Patricia Bedford of Suga’s Cakery is a scientist by trade. Before launching her baking business, Bedford worked full-time as an electrical and computer engineer, and she says there are more similarities between the two fields than you might think.
"The reason why I like baking is because it is a science,” she said. "It’s so intricate and there’s so many details, and in engineering, you have to be very detail-oriented because you can miss a number or a measurement or a detail and you can really mess things up. I think my detail-orientedness translates to both careers and being very scientific about how and very calculated about how I do things.”
Bedford named her cakery after her grandmother, Josephine Bedford, known by all who loved her as Suga. Not only was Suga the anchor of the family, she was also the resident cake baker, crafting treats for every special occasion. Bedford remembers her grandmother making the most decadent cakes, in particular yellow cake with chocolate frosting and German chocolate.
When Suga passed away, Bedford decided she would take over as the family’s baker of cakes, and she found she enjoyed it so much, she enrolled in cake decorating classes to make sure her cakes looked as good as they tasted.
"I started doing more and more cakes and just really coming to see that I really enjoyed it,” Bedford said. "Really enjoyed making people happy with this craft and being able to serve people in that way for their special occasions.”
She launched Suga’s in 2014, while still working full-time as an engineer, and it was a well-timed layoff two years ago that ultimately pushed her to go all-in on the business. Using her scientific propensity and a heavy dose of experimentation, Bedford has developed a wide variety of cake recipes, including a plethora of gluten-free, vegan, vegan and gluten-free, paleo, keto, and sugar-free options.
"I look online for inspiration, and I do a lot of research on what components to the cake will make it taste the best, and then I blend that all together into my own recipe, my own thing,” Bedford said.
Bedford’s sister provided the inspiration for the first gluten-free offering at Suga’s: the gluten-free chocolate cake. Her sister has always loved Patricia’s chocolate cake, and when she found out she had a gluten sensitivity, Patricia immediately went to work to make a gluten-free version that would taste just as good.
"It just kind of broke my heart that these kids couldn’t enjoy my treats,” she said, "so that’s when I really went to work trying to diversify that area.”
We won’t give away all her secrets, but Bedford says for gluten-free cakes, the key is flour.
"There’s a lot of flours out there, and a lot of brands, and they’re not all created equal, they don’t bake up the same way, they don’t produce the same texture,” she said.
For vegan cakes, Bedford has found that the best solution is to simply not try to replace the eggs that are a big part of traditional cake recipes. Common egg replacements like applesauce, banana, and flax seed can help mimic the properties of eggs in baking, but they also bring with them their own textures and flavors, which aren’t always what you’re looking for. Instead, Bedford relies on the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar to make the cake rise and oils to bind.
Luckily, Bedford is no stranger to experimentation, and so far there’s been no cake-related challenge she hasn’t been able to solve, leading to plenty of beautiful, and delicious, results.
Suga’s cakes are now available for purchase for delivery in the Greater Austin area, through Loconomy. Choose from a variety of flavors — Southern red velvet, heavenly Italian cream, spiced carrot, guiltless chocolate, very vanilla, strawberry de la creme, zesty citron, German chocolate, pumpkin spice, and pineapple upside down — and a number of different forms — cakes in a variety of sizes, cupcakes (mini and regular), petit fours, or cake pops.