Movers & Shakers: Kait Winowitch runs a successful cake shop from her Cap Hill apartment
Wedding season is in full swing. Dresses are picked out. Tuxes are pressed. Champagne is popping. But for some, the sweetest side of the matrimonial celebration might just be the sweet itself: the cake. And while there are plenty of bakeries to turn to, full of white-frosted classics, at Cake Life Everyday, Kait Winowitch is turning out uniquely artistic masterpieces for those willing to put a little trust in the creator.
We joined Winowitch in her Capitol Hill kitchen to chat about artistic inspiration and running a small business, and of course, get a taste of her colorful buttercream treats.
Originally from the Midwest, Winowitch chose pastry school on a whim. “In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to be,” she says, “and there was no revelatory moment.” But once she made that decision, something struck a chord.
Figuring out that she preferred baking cakes to breads, Winowitch moved to Chicago after graduation and then Germany, and then Kentucky—pulling stints at various cake shops—before making her way to Seattle.
“I always wanted to come here,” she says, “and I remember I was bartending for a few years and there was this couple that came in and they were like, ‘Tell me your dreams.’ And I was like, ‘I want to go to Seattle. That's where my dreams will come true.’ So, they tipped me $20 and they put ‘For Seattle’ on it. I held that twenty dollar bill for five years. Then I spent it at Beth's Diner.”
Greasy spoons aside, Winowitch has made the most of her time here so far, diving into the local scene of small-batch purveyors. And while she still pulls part-time barista shifts at Porchlight Coffee, what was once a cake-baking side hustle has now become a fully-formed business.
“To actually decide that you want to run and operate a business is daunting,” she says, as most small business owners would probably tell you. But so far, it has also proved pretty sweet. Now in the midst of her first solo wedding season with Cake Life, Winowitch is, “really excited, but really freaking nervous.”
Not your cookie-cutter princess dream, Cake Life cakes take on a personality all their own, boasting vibrant colors, gold leaf, mountains of flowers, and more. As we chat, in fact, Winowitch pipes out a garden’s worth of her signature buttercream flowers. While it seems nearly impossible that these many-petaled beauties are each made by hand, Winowitch whips them out as if she was born with a piping bag in hand, and before we know it, they are exploding out of the 4-layer stunner in front of us.
“I love making buttercream flowers. I love putting flowers on cakes. I love color,” she says excitedly. “And I love using fresh flowers to create another visual element.”
From cake to filling, frosting to flowers, every element of her custom creations, Winowitch makes from scratch, working with clients to bring her passion to life in pursuit of their pleasure. It is her desire that cake taste as good as it looks, so she chooses local ingredients and bakes every single cake to order, whether it’s a dozen cupcakes or a tour-de-force for a hundred wedding guests.
“The fun part is when I communicate with clients,” says Winowitch. “I’ll talk to them about colors, or who the cake is for. I’ve been very lucky to have nobody really dictate designs. They kind of trust my vision and let me have fun with it.”
So what does fun look like in the Cake Life kitchen? “I like to see where I can take it,” says Winowitch. “I feel like people think I have this voice, but I just do cool stuff that I like.”
Taking inspiration from art or furniture or good old-fashioned Pinterest, Winowitch experiments with tools and techniques to achieve the unique final results that have become her style. “I’m really into paintbrushes with paint,” she says, “and I really get a lot out of color. I think that’s why all my cakes are very bright or very moody.”
For instance, the cake in front of us boasted a deep gray-hued buttercream frosting, with a hint of lavender. Not something you see every day in the bakery case. A single swipe of gold leaf curled over the edge, peeking out from under the aforementioned floral explosion. “I like to take a color and evolve it, change it,” she says, “and get things you don’t always see. This is essentially my canvas, but you can eat it!”
“Weddings are just a bigger piece of canvas that I can play with and I think it's really fun to be able to add a lot of flowers to it and be part of something. People are going to remember this cake for—well I hope—for a long time.”
On the business side, too, Winowitch is picking things up along the way. “I had to learn how to bookkeep,” she says, “and you don’t realize how much goes into running a business, but I like the solo operation.”
Visiting Cake Life Everyday, clients can select everything from cake size to flavor, filling type to topper decoration. And she takes each order to heart. “Every single cake I do,” says Winowitch, “I always second guess.” It’s clear she is passionate about her pursuit of perfection in both taste and style, though she says she’s “trying to embrace the imperfections.”
One imperfection she’s making the most of? Her micro-oven. Yes, micro. “I can’t fit more than an eight-inch pan in there at one time,” she says. “But I’ve got it down to a pretty good system now because I’m insanely good at multi-tasking.”
And you’d never know the size of her oven from the looks of Winowitch’s creations. Stacked high, her cakes average four layers, and somehow, she manages wedding cakes through—our guess—sheer magic. But when asked about the seemingly-logical solution of cupcakes, Winowitch laughs it off.
“I think some people prefer them over cake because it’s easier, it’s manageable. And you don’t have to worry about slicing it, or what you’re going to eat it with. You can eat it while you walk,” Winowitch says. But in her world, she enjoys “using a cupcake as a very mini cake. And being able to ice it and add the flowers.” A quick glance at her Instagram account and it’s easy to see this very thing coming to life.
With everything from rustic fruit tarts to fanciful mermaid treats filling her feed, Winowitch must have a favorite, no? “Funfetti!” she enthuses, when asked. “It’s always a party on the inside,” she says of the rainbow sprinkle-filled classic, “but then you can have an elegant look on the outside.” And you can typically find her topping this frosted favorite with her handmade vegan sprinkles, customizable in any color.
Is there anything Winowitch won’t try? “Honestly, people always ask me questions like, ‘How did you do this?’ or ‘How are you doing that?’” she says, “But I just kind of figure it out and if it doesn't work, then it doesn't work, and then I have to try something else. Or I sit here and practice.”
And in the Cake Life Everyday world, practice doesn’t have to mean perfect, but with our first bite of sugary, buttery goodness, it sure does taste like it.