“If there was one feeling I could share with people who try my baked goods, I would want it to be the feeling of eating berries with blue-stained fingers while the sun warms your face. It’s a lofty goal since in my mind there’s nothing so perfect, but I’ll keep trying.”
– Allie Smith
Being a blogger has lead me to so many creative makers and doers in the Baltimore area. I’ve met chefs, business owners, musicians, sculptors, marketing people (lol is there a better word for this?), photographers, podcast hosts, wood workers, bar managers, brewers, baristas, food stylists, all types of bloggers, dogs, you name it! In my adventure being a blogger, I gotta say that I’m super honored to meet Allie Smith. If you haven’t met her or haven’t heard of her before, she is the owner and baker extraordinaire of Bramble Baking Co., a small-batch, pop-up bakery focused on seasonal and sharable desserts such as whole pies, whole layer cakes, cookies, and more! She even offers vegan options! So cool, right!? All orders are made-to-order unless you attend one of her pop-ups.
Allie started Bramble Baking Co. in November 2017. She wanted to participate in her then-hometown’s small holiday market in Riverdale, MD. To her, this market was a low-stakes way to connect with others and see what they thought of her products. After a very energizing market day where the response was so positive and supportive, Allie decided to keep going with her project.
The name Bramble Baking Co. came from Allie wanting to honor her grandmother. She has fond memories of picking blueberries with her in Vermont while visiting. Her grandmother’s basement was always filled with homemade preserves, gallons upon gallons of maple syrup, and a freezer full of blueberries… the same blueberries Allie would pick with her grandma.
I asked Allie where her love for baking cake from. She started baking in order to find peace during a transitional period in her life. She took up from-scratch baking when she moved to Maryland after living in Boston for eight years:
“I was in the midst of a rocky transitional time after grad school, and I was really struggling to connect to a sense of self in my work and life. It’s hard to overstate how important the process-driven act of baking was in shifting my mindset and helping me out of that rut. I learned a lot about my new home in the Mid-Atlantic while searching for ingredients, and getting myself into the kitchen consistently turned into an act of meditation.”
It’s actually very refreshing to hear how Allie got into baking. I always hear bakers say, “Oh… I grew up with my mom and grandma baking with me all the time and I just fell in love with it at such a young age!” There isn’t anything wrong with that. It’s just always really nice to hear a new perspective.
I stumbled across Allie after perusing multiple pages of Instagram (if I had to guestimate, that’s around 75% of how I find people and businesses for my blog). I wasn’t looking for her specifically, and I wish I could tell you who’s Instagram page led me to Allie, but I can’t remember. It was just random. And I gotta admit, when I found her Instagram for Bramble Baking Co., I felt like I found a hidden gem in Baltimore. I remember scrolling through her pics and thinking “Oh my god. How is this woman not well-known yet? Not only are her pics amazing, but her cakes and pies look so beautiful and creative and delicious and minimalistic and omg these vibrant flowers on her cakes are just gorgeous!” Not to sound like a stalker, but I suddenly had an instagram crush hahahaha. She won my heart, and I immediately followed her Bramble Baking Co. instagram.
I had the chance to finally meet Allie at a pop-up at one of the Greater Goods Markets sometime earlier this year at R. House. I reached out to Allie before I showed up a couple of days before the event, telling her that I would love to take pictures of her baked goods at the pop-up and promote her products on my blog/instagram. I met her and her husband that day, and they were total sweethearts to me. Just the fact that they had such a welcoming vibe and were super nice to me made Allie’s baked goods all that much sweeter (I had to write out that sentence in a corny way!). I also got to try Allie’s baked goods she was selling at the pop-up, and man, they tasted even better than they looked. All the flavors of each baked good were so complex but they balanced so well. That’s when I realized baking wasn’t just something Allie did for fun. It wasn’t just something she wanted to show off to her family and friends and wanted to make money off of; this was another level of baking. This was art. This was something she really really cared about and was passionate about. And with each bite that I took, not only did I taste bold, surprising flavors, but the feelings of nostalgia and comfort washed over me. All my memories of baking pies and cakes with my mom growing up and the flavors associated with those desserts hit me. And that was Allie’s intention. She wanted to bring forth that nostalgia and all those memories, and she did a damn good job doing so.
There are many ways to describe Allie, and one of the adjectives would be supportive. She uses seasonal and local ingredients to make her speciality pies and cakes. When I interviewed her at her house, she stated that supporting local farmers was important to her. She makes it a priority to make sure that the local stars have the focus. She sources her ingredients from places such as South Mountain Creamery and Migrash Farm and enjoys going to the farmers market, such as the Baltimore Farmers Market under the Jones Fall Bridge or Waverly Farmers Market. She also sources her eggs, dairy, and flours locally, and even mills her own flours for freshness. For decorating cakes, Allie selects locally grown fresh seasonal flowers and herbs. Allie has a clear understanding that supporting local businesses is extremely important. She even stated that Baltimore is so supportive of anything creative. She loves how people are always so excited to cheer each other on. By sourcing her ingredients locally, this was her way of supporting the community.
Allie is clearly an experienced baker. She understands that sourcing local and organic ingredients really impact the final product and makes for the best baked goods. She knows which flavors and ingredients combine well with each other. She could play it safe and make something basic (and I damn well know that she’d do a phenomenal job and go far beyond a basic apple pie), but she’s experimental. She grows as a self-taught baker by picking out ingredients from the farmers market and challenging herself to make something out of them with no idea what to make in mind. Honestly, I believe that’s what sets her apart from the other bakers that I know. When I asked her about how she comes up with her creative desserts, she stated:
“I also find inspiration in my own food memories, or sometimes lack thereof. For my mulled wine pear pie, for example, I was motivated by the fact that I had never had a pear pie! Perhaps there’s a technical reason why they’re not more popular, but I really wanted to make one that stood up to the ever-popular apple pie.”
She also does a ton of research. I remember seeing cookbooks all over her bookcase in her living room. To her, their words serve as guideposts in her creative process.
Allie currently works full-time as an art museum educator, but plans on making Bramble Baking Co. a full-time endeavor starting next year:
“It’s been a huge challenge to slowly step away from my career as an art museum educator. Leaving that field (even if it’s just temporarily) isn’t a decision I take lightly after spending so many years working towards my current roll. I find it hopeful to focus on the synergies between education, art and design, and baking. There are countless ways they intersect that I have yet to discover and explore.”
You’ll be seeing her in more regular markets and pop-ups soon! And she’ll even have more availability for special orders, larger event cakes, and dessert spreads for weddings!
She’s also very interested in collaborating with other Baltimore-based makers. Connecting with other womxn-owned businesses and makers has been one of her greatest joys of baking in Baltimore, and she’s really looking forward to continuing that.
Allie is also open to evolving and growing as a baker:
“I’m learning so much every day, and am open to very different projects as they come up. While I know it’s important to have a specific voice, I want to be able to evolve as I do. I’m hoping to share more of that growth transparently with others through the project. If it heads in a new and unexpected direction, I’m open to reassessing and figuring out what feels true to me.”
If you want to catch Allie and try/buy her delicious pies, cakes, etc, she’s accepting holiday pre-orders now and pickup is set for December 23rd at the Prime Corner in Hampden. The exact times have not been set yet, but if you are interested in ordering from Bramble Baking Co., the menu is on the website. Times will be posted soon!
Have you had any desserts from Bramble Baking Co.? If yes, what did you get? What did you think of it?