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Meet Danielle Eslinger of Dae Cakes in Southern Denver

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Eslinger.

Danielle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
How I got started. Well, I grew up in the small town of Burlington, Colorado. In the middle of nowhere, 13 miles from the Kansas border. Living in a rural community, I was raised with a lot of home-cooked meals. Recipes were passed down from my great-grandma to my grandma, to my mom and then to me. I always had a passion for baking. Even in my kindergarten graduation ceremony, when we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, most of the other girls were saying they wanted to be a “cheerleader” or a doctor – my response “I wanna be a baker, a mommy and an artist.” Twenty-five years later, I have two of the three.

In high school, I loved my art classes but knew it would be difficult to make a decent living based on my skill level as a painter and I knew I would hate spending my days in front of a computer as a graphic designer. So, I applied to Johnson & Wales University in Denver and never looked back. I majored in Baking & Pastry Arts and I had an interest in creating gluten-free and other items for people with allergies or dietary restrictions. This led to me also getting degrees in Culinary Arts and Culinary Nutrition. I wanted to learn how to create a sweet dessert for someone who could eat sugar, I wanted to make a delicious bread for someone who couldn’t eat gluten. (I may be a bit of a “people pleaser”).

After college, I moved back home to Burlington to what I thought was going to be my dream job and it ended up falling through. I was heartbroken. After a few months living at my mom’s house, working the same jobs that I had before and during college, I knew I needed to do something more. So I started applying to any kitchen jobs back in Denver and after a month, I moved to Golden with my cousin and started working as a pastry cook for Panzano in Downtown Denver. First day on the job, I dropped an entire sheet tray of a freshly made lemon bars on the dining room floor. I was mortified. But, it only pushed me to be better. Within a year an a half, I became the Assistant Pastry Chef, learned many key skills that I still use today, and I even met my husband on the pastry line there.

During my time in college, and even after, I had close friends or family who were getting married or having special events and I would make their cakes or other dessert items in my little kitchen at home for a very cheap price. My family would pay my ingredient cost, and I would get more experience and time in the kitchen. After a few referrals, I realized that my skills and passion for creating cakes and desserts could be made into a pretty steady side gig. I realized that many bakeries have such a high overhead cost that the prices charged for a wedding cake can be outrageous at times, but for the simplest designs. It can be difficult for a couple to get a custom-designed wedding cake at an affordable price. Meeting with a family member about their wedding cake, they would always tell me, “well, I like this cake, but this one has a better piping design, or a ribbon color” I was quick to figure out that we can take elements from separate cakes and create the wedding cake of their dreams. For most couples, I would sketch out a design for their cake that makes it completely one of a kind. And that was how Dae Cakes was created, it’s been slowly expanding over time.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been a very long and bumpy road. I seem to learn something from every bump, though. While working on one of my first wedding cakes in my mom’s kitchen, I had placed one tier on the cake stand and the other two in the fridge. I was finishing the frosting mixture and at some point, the cake tier fell to the floor, just hours before the wedding. This was when I learned that my family can step in and be the best helpers, and to always have a back-up plan.

When my mom found me in the kitchen at midnight, frustrated that I couldn’t get a piping design right I learned two things: sometimes you need to take a break and walk away from a project to return with a clear mind, and music is one of the best ways to let loose.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Dae Cakes – what should we know?
Dae Cakes is best known for custom and specialty cakes. However, I have the tendency of pushing boundaries to cater to the needs of my clients. We bake everything from muffins, cupcakes, cookies, pies, breads, and anything else that we can. I’ve even had clients bring in a family recipe for me to replicate or fresh fruit from their grandparent’s farm for tarts. Rarely, to I ever tell a customer that we cannot do something. Our menu is always expanding. No event is the same, so why do clients need to choose from the same cookie-cutter menu? Let’s step outside of the traditional menu mold and create something exciting and special.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
There are so many people who have supported me throughout the years. My mom let me take over her kitchen numerous times and sampled MANY batches of buttercream frostings until I found my signature recipe. Every member of my family has been helpful at some stage: my brother has always given me his honest opinion and can help with deliveries; my grandma was teaching me recipes from a young age and I still use her chocolate cake recipe constantly; my uncle gave me the advice to set up my website; my grandpa taught me the value of hardwork. My husband has recently been the most hands-on. He’s been in the restaurant industry for 10+ years now, and he fills any role that’s needed, Whether it’s the assistant mixing some ingredients, or the supportive hand that calms me when I’m stressed, or the one sitting next to me showing me how to push my limits just a little bit farther.

I also have had so many wonderful chefs who each taught me in their own styles. Chef James Thomas was my first chef on the savory side of things who taught me everything about his restaurant and how in a restaurant, the staff becomes family and friends who take care of each other. Chef Elise taught me that it’s important to have fun and enjoy what you do, but you also need to balance the work and be professional at the same time.

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Image Credit:
Alchemy Creative, Brittany Slaughter

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