Michelle’s Cakes expands, grows in Indian Head
Art cakes are the specialty; supplies, parties newly added
Michelle Koos was headed to art school when she met her husband, Brian, a U.S. Air Force ser viceman training with the military branch’s explosive ordnance disposal unit at Indian Head. She took off with him to California, instead.
The couple ended up living in Panama, Germany, Arkansas and New Mexico over 21 years. All the while Michelle applied her artistic interests to cake decorating, culminating in a class — the only one she ever took — taught by noted cake decorator Earlene Moore.
“We were stationed in New Mexico and it was a horrible place to be,” the Charles County native said. “[Moore] was in [nearby] Lubbock, Texas. As soon as we got finished with her class, we got an offer to come back here.”
She and her husband returned to Maryland and she began making and decorating cakes as a sidelight to her mother Patty Johnson’s florist business in Indian Head.
“My mom was running The Flower Basket at the time. I used to drop cakes off — doing cakes on the side — dropping them off for friends, a couple of weddings. Then my mom decided to retire and sell. Then it was do it or die, I guess. So we decided to open this,” she said.
With the help of her husband and two daugh- ters, Koos Nicole opened and Michelle’s Heather, Cakes a door down in the same building as The Flower Basket. That was a little over five years ago. More recently the dance studio once sandwiched between the two businesses closed and Koos took over that space to expand into selling cake-making and decorat- ing supplies, and to offer decorating classes and parties.
“In the back of the room we have two tables to act as a classroom,” Koos said. “We’re going to have instruction, and we’ll also be doing kids’ parties, where they’ll have decorate.a little The cake first to party will be this Saturday, actually. By springtime, we want to start a ‘cakes and cocktails,’ kind of like ‘wine and design.’ That’ll be for adults, in the evening — a little instruction, decorate your cake and all the fun stuff that you’d like to learn as an adult with your friends.”
But art cakes are the signature business, along- side daughterandby hasthe four Kristal kitchenbeenthe years.the turnoverscupcakeshelpingNicole Thomas,Asidefor the makesfromout her madelast whoin the turnovers,with the icing Thomasand decorations. helps sugar“I help and her stuff with like the that — the fondant — the decorative pieces that go on the cakes,” Thomas said. “We specialize in the art cakes,” Koos said. “My love of art kind of pushed me into doing the things that are really weird, the stuff you have to break out the saws and drills for. We’re very busy with the high-end art cakes. The cake [television] shows have made it where most people tr y to go crazy with the cakes for the little kids — one-year-olds, three-year-olds.”
The business has ramped up to more than triple its sales compared to the beginning, attracting customers from all over the region.
“It used to be that one batch of frosting would last us several days,” Nicole said while filling cupcake baking liners. “Now it’s like eight a week.”
Michelle, Nicole and Kristal are each typically on the road delivering cakes to different events on the weekends. The larger, more elaborate cakes require finishing and setting up on location. Those cakes can cost as much $2,000.
Koos said they do all the decorating the night before an event or that morning to ensure freshness and perfection.
“A lot of people have had bad fondant cakes, and they say it’s hard or dr y,” she said. “That means somebody’s doing their cakes too early. We like to make them as fresh as possible.”
This year has been especially interesting on the art cake front. She was prepping to do a Disney Castle cake for a wedding this week and has been doing unusual and elaborate cakes all year.
“This is the first year, we joked, that we had done Marvel [Comics], Star Trek and Star Wars — it was the year of weird weddings,” she said. “We did a Millennium Falcon. We did a tiered cake that was all Star Trek with the ships. We had the Marvel one with all the superheroes. It’s been an interesting year for wedding cakes.”
The three-woman team — her younger daughter, Heather, recently moved to San Diego — search out cake recipes and come up with their own, especially for the cupcakes. They also produce “dummy” cakes for photography shoots, usually commissioned by a photographer, that end up displayed in magazines.
The list of offerings has steadily grown to include homemade jellies, gingerbread, little pies, cookies, farm fresh eggs — they get them delivered from a farm in Br yans Road and sell what they don’t use — and a fruitcake from a local recipe.
“The fruitcake is a legend,” Koos said. “[The recipe] comes from Ruthie Grinder, who owns Grinder’s over in Marbury. Ruthie’s had this fruitcake recipe forever. It’s what we call ‘white fruitcake.’ She would never give anybody the recipe. I finally convinced her to give me that fruitcake recipe.”
Unlike the hard, unnaturally colored cakes found in a tin, she said, “these are moist and delicious.”
“She’s got a lot of followers for her fruitcake,” Nicole added.
“When we first started, we weren’t going to open to the public. We were going to go by appointment only,” Koos said. “Then my daughter got laid off up town, and we decided to have the cupcakes up front and a couple of pastries — brownies, turnovers, things like that.
“The front took off all on its own,” she added.
Koos said she’s looking forward to the new venture of selling supplies and hosting classes and parties, and keeping the art cakes rolling out the door.
“I love doing it. I don’t see anybody that’s a cake decorator like I am ever retiring,” she said. “The people I know, I think did it until the day they died, or until they could no longer do it.”
Michelle Koos and her daughter Nicole Koos pose for a picture through one of the cupcake display cases at Michelle’s Cakes in Indian Head.
One of the elaborate art cakes made by Michelle’s Cakes in Indian Head.
A birthday art cake made by Michelle’s Cakes in Indian Head.