The official grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the CakeOver, a new bakery now open on North Beverwyck Road was held Oct. 23. Afterward, the family-owned business was supposed to spring to life. But then came interruptions: Superstorm Sandy and the nor'easter Athena.
With weather adventures over, at least for the present, the new establishment focuses on getting to business—and helping Parsippany get to know the CakeOver.
The new bakery is not your average cake and cookie concern: The CakeOver is the first gluten-free and specialty bakery to open its doors in Parsippany.
Don't let the hyphenation scare you.
“You do not have to be gluten-free to enjoy the free samples and the desserts the bakery has to offer," said Alison Teperman, the bakery's owner and creator.
Teperman said the business may have offerings for customers who can't handle standard baked goods, it has something for everyone to enjoy. She said the CakeOver's main philosophy is to highlight taste and using fresh, natural ingredients, adding that all items are baked on-site from scratch.
The menu includes favorites such as rugelach, cupcakes, cookies, cakes, flourless cakes, sponge cakes, muffins and special event delicacies including wedding cakes. Also offered are special weekly items—and Teperman said dairy-free, soy-free and corn-free items are available as well.
Teperman said those with nut allergies are a special focus too.
"Nuts are present in the bakery, [but] there are no peanuts allowed," she said. "My younger daughter, who is 14, is allergic to peanuts and other nuts. I promised her there will be no peanuts so she can come anytime and help out. Because of her allergy, we really understand the dangers of living with allergies and how to be careful.
"Our nut-containing desserts will have clear labels on them, but it is up to the consumer to make their final decision when purchasing our baked goods."
Although Teperman does not suffer from celiac disease, a condition that pushes many into a wheat-free diet, she said she follows an 80 percent gluten-free diet at her doctor's recommendation. But because she occasionally can enjoy foods with wheat, she has the benefit of knowing “what desserts should taste like.” She said this makes her highly critical when it comes to the recipes she uses.
And Teperman said offering good-tasting gluten-free items is increasingly important.
"The number of people with wheat intolerance is growing," she said. "For those people it is crucial to not cross-contaminate, to be strict about their diet. They cannot go into a regular bakery and grab a piece of cookie or cake. While some reactions are milder and some people are ok eating gluten-free products from non-gluten-free establishments, many are hesitant to do so."
At the CakeOver, Teperman said customers can be assured that the baked goods and utensils are free of wheat, but still taste delicious.
"It is very rewarding to hear and see the faces of people who are trying your goods," she said, adding that some tasters are "moved to tears by how good our cakes taste and feel after they have missed it so much or just haven’t found the 'right' brand.”
Teperman said she is a self-taught baker. She grew up in Eastern Europe and was raised in Israel as a ballet dancer in a household with a very light diet.
“My mom doesn’t bake," she said. "After I baked my first sponge cake at age 12, I didn’t stop baking. But if I tried to decorate a cake with buttercream, Mom used to say, 'Ha! You ruined the cake!'”
Sticking to a lighter diet followed Teperman through the years. She found work in the garment industry and started teaching exercise and dance, and when confronted with recipes, she would modify them to make them lighter.
"I just like it when you can have a cake and not feel heavy afterwards, when you can go back for seconds, when you have a decoration on the cake that’s not overly sweet," she said.
Opening a bakery was something Teperman’s friends and family always nudged her to do, and after losing a job as a technical designer last November, a close friend who owned a restaurant gave her the chance to showcase her baked goods at a holiday business event.
“I had no time to dwell on losing my job," the Randolph resident recalled. "I had to start baking for 150 people. An hour and a half into the event, I had tears in my eyes. The feedback was overwhelming. I realized this can be a beginning of something good—for us and for the growing number of people with wheat allergies.”
Since then, she used the CakeOver as a platform to spread the word about gluten-free treats on the Internet, over social media and at area events such as the recent Wedding Expo at the Zeris Inn in Mountain Lakes.
"The feedback was fantastic—from everyone, not just the gluten-free people," she noted.
Teperman said the past year of organizing her freelance baking and setting up a dedicated storefront has been hectic, busy and emotional.
“You learn the true meaning of wearing multiple hats," she said. "From creating a website, finding the right space and wondering if finances are going to be enough, to converting recipes while raising teenage daughters— it's all challenging. But I figured, if you get an opportunity, you grab it and work hard. If not now, when?”
Prices for items at the CakeOver range from $3 individual cupcakes up to 10-inch cakes in the $45-55 range, Teperman said. Special event items are priced on a per person basis and depend on the complexity of design. If you are placing a special order, she recommended a week for a normal cake and at least four weeks for an event cake.
Teperman said she chose a Parsippany location for her business because of its proximity to Randolph and because she found the perfect spot in Lake Hiawatha.
"With the Hiawatha Dairy here, we're at the sweet corner," she said.
Teperman said she faced challenges along the way, including extensive renovation delays, malfunctioning ovens and more. What got her through, she said, was the love of family and friends and support from the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce and the Morris County Chamber.
She said she believes the CakeOver has a great chance to succeed.
"With hard work, dedication and delivering very good product, I am looking forward to growing," said Teperman. "We would love to get involved with tricky trays in Parsippany, Montville, Denville and other areas, in schools, celiac organizations. We'd like to donate a birthday cake once a month to a hospital to a needy child, things like that. Spreading the word and keeping a superb quality product is important.
Right now, Teperman wants you to get to know the CakeOver. To that end, she said she's offering free samples to those who come by, along with coffee and tea.
"Stop by," she said. "Feedback is welcome. Tell us about the groups and organizations you belong to. Don't be afraid to ask questions if gluten-free is new to you.
"From the grand opening, it became clear that this might be more than a dessert place; but a place to share stories, educate one another, exchange knowledge about the gluten-free community. Most important, you don't have to be gluten-free to enjoy our bakery. Stop by and see if you can tell the difference!"