Cakes N’ Candy sees sweet success
Posted 8:34 am Monday, November 21, 2022
1 out of 5
By JOYANNA LOVE | Redaction boss
C.akes N’ Candy has been providing delicious desserts to Chilton County and the Southeast for decades.
The original location opened in 1988 across the street from the current Highway 31 location in Clanton.
“All I wanted to be able to do was sell to the people of Clanton,” said co-owner Sue Cleckler.
The highlight for her over the years has been hearing people say they like her pies.
“It’s exciting,” Cleckler said.
Catering was the initial dream when the business moved to its current location in 1993 or 1994.
“Catering just wasn’t feasible to pay as much overhead as we had,”
Cleckler said. “My husband was working at Red Diamond Foods, and he saw a lady’s cakes for sale in a store, and he said they looked similar to ours, but he brought one home and the coating was very good, but the frosting was frosting. canned, not homemade. He said: ‘If she can sell her cakes, we can sell ours.’
While looking for opportunities, a friend recommended they talk to someone in Birmingham who was the bakery buyer for the Bruno’s grocery store chain. The buyer agreed to take the cakes in a store.
“We brought him a pick one morning,” Cleckler said. “…Before I got home, he said, ‘I’m going to want a box of those cakes for the weekend, they’re running low.’”
This led to the cakes being added to the inventory of all the stores he bought for, around 18.
Later, they began selling wholesale to warehouses that deliver to independent supermarkets. Cleckler said the pies really “sell themselves” after someone tastes one. Word of mouth has been the main source of advertising for the bakery over the years. A very satisfied customer from out of county recently took to social media to create a video review of the cake.
There are about 10 supermarket wholesale warehouses in the Southeast that sell Cakes N’ Candy cakes. Cleckler and his daughter, co-owner Stacey Holley, said the cakes are in stores in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee and Florida.
Cleckler said the company delivers 12 to 13 pallets of cakes at a time, totaling 1,100 to 1,200 cakes.
“Since COVID hit, we’ve been busy,” Cleckler said. “We are busiest at Christmas and Thanksgiving. We haven’t slowed down much in those two years.”
The wholesale part of the business increased dramatically as grocery stores increased their orders.
Cleckler did not have a clear reason why business increased around the same time as the pandemic.
“If you want to know how busy we are, that’s all we can do,” said her husband, Jasper (Junior) Cleckler.
Keeping some supplies in stock was a challenge during the pandemic, but Cleckler said there was always a place to find the needed supply at just the right time.
“God has blessed us to do great business during this pandemic,” Cleckler said.
The bakery has a batch of 150 cakes coming out of its eight ovens every 12-15 minutes.
While caramel cake is perhaps their best-known flavor, the team of 30 employees also makes red velvet, multiple varieties of chocolate, fudge, cookies and cream, strawberry, lime, cupcakes and more for wholesale customers.
Cleckler said they have 10 to 12 varieties. New flavors have been added over the years at the suggestion of the runners selling the pies. He also finds inspiration by finding new recipes and things he has tried that he wants to make his own version of. The team focuses on two or three varieties each day. The cakes are sold in halves and whole two- or three-layer cakes.
Although caramel might be what she’s best known for, it’s not the flavor Cleckler started out with. She began her career as a baker selling home-baked pies at a Montgomery market. Cleckler said she has enjoyed baking her entire life, especially after taking an interest in her home economics class.
When a friend asked if she’d ever made a caramel cake, Cleckler said no. He decided that if his friend could show him how, she would do it.
“She couldn’t remember the recipe,” Cleckler said. “Back then, you didn’t have Google where you could find it, so she and I just got together…we practiced and practiced and practiced.”
The result is what is now recognizable to many as Cakes By Sue’s caramel cake.
“When I came here and got into the business, and started making more caramel, I had to learn how to make that recipe like 50 pounds of sugar at a time,” Cleckler said.
Holley said a lot of people like caramel cake because it tastes like the ones her grandmother used to make.
At the Clanton location, customers can purchase pastries, pastries, cinnamon rolls, and specialty breads that are only available in the store. People come from all over central Alabama to shop at Cakes N’ Candy. This retail side of the business really picks up during the holiday season.
Cleckler said that if a customer calls when they open at 9 am, “you can get almost anything you want that day, if you tell us, in the afternoon. If we don’t have it, we bake it fresh at that time.”
The store is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.