From the Farmer teamed up with Jenna Huntsberger in November last year when we were searching for some really outstanding pies for our customers and their families around the holidays. A lifelong lover of baking, Jenna has grown her business into one of the most well known and loved maker of baked goods in the DC area.
Have you always been a baker? What sparked your passion for baking?
I always loved to bake - growing up I spent countless afternoons baking cookies, scones, and brownies with my Mom. In college I baked elaborate cakes for my volunteer committee meetings - I cared about the cake a lot more than I cared about the meetings! When I moved to DC in 2005 I needed a creative outlet, so I would bake cookies for my offices or cupcakes for birthday parties. In 2008 I started a food blog, ModernDomestic, where I wrote about baking and pastry, which is how I eventually moved into baking professionally.
Tell us a little about the inception of Whisked!
In 2010 I quit my office job to go work for Treet, a start-up online bakery. Treet had a business model that I found really appealing - instead of opening a retail store, they sold at farmer’s markets, online, and wholesale to other businesses. When the Treet owners moved to New York at the end of that year, I knew that I wanted to start my own bakery with a similar model. That winter, I heard through food blogging friends that the owner of the 14th and U farmers market, Robin Shuster, was looking for bakers to sell at that market. It seemed like a great opportunity, so I ended up opening Whisked! In May of 2011.
Describe a day in the life of a DC baker.
Our days really vary throughout the week. Our week starts on Sunday, when we bake and package all our cookies for CAVA Grill. Monday is a big baking day because we deliver to our wholesale partners on Tuesdays, so we’ll spend the whole day baking cookies, assembling and baking pies, and packaging everything. Tuesday is cookie day, where we mix and scoop thousands of cookies - we store the dough in the freezer to bake fresh during the week. Wednesday is pie pre day, so we prep all our produce and pre-mix our pie fillings. Thursday is another big wholesale baking day, and on Fridays we bake for the market in the morning and roll pie crust in the afternoon.
Greatest baking success?
Our sea salt chocolate chess pie has been one of my most successful products. I developed it during the winter when we didn’t have a lot of local produce available, and I was desperate to come up with a new recipe to round out our menu. I thought a chocolate pie sounded cool, and I saw that a lot of chocolatiers were sprinkling sea salt on top of bonbons and caramels. Why not put some salt on top of a chocolate pie? Originally I only intended to keep that pie on the menu for a month or two while we waited for the local produce to come in, but it was so popular that I’ve never taken it off.
Why do you make the baked goods you do?
When I first opened Whisked! I knew that I loved baking and wanted to share that with the world. We made pies because we wanted to work with produce from the farmers we sold next to at the market, we made quiches because we wanted a savory option, and we made cookies because I love cookies. (Who doesn’t?)
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Work on your business, not in your business. In the past year I’ve been trying to get more help with the day-to-day operations of the business (like baking, admin, deliveries, bookkeeping) so that I can focus on growing the business and strengthening our brand. When I was doing everything - from baking to delivering to markets - we couldn’t get any bigger because I was exhausted. It’s hard to let go of all the daily stuff, but if you don’t you’re going to burn out and you’re never going to grow.
If you could start over, what would you do differently?
I would have a clearer idea of the products I wanted to sell, how we were going to grow, and where I wanted the company in five years time. When I started Whisked! I wanted to test the concept and “see what happened,” but I didn’t have a clear path to growth for the company. This meant that I spent a lot of time getting sidetracked on projects that ultimately weren’t in the company’s best financial interest - like trying to open a retail location.
Who is your favorite kitchen hero and why?
Julia Child. She had such a passion for food, but she wanted to make it accessible to everyone. I love that. Our pie crust recipe is actually based on her recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
You are throwing your dream dinner party. Who is on the guest list?
Martha Stewart (come on - you got to have Martha), the Obamas (I’m a Michelle fan girl), and Joss Whedon (for humor, and so I can lament the early cancellation of Firefly). And my boyfriend Andre, of course.
What is your fondest food memory?
Definitely making chocolate chip cookies with my Mom. That’s the first thing I ever learned to bake, and still one of my favorite things to eat.