One baker’s road to cakes

Hadley Vandiver | Boulder Weekly

Cake, frosting, ganache, chocolate, physical therapy.


One of these things is not like the others. Unless, of course, your name is Laurie Robin and you recently decided to forego your career and master’s degree in physical therapy to start a cakebaking business.

Robin started the Bella Moon Cakery in November, and currently runs the business from her home and a small rented kitchen in Longmont. Though an organic cake business isn’t the newest thing to hit Boulder, Robin’s journey to the cake-baking business was not quite so normal.

“The funny thing is, I come from a family that does not cook or bake,” Robin says. “‘Homemade’ meant that you got a Betty Crocker cake from the box. So when I first told my mom that I was baking cakes actually from scratch, and not from the Betty Crocker box, she was shocked.”

About 10 years ago, midway through graduate school for physical therapy in Massachusetts, Robin spent a summer in Denver. Like many who visit Colorado, she loved it, and contemplated dropping out of school to stay.

“Eventually I decided I had to go back and finish,” Robin says. “But the day I finished I drove right back out here, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Robin spent her first years in Colorado doing physical therapy, and started volunteering with the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram outside of Boulder. At the yoga ashram, volunteers are asked to do whatever is needed, whether they have a background in it or not, Robin says. The ashram asked Robin to cook for them, and she was excited to learn, but wasn’t quite cut out to be a gourmet chef.

“It just turned out that I really was not a cook,” Robin says. “But on the side, I would also do all the desserts. And then all these fabulous desserts were coming out, so as time went on they were like, ‘OK, you’re definitely a baker, not a cook.’ And everything just kind of snowballed from there.”

Robin cut her physical therapy time from 24 hours per week to eight, then finally broke the news to her clients that she would be starting a business — not a physical therapy business, as they assumed, but a cake-baking business.

“When they heard I was opening a cake business they said, ‘Cake baking? You have a master’s degree and now you’re going to go bake cakes?’” Robin says. “I’m just going with the flow, this feels like a natural thing, and I love it. I still love physical therapy, its not like I hated my job and I was looking for something else. But this was just coming through and now I’m going for it.”

The cake flavors that the Bella Moon Cakery offers are what you might expect from any cake bakery. Chocolate with chocolate ganache, carrot with cream cheese frosting, lemon with lavender; nothing particularly out of the ordinary.

What is out of the ordinary, however, is the baker’s opinion on sugar.

“The thing about my cakes is that I make them with the smallest amount of sugar possible,” Robin says. “I just experiment with the recipes. I’ve been making the chocolate cake the longest, and every time I just cut the sugar down more and more, until I get to the point where I can’t cut it down any longer because then it wouldn’t be considered cake anymore.”

A cake without much sugar? Why eat a slice of cake if you’re not going to spend the next hour in a frosting-induced coma?

But Robin sticks to her guns, or spatulas, and says that most of her clients actually like her less-sugar approach. The cakes taste more natural, she says, and you can eat more than one bite without bouncing off the walls of your office for the rest of the day.

Though she might be on her way to a successful cake business, Robin doesn’t have her heart set on being the Food Network’s next “Cake Boss.”

“I don’t even own a TV, so I don’t really get much into those reality cake shows. I’ve only watched a couple episodes online,” Robin says. “I think a lot of times those shows are just all about the drama. I like the cake part, but I’m not into the drama. It’s entertaining, but that’s not why I’m in it. I just want to make cake that’s healthy and that tastes good. I don’t care about winning a competition.”

One of Robin’s fellow yoga community members, Kalika Fortin, says that Robin’s long years with yoga even influ ence the taste of her cakes.

“She puts a lot of love into it, and she’s a longtime meditator, so you can really see that she puts a lot of conscious energy and presence into her cake,” Fortin says. “You know, you can tell the difference when somebody makes food, whether they’re making it with love or they’re making it when they’re in a bad mood. You can almost taste it.”

Whether or not you can really taste energy or get into a good mood by eating one of the Bella Moon Cakery’s creations is a an open question. But one thing is for certain: If you’re not happy with your cake, you can always ask for some physical therapy instead.