. So relax and enjoy an occasional treat for special occasions or when hosting a meeting or small gathering. Just eat two slices of delicious bread, not the whole loaf; or eat one slice of pie with your company and don’t polish it off after they leave! You know what I’m talking about.

We have nut allergies. How will you protect us?

First, you can always call us to ask if the item you want to order has nuts. Our menu states very clearly when nuts are an ingredient. Due to the number of peanut-allergic people, we do not use any peanuts in our baking business. We do make things with pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, so you will either not order those things, or ask if we can make the items without nuts, or with a different type of nut than the ones you are allergic to. We accurately label our packages of baked goods; however, some of our items are not packaged in a way that is conducive to labeling. You are your first line of defense and must tell us about food allergies, but we take every precaution to protect you.

We love your lemon loaf cake; can we have the recipe?

No. We have spent years developing and refining our recipes. They constitute intellectual property that is not for sale. We use that recipe to make a living (profit) just like McDonalds makes a profit or Safeway makes a profit on the items they sell.

Do you teach cooking classes?

In time, I do plan to teach classes in partnership with our son, the chef, and our daughter, the food writer and experienced university-level teacher. For now, I am busy developing a baking business. I do not have a facility that I can teach in at the moment, so if you have ideas for a kitchen that can accommodate an audience, please let me know.

Are you qualified to be a baker?

Well... that is a matter of judgment. Formal education is not required to be a baker; skill and good taste are. My formal education taught me to start and manage a business and to manage projects, which I have been doing quite successfully for decades, but it did not teach me to bake. My French grandmother, my parents and hundreds of very fine cookbooks, as well as years of cooking classes that I have taken in Italy, Seattle, on-line, and from Yakima’s own Mary-beth Bradley, prepared me to be a baker.

Why is a license so important? I asked you to make something for me two months ago and you wouldn’t do it because you weren’t licensed yet.

First, I am licensed now by the Yakima Health District as a caterer. I feel very strongly that the public is protected by industrial licensing. Furthermore, people who are not licensed cannot get liability insurance which could be detrimental to consumers. A general homeowner’s policy generally will not cover an unlicensed business operating in the home. There is a certain amount of food safety education that comes from preparing for the license application. The education is confirmed when preparing for and passing an inspection. And there is always the threat of being shut down by the licensing agency if I make someone sick or I keep an unsafe workplace. There are hundreds of unlicensed bakers in town who work under the radar by word of mouth. If they were interested in food safety, they would be licensed. I found the licensing agency employees to be absolutely delightful and helpful. Why wouldn’t the other bakers get a license? The only reason I can imagine is that they are afraid they cannot pass the food safety and cleanliness standards, or operate out of a commercial kitchen.

Unlicensed bakers and caterers are baking in their homes, in their basements and garages. They may not have adequate hand-washing facilities or refrigerated storage not used by the family. There may be car oils and yard chemicals stored in the garage. They may not be sterilizing their equipment that is also used for the family meals. Think about it. The license just makes us accountable to you, our customers, and we want it that way. When you call another vendor or caterer, ask the simple question: Are you licensed? If so, what is your license number and which agency licensed you. No answer or a wrong answer could be harmful to you.

The other issue is that a home business requires approval and a permit by the County or City government. The state requires that the business be registered, and charge and pay sales tax which the unlicensed baker or caterer avoids until caught. I, for one, believe that if we all pay our share of the taxes, our individual tax burdens will be greatly lightened. Those people who cheat the system so they don’t have to pay their share of the taxes harm you and me.

How long ahead of an event do I need to order from you?

It depends on the size of the event, the complexity of the items you order, and how many orders there are ahead of yours, so I cannot give you a set answer. You should plan to order two weeks in advance of your event, if possible, to allow time for me to test a new recipe, if necessary, buy any special equipment, and order any special ingredients or packaging. Some of the items on my baking list take two or more days to prepare. An example is the French canalés and the croissants. Some items are so complicated, like the Chocolate Espresso Daqoise cake which has to chill after every component is prepared and assembled, that it takes two days to complete. That said, I can accommodate the person who needs a quick batch of cookies or simple loaf cake at the same time I am preparing the Daqoise because of the long chill times. I will do my best to accommodate you.

Are you hiring?

This is a new food business start-up, so no, at this time I do not have employees. As soon as I am convinced that Yakima will support this business and we have enough orders to pay for our own commercial kitchen, I will hire and train employees. For now, I (Gail Davis) am the only baker with the occasional assistance of my husband and adult children, who all have Health District food handler cards.

If I don’t see my favorite cake or pie on your bakery item list, can you make it anyway?

Many of the things people request are old favorites that I have been making for years. If someone loved Aunt Tillie’s buttermilk spice cake with burnt sugar icing which I have never tasted or seen, you will need to provide the recipe or give me adequate lead time to research and then test the recipe. I will not sell you something that is not delicious and attractive because that is bad for my business.

Do you make granola bars or anything like that?

I do and am glad you asked. I make a breakfast bar that starts with oats as the base, with the addition of a small amount of healthy oil for binding, seeds, almonds and fruit. This bar is probably better for you than a bowl of commercial breakfast cereal and it is conveniently packaged and ready to go when you are on the run. Buy them by the case of 12 and use within three weeks. Remember – we deliver!

We love having big family breakfasts on weekends and entertain overnight visitors often. Do you make savory things as well as sweet things?

We’ll make you never want to cook breakfast again. We have breakfast casseroles that are different and healthy, and we have delicious quiches. Who said quiches are passé? We love them. You will also notice that we will sell already-made crepes to you ready for you to fill with ham and mushrooms, for example, or eggs, asparagus and Parmesan. We’ll help you with ideas and your family will think you hired kitchen help!

I don’t see many breads on your list. Will you add more?

Probably; we are expanding our list daily as demand drives us. We started with the hugely popular scones, cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, and Challah bread, a soft, flavorful braided egg bread. I don’t think there is a better, more versatile bread, and I do not believe we have anyone making Challah (pronounced hall-ah) in Yakima. We make a pilgrim bread, some dinner rolls, and cheesy sour cream cornbread perfect to accompany soups and chilli,. I will be adding brioche soon, but need to perfect my recipe. What would you like to see? Just call 952-1709 or e-mail to see if I can add your favorites to our menu.

One other important factor to consider is that many people are used to buying their breads at the supermarkets and croissants at Costco. A small, local business cannot compete with supermarket prices, no matter how wonderful they taste. Those market breads are made in factories a long distance from Yakima and sent here to bake and sell. If you are committed to buying local, try us, but if you want a large loaf for $3.69 when it costs me $4.69 to bake the same thing, stick with your grocery store bread.

Do you use or sell cake mixes?

We never use cake mixes because we don’t like to eat chemicals and we don’t like the flavor of the preservatives and, most important to us, the flavor of artificial ingredients. Commercial mixes add things like “butter flavor” or “chocolate flavor.” Why? Because it is inexpensive compared to the real thing. Our lemon loaf, iced lemon shortbread cookies, and lemon cheesecake bars do not have “lemon flavor” or “lemon Jello” because we squeeze and zest real, fresh lemons. We have searched for months for REAL coconut extract for some of our items, including trips to Seattle and scouring the Internet. Finally, we found pure coconut extract online at a health food store, of all places and ordered a large quantity. All of our ingredients are whole foods except the baking soda and baking powder. We don’t need to add butter flavor if we use real butter; we don’t need to add chocolate flavor if we use real chocolate. Our customers choose to come back time and again because they can count on the fact that we use only real, unadulterated ingredients in our products. If a product doesn’t taste good, we don’t sell it!

YES, we do offer cake mixes which consist of the dry ingredients for any listed cake on our menu; you add the wet ingredients and follow the simple instructions. Some items are just too complex to deconstruct that way, but most can be and make a very nice mix. We charge 50% of the finished item’s price to offer it to you in a mix. Our scones and muffins make nice mixes, and we sell buckwheat pancake mix – a childhood favorite of many of us.

I bought a beautiful cake from you but you didn’t tell me if I need to refrigerate it.

Our baked goods are made whole dairy products and eggs. They are perishable and should be refrigerated.  We take special care to keep your order refrigerated until we hand it off to you because many baked goods deteriorate quickly at warm temperatures. Most of the cakes do best when allowed to come up to room temperature, or nearly so, to be served and enjoyed. The exception of this rule of thumb regarding refrigeration is the breads, scones and cookies which should not be refrigerated. Please call any time if you have questions about food safety.

Question: Do you have already-made items for sale in your bakery?

No, we are a special order-only bakery at this time.  We are gauging the market to determine if this business model is the best one for us.  If we find that there is enough interest in a walk-in bakery as opposed to a special order bakery, we will consider moving in that direction.  Our present location is not suitable for a walk-in bakery because of limited parking and high car traffic volume.

Question: How will I know what you can bake?

This website has a current list of items we bake on a regular basis.  However, we are not limited to those items, and sometimes we drop items from this list because we cannot get quality ingredients for them or they become cost-prohibitive to make.  You may always come to the bakery at 1017 South 48th Avenue, Suite A, Yakima, WA, to see the list that we keep in the bakery.  We have many cookbooks and cooking magazines that we can use to make suggestions and so you can see photographs of those items our food photographer has not captured yet.  If you have a favorite recipe that is not on our list, chances are good that we can make it; however, that does not mean it will be profitable for us and that is, after all, why we are in business.  We never bake an item without testing it, so we are not likely to make unusual items that we do not believe will sell well.  We also do not make many items that require special equipment; that said, we have the commonly used baking equipment that our items call for plus many specialty pans and tools.

Question: How much notice do you require for an order to be filled?

It depends on the complexity of the item and whether ingredients and special equipment are readily available in our limited market area.  For most items, I can have an order ready in 48 hours.  Many times, 24 hours will suffice.  If you have concerns, just call Gail at 952-1709 and see what the two of you can work out.  We much prefer lead time of one week or more so we can schedule extra help if needed, especially at holiday time.

Question: Why are your prices generally higher than Costco, Fred Meyer, Albertson's, Safeway and Rosauers?

The simple answer is that we make our baked goods one at a time when they are ordered.  They are never frozen. It costs a lot more per cake to make one cake than it costs per cake to fill an order for 1,000 cakes. We use only fresh ingredients that have never been frozen which means we cannot stockpile when ingredients go on sale.  The big stores have factories where their baked goods are made in the mid-West; they are distributed all over the country in huge quantities to many stores.  They order train carloads of ingedients at hugely reduced prices.  Washington State is still one of the highest minimum wage states in the country which is why the big stores do not have their factories in Washington State, but that also means that the prices they pay to manufacture their baked goods will always be lower than ours.

The next logical question you might ask is, "Why don't you make 100 cakes and freeze them."  We believe the quality of frozen products is seriously compromised.  The items dry out and taste like a freezer.  We generally do not buy frozen meals or baked goods, and our customers with discerning taste generally don't either. 

The other answer is that we are still testing the market.  We do not know what our potential customers want; we don't know exactly who our market is but are learning; we don't know how to reach those potential customers to find out what they want.  Therefore, we don't want a freezer full of baked goods no one wants.

Question: Do You Do the Baking at Home?

No.  I started my baking business by leasing a commercial kitchen by the hour.  I quickly realized that it is impossible to operate such a business with no storage space or refrigeration on-site.  In September 2015, I leased a commercial kitchen at 1017 S. 48th Avenue, Suite A, Yakima, WA, and love the kitchen!  I rent the space to other food business entrepreneurs when I am not using it , and have room for additional hourly renters who are compatible (foodwise) with my baking business.  In addition, there are very strict laws about who can bake in their homes and what they can bake.  While my kitchen would have qualified, I could not have baked custard-type foods (pecan pies, pumpkin pies, buttercream frostings, etc.) in a home kitchen.  The cottage kitchen law also requires bakers to allow their recipes to be published by WSDA which, in my opinion is an example of illegal taking of intellectual property and I will not participate.  I am fully licensed by the City of Yakima, State of Washington, and County Health Department.  Your food will be prepared in our commercial kitchen under the watchful eyes of the Health Department in accordance with strict food safety laws.

Question: I have come by your bakery many times during the day and find no one there. What time can I find you open?

As stated above, we are a special order bakery.  That means that if I have no orders, I do not go to the kitchen.  I always have bookkeeping and supply ordering to do from my home.  Often when I do come to the kitchen to bake, I leave for short times to buy ingredients or packaging supplies.  That is one drawback of being a single proprietor with no "administrative assistant" or "assistant baker."  At this point in time - it's just me, folks!  If you want to tour the kitchen or meet with me to discuss an order, please call me at 952-1709.  I live just 15 minutes away from the kitchen and am always happy to hop in the car to meet you at the kitchen. Generally, I am in the bakery from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Question: Do you make wedding cakes and fancy birthday cakes?

I do make birthday cakes and am getting better all the time.  I also make wedding cakes and if the designs are fairly simple or simply elegant, as I like to say, I do them start to finish myself.  However, if they require a lot of detailed decorating, I hire an assistant who taught cake decorating classes to do the tricky part.  All of my cakes are made from scratch; that means flour, real eggs that do not come from a milk carton or powder box, no cake mixes, pure vanilla and other flavors and the highest grades of butter and chocolate I can buy. As an example, I use only pure organic coconut extract in my coconut cakes, but if you go to the stores, you will only find artificial coconut flavoring which is not real.  When I made a strawberry cake for a little girl's birthday party this summer, the easy way would have been to dump a box of strawberry Jello into a vanilla cake - bright color and bright artificial flavor in a box.  Instead, I purchased frozen strawberries of the highest quality and pureed them to add to the batter.  Yes, this took a couple of tries to perfect the recipe, but believe me, the results were worth it!

Question: Sometimes when I special order breads from another bakery, they get them out of the freezer or pull them off the shelf. Often they are rock hard and I don't realize it until I get it home for my party. How long do you keep your breads on the shelf and how can I be assured that they are fresh?

Good question.  I have had the same experience and this is the number one reason I opened my own bakery.  A good bakery that bakes bread daily should pull bread at the end of the day and offer it for sale as "day old" or "stale" bread the next day steeply discounted.  That bread is great for stuffings, croutons and perhaps a bread-based strata for breakfast.  You will never receive stale, hard, dry bread in my bakery because I will not make your bread order until the day you want to pick it up.  I may, upon your direction, partially bake the bread for you to finish baking just before serving to give you the experience of home-baked bread.  This is how we do it for the holidays when I cannot possibly bake 30 loaves all to be picked up by noon the day before. I never sell frozen bread - you can get that at the stores.  Of course, I cannot compete with the price of bread purchased at Freddie's, Costco and the other big stores but that isn't always the objective.  They all sell good bread, but if I cannot make a better bread than they sell, I don't offer it.  At this time, I believe I make the best dinner rolls in Yakima, the best scones, the best rye bread, the best classic croissants, and the best braided egg bread (Challah).  My guarantee is that it will never be frozen and you will probably not beat the quality in Yakima.

Question: Can I buy cake mixes from you?

That depends on what you mean by this question.  I do not use cake mixes in my bakery, so have no secondary market for cake mixes.  I do offer to prepare a number of my baked goods as freshly made "mixes" that offer you the same quality ingredients with no preservatives or artificial flavors that you can prepare at home.  I charge 50% of the finished product price for a mix.  You provide the labor and "wet" ingredients that I cannot safely package, and I provide the ingredients for the unique recipe and detailed instructions. 

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