Wow, talk about sticker shock! Between the price of gas ($2.00 more per gallon from a year ago here), to the cost of sugar, butter and eggs, no wonder everything is so expensive these days!
Covid has sent a shock through the national and international system, especially in the supply chain, and all businesses are being effected.
“The baking industry, which tracks prices of core inputs including sweeteners and cocoa, reports price hikes in 49 of the top 50 ingredients, says Robb MacKie, chief executive of the American Bakers Association. The group expects prices of baked goods to rise another 5 to 10 percent in all categories between now and the end of the year.”
Great article from the Washington Post regarding the current supply and cost crisis: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/09/15/food-inflation-faq/
That being said, Bella’s Desserts will have to raise their prices, hopefully temporarily. We had to do this in the aughts, and we need to do it again. The biggest spike will be in our delivery fee due to the price of gas. We offer delivery for a fee based on time and mileage round trip, and of course you are welcome to pick up!
Meet the Maker: Lauren Cortesi of Bella’s Desserts
Meet Lauren Cortesi, an interior architect turned pastry and baking expert. Her culinary background led her to start her own independent food business, but her daughter’s food allergies drove her to focus on making allergen-friendly (as well as regular) desserts.
What did you do before starting Bella’s Desserts?
Lauren received a degree in Interior and Environmental Design and worked in the industry on and off for 16 years. When she moved to Seattle in the 90s, there were no jobs — so she started cooking in restaurants instead.
Her entrance into the culinary arts world began in the 1990s, where she created desserts and was a line cook at the now defunct Oceanside restaurant in Oregon. She moved to Seattle, where she learned the basics of pastry arts at the only four-star restaurant in the area, The Painted Table.
What is the Bella’s Desserts origin story? Why did you decide to take the leap and start it?
A decade later, Lauren moved to the Philadelphia area, where she worked as an interior architect. She decided to start a family, and didn’t want to spend an hour and a half commuting any more. She left the design business behind and started a home-based dessert catering company in 2002 that also allowed her to be a stay at home mom.
This was the beginning of Lauren’s allergen-free dessert business, Bee’s Delights, named after her daughter, Bella. After a year, she decided to turn her passion project into a business and started making allergen-free and regular desserts for family and friends. When Bella started school in 2006, Lauren got legal and built a website. Today, she sells gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and classic wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other confections as Bella’s Desserts.
How would you describe your products in one sentence?
“Delicious, beautiful and unique to our area.”
What’s your favorite way to enjoy your products?
“With your partner, your kids, or a large event, everyone loves dessert!”
Who is another food entrepreneur that you follow and support? What do you love about their business?
“I got to stay home and raise my daughter who is almost 20,” Lauren said. “I make my own hours, I work for myself, and the instant gratification from my customers is my favorite part, because in my previous career, it would take years to build out a design.”
What’s your best piece of advice to share with food entrepreneurs who are getting started?
Always do your research.
“When I started, there was no Facebook or Instagram or much of anything on the internet, so I had to do a tremendous amount of research on how to start a business, working from home, food laws in my state,” Lauren said. “Not to mention the countless classes I took to learn how to create unique desserts.”
“Working from home is so hard for many reasons: You have to have money to buy equipment, be disciplined, you need to have an entrepreneurial spirit, you need to know how to market which is difficult because you don’t have a storefront, you have to learn how to price correctly so you can actually make money at what you love. Research is at the core of that.”
On March 15th, the CDC said Americans should cancel or postpone events involving 50 or more people for the next eight weeks throughout the United States, including weddings.
As the novel coronavirus officially hit global pandemic status on Wednesday, Connolly and her fiance, Jon, are among the countless brides and grooms in the United States who are figuring out how to adapt the celebration of a major life event — often a carefully planned, emotional and costly affair — as the virus outbreak has started to significantly disrupt daily life.
“Everything is staying the same, except I bought two giant bottles of hand sanitizer for the wedding,” Connolly said. She has already heard from older relatives in the Seattle area who will have to cancel and said there’s a plan to keep people at a safe distance from her grandfather.
Keep it local
So far clients are not canceling weddings, but guests lists are shortening — especially if guests need to hop on a plane to attend. If there’s not a lot of travel involved, the couples will see little to no impact, except your guests lists need to get a lot smaller.
Ask a lot of questions
Make a list of questions for a wedding venue, a transportation provider, caterer, the hotel staff or any vendor with whom a couple plans to work. For couples getting married in a space widely visited by the general public, like a park district building, public library, museum or popular event space, ask what their cancellation plans look like. And read the contract carefully. For those getting married in busy places of worship, ask about the cleaning procedures.
Should we cancel or postpone?
Depending on how those vendor contracts are written, couples could be on the hook to pay for everything if they try to change a wedding’s date. Bella’s Desserts will honor your retainer for when you reschedule. If you are downsizing, the retainer will be used towards your revised order, but we cannot offer refunds.
Whenever wedding planning stress boils over, Bree Ryback, a day-of wedding coordinator, reminds couples that they can always go to courthouse and get married. A wedding reception is “a party; you can move parties,”
Weddings are by definition all about bringing people together, which becomes tricky during a period of social distancing. Cordogan suggested using technology to help include those who can’t attend in person. “We’ve had the best man read the father’s toast, and had the toast live-streamed,” Cordogan said of past clients. Virtual guest books and prerecorded speeches can help, too.
comes to food and drinks, she advised skipping communal and self-service
options like buffets, though the recommended alternatives of
individually plated options are more expensive.
love a coffee station, but if someone coughs and the creamer is sitting
right there, yikes,” Cordogan said. “I would have service of all food
and beverage items.”
I was super excited to be asked by David Crabill of Forrager.com, to be a guest on his newly launched podcast. David and Forrager has been my touchstone for the Cottage Food Industry since I started becoming interested in the business side of things. And I was one of his first subscribers! Grab a cuppa and click on the link below for some great information and a few laughs!
“Lauren has been running her business for 17 years, so she has a lot to share with us! She started her business before most states even had a cottage food law!
On the episode, she talks about what has changed over 17 years, how a famous baker transformed her business, and why she doesn’t want to open a brick and mortar bakery.”
Custom cakes — or novelty cakes — can be as unique as you. These days with fondant — that sugary, stretchy material on cakes — cakes can be a lot more innovative. Just about any shape you can dream up, from a volcano to a dinosaur, can be done.
Here are a few ideas for a birthday that’s uniquely you. There are also some ideas that are just for those who love Philly.
Everyone has a favorite movie. These favorite movies or popular movies often make great ideas for cakes and your party! From a boulder next to a Mayan temple to an ark next to an Egyptian pyramid (a la Indiana Jones), or a Hobbit house in a shire (like in Lord of the Rings), to a Captain America shield (for the Avengers), you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious cake that is so you!
If you do choose a favorite movie for your novelty cake, you can also choose invitations, party favors, and more that have your special flair. Not only can you make your own invitations using programs like LucidPress or Canva, you can also use e-invites. And party favors can have that same special flair. For example, wouldn’t it be cool to have party favors for your guests of the Death Star if you love Star Wars?
And as a finishing touch, you can even show this favorite movie at your party — sharing it with your friends. You’d be surprised how fun having a giant worm for a cake is while you watch Tremors. (Hey, that’s some people’s favorite movie!)
Here’s a novel idea (snare, cymbal) — leverage a favorite book! For kids, they may love Dr. Seuss or Harry Potter. (Some adults love these, too!) The sorting hat or a wizarding book could put a spell on children. So could Horton, the Cat in the Hat, or Sam I Am.
But adults shouldn’t rule out favorite books, either. A Jane Austen book (Oh, Mr. Darcy!) could make a fine cake. Or you could show your love of H.P. Lovecraft; a flying spaghetti monster may be just what your party needs!
Invitations or party favors can be books. Maybe as part of the party, you have a book club where everyone discusses your favorite book or includes trivia with prizes. Not everyone can remember the name of the Vogon commander from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Besides, kids will love guessing the meaning of idioms that Amelia Bedelia can’t quite get right.
3. Television show
If you like Dr. Who or American Idol, share it with your friends. The TARDIS would make a fantastic cake — it’s probably bigger on the inside. And who wouldn’t want to eat a sweet microphone?
Again, the theme can be incorporated into your party from invitations to party favors and beyond. Maybe, for example, if you love Game of Thrones, you encourage your guests to come dressed as their favorite character, with awards given.
4. Sports and sports teams
Go Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, Flyers, or whomever your favorite sports team is. As long as it’s rooting for Philadelphia, you’re all right. (Pennsylvania team are all okay, too!) A basketball, football, baseball, soccer, or hockey cake can show off your favorite sport or for your favorite team.
Don’t forget to ask people to attend wearing your team’s colors, jersey, or hats. Cardboard cutouts of your favorite player may be available. And wouldn’t it be cool to take everyone to the game — or watch it on t.v. — as part of your party?
Many have favorite animals — wolves, cats, dogs, panda bears, red pandas, foxes, narwhals, etc. These critters make lovely and delicious cakes.
And you can take that care you have for those animals and even make that part of your party. For example, as part of the party, consider trekking to the Wolf Sanctuary and donate to bring the wolves back to Pennsylvania. Just about every animal has a place you can donate. And for more domestic animals, consider donating time and money to the SPCA.
Some people really love a color, so much their entire house is coated in the color and wardrobe features only that color. Different types of cakes are available in that hue — no matter if it’s aquamarine or amethyst.
Nature lovers, this one is for you! Your favorite outdoor spot can be the focal point of a party. Whether you love Franklin Square or Valley Forge National Historic Park, there’s something for you and plenty of cakes to show off your love of nature. Leaves, trees, birds — these make wonderful cakes and confectionaries.
Though you may think it’s too early to get your kiddos involved, consider showing them how important it is to share. After all, does your child need one more unused toy? Some great ideas include bringing gently-used books in for local book drives or cans of food for a local food drive. Whatever your favorite cause, ask for donations as your gifts.
You can even discuss how important your activism is, chatting with friends why it matters so much to you or how their gifts impact the lives of others. Now that’s a birthday party that people will remember and it gets to what really matters to you.
Activities can even involve your favorite cause. For example, if you’re worried about climate change, maybe your party includes picking up litter in your city. If you want to wipe out Alzheimer’s, perhaps include the walk as part of the party. They can even be walking for team you!
If you love archeology, revel in an Egyptian pyramid cake. Is Shakespeare your thing? Then all your world is a cake. Knitting? Ball of yarn or knitting needles. The options are as endless as your hobbies.
Maybe you can even convince friends to enjoy your hobby with you — solving a puzzle or dressing as pirates.
Let your birthday cake imagination run wild
There are so many options. These days, just about anything can be done to a cake. In fact, you should be working with a baker who cares about your special day, has suggestions, and can partner with you to make it happen. That partnership can be found in Bella’s Desserts, and it’s why they’re one of the most-awarded bakeries in the Philadelphia area.
The best cookies — most creative, most delicious — in the U.S. are made in the Philadelphia area. At Bella’s Desserts, Lauren Cortesi bakes some of the most innovative, tastiest creations. It’s why so many people in Philadelphia recommend her! (Don’t believe them? Check out the Yelp and Google reviews.)
Bella’s Desserts doesn’t just bake … cookies are painted. Many of the designs are brushed on, with a paint brush, making them look like works of art. The designs are even fun, including Pop Art cookies and trees with tiny birds on them. There are many flavors to choose from including chocolate covered Oreos as well as scrumptious macaroons.
Best of all, when you contact Bella’s Desserts to get ideas, you have a partner for your party. You’ll get cookie and dessert ideas that are perfect for your gathering … as well as your budget.
You may question whether cookies really are perfect, but they have a lot of features that make them not just delicious, but a smart choice.
Cookies are versatile, small, and less expensive than cakes. They come in just about every shape and size. Most of them are biteized. Cookies come in a bunch of different colors and can be tailored to your specific event.
Cookies travel well. They’re easy to transport in the car without fear of being squished! And they can even be shipped all over the country without breaking; Bella’s Desserts wraps them individually to keep them safe!
Cookies supplement parties. You can have them in addition to cakes, adding to your dessert table. Guests can take them home — a reminder of your special event.
Everyone likes cookies! As you talk to people — some folks like icing, others enjoy just the cake. But cookies … everyone has a favorite. Some love chocolate chip, others prefer macaroons.
Cookies adapt to your occassion – every holiday and every special event.
Cookies are also perfect for birthday parties. They’re easy to transport to school or the office. They’ve also perfect for your child’s birthday party favors. Cookies fill up a goody bag quite nicely and help people remember your kiddo’s special day! They’re a fun, unique way to enjoy a birthday long after the delicious cake is gone.
If your friend is getting married, and you’d like her — or the couple — to remember how much you care, you can get cookies for the bridal shower. Not only does Bella’s Desserts have a variety of colors that match your friend’s wedding, but there are options like pretzel rods dipped in chocolate as well as sugar-button cookies.
For your baby shower, you have choices that could be used as part of the theme for your party, including for the reveal parties. Blue or pink cookies, baby bottles, babies, storks, and more can be used and enjoyed. Again, it’s a special way to bring everyone involved with the baby — friends and relatives — into the fun.
Easter and Passover
Having relatives over and trying to impress? These Spring-themed cookies are just as satisfying as the season.
Cookies can be tailored to meet your Easter needs — bunnies, eggs, and baskets. (It’s a nice break from chocolate!) You can also send them to younger relatives, such as grandchildren, who need a treat. It’s a great reminder that you’re thinking about them — even when you can’t be there.
Cookies can add to your Passover Seder feast. They can be traditional — a sweet finish to a savory meal of matzo ball soup, brisket, and roast chicken. Or they can be as unique and fun as your family.
4th of July and Summer
Don’t overlook summer!
The 4th of July is important to everyone in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania — the birthplace of America. (Well, we think so!) And cookies can add a bang to that July 4th celebration. The cookies won’t melt and can show neighbors and friends just how patriotic you are.
If you’re like our block, you’re hosting or attending end-of-summer parties where everyone comes to get in the last summer fun before school starts again. BBQs are grilling. Squirt guns are firing. Pools are splashing! Cookies are even good while wet.
Halloween cookies and treats are fantastic for school and block parties. They’re nut-free even. It doesn’t matter what you need — silly bats, friendly witches, smiling ghosts, goofy pumpkins, etc. — Bella’s Desserts can deliver. You can even get Nightmare Before Christmas cookies with a grinning Jack Skellington. (Yes, perfect for the Tim Burton fan.)
If you’re traveling, why not have your cookies sent ahead for you? Bella’s Desserts ships across the country — even over the river and through the woods. Available in splendid fall colors and shapes (leaves, turkeys, and more), these cookies are a nice addition to any dessert spread. Because they’re coming from Bella’s Desserts, even your picky-eaters (children or relatives) will be happy. Taking a break from your in-laws pie wouldn’t hurt either. Cookies can be just as elegant, or casual, as your gathering.
Hanukkah and Christmas
Of course, there’s no time like Hanukkah and Christmas to tell your family and friends you care about them. Bella’s Desserts has the best assortment of cookies, too — snowmen, Santas, reindeer, wreaths, Christmas trees, stockings, golden ornaments, chirping cardinals, and dazzling Star of Davids.
Cookies Can Rock Your Party
You may not think of cookies for your celebrations, but cookies are small and easy to transport. They can be shipped. Cookies can even be delicate and fancy or daring and different! Cookies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, colors, and even tastes.
So for your special occasion, even if cakes are on the menu, consider the best cookies U.S., made in the Philadelphia area. Bella’s Desserts!
I’m not very traditional when it comes to weddings. My favorite weddings to go to are those meaningful to the couple themselves. I love the ones that are unique. When the couple is having fun, I’m having fun. When the couple has their favorite wedding cake and pizza, it’s a blast. With music. Without music. Flowers. No flowers. Wedding coordinator. No wedding coordinator.
I’ve been to a wedding hosted in Carmel, California at an old mission that was absolutely gorgeous. From there, wedding participants headed to the reception in Pebble Beach, where there was an open bar. The place was packed. The food was divine. And the total price tag on this particular wedding was more than $150,000 — more than most people make in a year. And while it was lovely and fun, it wasn’t meaningful to the couple. Ahead of time, the bride confessed it was what her mom wanted. It was a nearly all-day affair. It was even tedious. Everyone was dressed to the nines. And because there was a flu going around, many people were sick … including the bride.
My own wedding was on the other end of that spectrum. My husband and I eloped in Las Vegas at a Star Trek theme warehouse … because everyone in Las Vegas does Elvis. My husband and I wanted to spend as little as possible while having fun. When we got back, we hosted a reception and exchanged vows in front of friends and our parents. A family friend re-married us. The buffet was three different types of pizza and a bar open for beer. My stepmom and mother-in-law brought other types of food, including a cake. In fact, the wedding cake was a big sheet cake with a picture of the Enterprise drawn on. (It was delicious!) The total price tag of that party and my Star Trek themed wedding was probably about $5,000 total. Hey, we got a deal on a hotel room and airline tickets! That was my favorite wedding. It was meaningful to us. We drank beer. We were alone to enjoy our marriage, but also partied with friends. We did something fun and silly. We also did something more meaningful with friends who had a good time.
Along the lines of our themed wedding, my cousin hosted a space-oriented wedding party. They encouraged guests to participate in the fun. My husband got a star suit for the occasion. I found a cute space dress for my daughter. I even located a stary skirt for the occasion. It was silly. There were puzzles that everyone had to solve. The couple had a wonderful time, probably for less than $5,000. And all their friends had fun, too. The newlyweds also had fun songs with my uncle, her dad, as the DJ. (He’s a professional DJ and professor in real life.)
So when thinking about weddings, here’s my advice:
Don’t worry about what others want, worry about what you want. Trust me, your guests will have fun. Doing something unique that’s special to you will ensure everyone has a good time.
Something will go wrong at your wedding. Take everything in stride. Again, the main point of this affair is for you to have fun. If it’s incredibly stressful planning it, maybe it’s time to rethink what you want.
Focus on wedding customization — a cake you love, a photographer you enjoy, a meal you think is awesome, music that is so you, etc.
Avoid going into debt thinking you want a wedding you’ll remember forever. That Carmel wedding, where the couple spent more than $100,000? That couple is now divorced. It’s your wedding. Trust me, it’ll be memorable whether you spend $5,000 or $500,000.
Consider a fun party favor that families can take home, such as an edible party favor. For my wedding, my husband and I made beer with our own personal label as a way to say thanks. A wedding we attended, we all got miniature skateboards. Making something personal for your friends is really all they expect.
Rely on friends, but if you pay them, ask them to meet specific standards before the wedding. My husband and I asked a friend, who’d just started up a DJ business, to play music. He loved techno music and played that …. All. Night. Long. My father-in-law and I headed to him, asking … no begging him to play something else. He didn’t. We still paid him the money we said we would because he was a friend.
You’ll miss a lot of fun moments. Even if you pay a photographer, don’t overlook photo booths and even asking friends to send pictures. You’ll see what you missed that night.
Ask friends and family to help you host the party, if you can. Meaning, people don’t always have to go to you when they need their gluten-free option, they’re still thirsty, they want to know where the bathroom is, etc.
Use a reception line where you thank people and then send them a note after your wedding. Instead of running around your party thanking people, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself more.
Play whatever music you want. I ran into a DJ once and asked, “Don’t you get tired of playing ‘YMCA’ and all the other classics?” He laughed politely and then said he never plays those songs at home. But, he confessed, he loves when people have a good time and even said he likes seeing the older relatives — the one who never get up and dance — throwing their hands up in the air in a big “Y.” What a great DJ!
There are so few times in life when you get to be number one. This is one of them! Relax. Embrace being the center of attention for less than one day. Sure, there will be a relative who’s appalled you chose black as one of your wedding colors or you want a special dress to show off your tattoo, but that relative isn’t getting married. You are! Your wedding coordinator, if you have one, should understand and support that. So should all of your wedding vendors — from your baker providing you a cake to your wedding coordinator making sure everything is running smoothly.
I love this! Great info for people planning their weddings, or getting engaged over the holidays.
1. Weekends with a Monday holiday While you may be able to score a discounted rate from the venue to have your wedding on a Sunday night, since most people have the Monday holiday off, you’ll find that flights and hotel costs skyrocket on these weekends. Keep this in mind when picking one of these, as some guests may have to decline coming because of the extra travel costs.
Memorial Day Weekend of May 25-27, 2019 Weekend of May 23-25, 2020
Labor Day Weekend of August 31 – September 2, 2019 Weekend of September 5-7, 2020
Columbus Day Weekend of October 12-14, 2019 Weekend of October 10-12, 2020
2. Thanksgiving Weekend This may seem like a great time to have a wedding, since a lot of people travel over Thanksgiving, but it can be a very tough time for a wedding. For one thing, prices for travel and hotels go up during Thanksgiving. The other reason is that people usually spend this holiday with their family members. So if you have a lot of guests who do not live locally, they may not be able to attend.
Thanksgiving (always a Thursday) November 28, 2019 November 26, 2020
3. New Year’s Eve A New Year’s Eve wedding may seem like a fun idea. What better way to celebrate the end of one New Year and the start of another than with a wedding? Beware of high prices at venues and from vendors if you plan to do this date.
New Year’s Eve Tuesday, December 31, 2019 Thursday, December 31, 2020
4. Religious holidays Be sure to keep in mind the dates of religious holidays when picking a wedding date. Even if it’s not a holiday you observe, scheduling your wedding during Lent, Passover, or Ramadan, for example, may limit guests from coming due to cultural obligations.
5. Super Bowl Sunday If you’re planning to do a Sunday wedding, cross Super Bowl Sunday off your list of options. And if you do decide to have it on that Sunday, be sure to have lots of TVs accessible for the die-hard fans.S
6. Friday the 13th Friday the 13th is known as the day of bad luck. If you’re even a little bit superstitious, you may want to skip this date for your wedding or even rehearsal dinner.
Friday the 13th September 13, 2019 December 13, 2019 March 13, 2020 November 13, 2020
With edible favors, there will be nothing left behind because who doesn’t love delicious cookies? Not to mention they are completely customizable! From your favorite quote to your new monogram, it’s personal and delicious!
I love this trend of edible wedding favors. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve gotten candles, or other inedible favors, I and many others leave them behind! What a shame, all the time, effort and money you put into those!
Find Bella’s Dessert’s offering on our Confections and Cookies Menu:
Here’s a great article about Cookie Wedding Favors from Martha!
Bella's Desserts offers fine desserts and baked goods including custom dessert cakes, specialty cakes, mini desserts, cupcakes, cookies, wedding cakes, and more! Delivery to Philadelphia, Chester County and the surrounding areas available!