The Norman Transcript

March 3, 2013

Emma J’s, now Sweet Sisters Bakery, expands to full service bakery

By Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — “We’ve always had a dream to run our own bakery,” Mikal Mowdy said. “My sister is relocating back to Norman and we’re going to be partners.”

Mowdy acquired Emma J’s Gourmet Cupcakery, 1334 Interstate Drive, Robinson Crossing Shopping Center, from founder Carrie Raines late last year. The diminutive cupcake shop is nestled in a row of restaurants and retail shops that’s anchored by Starplex Cinemas.

Many of their customers pick up a baked snack on the way in to see a movie. Mowdy’s sister Christy Mowdy is leaving a career as a high school science teacher in Chicago to return to a job in her hometown. Both women are native Oklahomans and Norman High School alumnae. Mikal is a Platte College’s Pastry Arts program graduate. She cut her teeth in the business world with an externship at Fancy Cakes then worked at La Baguette’s main bakery on Berry Rd. for a time.

“Christy used to bake with my grandma,” Mowdy said. “I was only six when she passed away and Christy took over her role, baking everything from scratch for our family.”

Mikal loved those times learning from her sister and decided after culinary training to become a business woman operating her own shop. She remodeled Emma J’s interior and has invested in some new equipment such as a recently delivered 20 quart mixer.

Mowdy’s baking standards are strict. “Everything we bake is from scratch,” she said. “No boxed cake mix and we make our own icing from butter and powdered sugar, not lard.”

All products are baked on-site fresh every day. Mowdy makes her own fondant, the creamy confection used in and on cakes, from a marshmallow base rather than purchasing it wholesale.

“Fondant gives cakes that fancy, absolutely smooth finish,” she said. “You can do different things with it than butter cream.”

Dozens of different kinds of cupcakes and cakes are available and many are imaginatively out of the ordinary. “Toasted” is vanilla bean cake topped with vanilla icing and toasted coconut. “Heavenly Swine” stuffs southern buttermilk cake with bacon then drizzles maple topping over a chunk of bacon and vanilla icing. Chocolate cupcakes are the best seller.

“Our traditional red velvet cake with cream cheese icing is a customer favorite,” Mowdy said. “We use my great aunt’s recipe for our ‘24 Carrot’ cake.”

Hard work, attention to detail and using quality ingredients has been paying off for the early 20-something single mother of a toddler and infant. She regularly works 13 hours a day and has been completely satisfied with business traffic at the location. Valentine’s Day sales hit four figures. That’s a lot of cupcakes.

When partner Christy Mowdy arrives in the spring the plan is for expanding the bakery’s offering to include breads, pies, puff pastries, cookies and ready-to-go cakes.

“We’ll have French, Cuban and pita breads,” Mowdy said. “Crackiln’ bread made with brioche dough and sugar cubes is something a lot of people haven’t had. You eat it hot and it has a nice juicy delicious flavor.”

Her former employer and now competitor La Baguette has a location about a quarter mile away. She knows first-hand how good their products are and wants to give the well-established bakery a serious run for their money. Mowdy has a business strategy for doing so.

“We’re a little bakery and should be able to offer our products a little less expensively,” she said.

Mowdy makes a fruit tart now that has every bit the eye appeal of La Baguette’s signature pastry. Emma J’s had a table at the 2013 Chocolate Festival in Norman and picked up new customers from that exposure. Their “Heavenly Swine” cupcake was a hit with multiple return visits for the unusual treat.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.