From D CEO May 2022Subscribe
When Lauren Kitchens delivered her first cake to a friend in high school—a Bundt topped with the upper half of a Barbie doll—it was one of the first times she truly felt seen. “I had really bad ADHD, undiagnosed in the ’80s,” she explains. Kitchens struggled to excel socially and academically, and baking provided a creative outlet. Now, she makes wedding and party cakes for names such as Don Henley, the Hunt and Jerry Jones families, and Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. The custom confections range from what you might pay in a traditional bakery to tens of thousands of dollars.
Kitchens formally launched her business, Fancy Cakes by Lauren, in 2002, fueled by orders from the Park Cities mothers of friends from SMU, where she earned a film degree. “I graduated, and I told my parents, ‘I’ll pay you $200 a month if you let me use the kitchen,’” she says. After her first wedding cake order, she realized custom cakes would be her specialty. She opened her cake studio by appointment only, an industry rarity, and has never had to fill orders otherwise.
In 2008, Kitchens was invited to appear on the Food Network Challenge. She won a few episodes of the cake-making competition and, over the next five years, went on to teach decorating classes around the world. When the economy corrected after the ‘08 crisis, luxury hotels began asking her to take over the wedding cakes their pastry chefs no longer wished to produce. Omni Mandalay was her first account, then Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. These clients and relationships with wedding planners have helped keep the orders coming in. “A bride is a one-time client,” she says. “So, how do you sustain? It’s hotels and wedding planners.”
Her team of four artists bake up massive and intricate cakes for 10 to 15 weddings each weekend—plus their corresponding grooms’ cakes and a few custom party cake orders. Her client list has grown to nine luxury hotels, high-end event planners in Dallas and beyond, and the occasional celebrity. Kitchens hopes to expand her capacity by taking over space next door to her original studio in North Dallas, more than doubling her square footage. “I want to stop having to turn down party cake orders,” she says.