Love is in the air — along with the smell of treats from bakeries who worked to make Valentine’s Day extra sweet.
While the norm for Valentine’s Day used to be chocolates in a heart-shaped box, bakeries now prepare several desserts and pastries for the holiday that can be used for anyone from those in romantic relationships to a classroom of students.
Amanda Hall, the owner of Wanderlust Pastry in Lubbock, began preparing for Valentine’s Day immediately after Christmas by designing sample sets of sugar cookies and posting them on Instagram for her followers.
“I knew with the start of the year that time was going to fly, so I made some samples and posted them so that would give me enough time,” said Hall, who went through her first year taking orders for Valentine’s Day. “I even have a set where you can add a person’s name to it, so it’s not just walking into a store and picking what other people are getting. It can be a little more personal.”
Among her sugar cookie sets are cookies in the shape of X’s and O’s, hearts, and a mug with the words, “I love you a latte,” all with various colors - including metallics - patterns, and designs. By last week, Hall’s biggest orders were for her classroom sets from teachers.
“I said, ‘If you get me a class list, I can put the students’ name on them’,” explained Hall. “I’ve gotten a lot of classroom sets where it’s about three dozen cookies in one order and that adds up. The next would be the XO’s sets.”
Part of what makes Hall’s designs so unique is her ability to experiment with different techniques that she teaches herself, such as using metallics or making roses in the icing.
“Growing up, you see all these traditional things in bakeries,” said Hall. “So being able to incorporate metallics into cookies has been fun. And testing different things like paint stripes, splatter, or just painting the letters is my favorite because you can make something simple look glamorous.”
The employees at Lubbock Market Street bakeries also had their work cut out for them in preparation for the romance-filled holiday, especially in terms of chocolate-covered strawberries. They expected to sell 6,000 strawberries total at the 19th Street and Quaker Avenue location, alone.
“We’re having 3 or 4 people come in overnight this year just to dip strawberries,” said James Brush, assistant bakery operations manager at the 19th and Quaker location . “We projected selling somewhere between 1,000 to 1,200 packages of strawberries this year, so that’s how many we’re going to produce to have, not including people who place orders for them or if we have to readjust for anything.”
To help keep the production running smoothly, Brush said they had asked for volunteers to work overnight and will utilize the various shifts through the day. Brush, who started as a decorator for the company, also teaches the employees different designs for the seasons. For Valentine’s, they have designed hearts and roses along with Teddy bears and cookies with words and phrases associated with love that they can use this year.
“They’ll come in and dip all night and if they finish, great, but if not we’ll get the next shift rolling on dipping strawberries,” said Brush. “We try to get cakes and cupcakes done in advance and with cookies, we let our closers do that.”
According to Brush, the bakery is busiest with cake orders when it’s graduation season, but Valentine’s Day is busier as far as the rest of the items the store provides, such as cookies, cheesecakes and cupcakes.
“We sell strawberries more than anything else because it’s the most widely associated with Valentine’s,” Brush said. “But for the kids at school, cookies and cupcakes are an easier route, so parents are more likely to buy those for the kids to take to parties.”
Brush said they rely on their decorators to express creativity in their confectionery work.
“Corporate sends us a booklet of sample designs, but we like letting our decorators be creative,” said Brush. “Their creativity makes them like their job more, and most of what they come up with is good, so why not sell those designs?”
Brush said that because there are so many orders, the decorators tend to pick something simple when a customer doesn’t have a specific design in mind.
“They’re open to whatever we suggest,” said Brush. “Picking something simple doesn’t mean it’s going to look bad though. I like to say it’s simple but elegant.”