Isabel Grocut Takes ‘Cakes By Isabel Noel’ From Hobby to Hired
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Soon after pandemic protocols became routine in 2020, a small phenomenon began to take place in East Greenwich each Friday. Phones would buzz with an alert; stomachs would grumble; mouths would water; then preferences would be confirmed. “Fresh Baked Fridays” as it came to be known, was how EG’s Isabel Grocut, the self-trained baking enthusiast with a long history of roles in the restaurant industry, reenvisioned her COVID-stalled career and started working for herself among an ever-growing friend-based customer list via texts.
It started with a vision for a business model based on a virtual bake sale, where customers could purchase “really good home-baked things that never touched commercial preservatives or additives,” Grocut said. “A basic rectangle cake slab is easy and enjoyable to turn into a simple, but delicious surprise when it’s made with high-quality ingredients and a tried-and-true recipe,” she said. “Baking is persnickety and precise, but I’ve seen from the popularity of cake slabs on my Fresh Baked Fridays that customers agree – commercially packed desserts are lacking in flavor and consistency people like to experience with homemade items.”
Grocut is unabashedly self-taught and is proud to be “constantly learning.” In fact, Grocut often experiences what she calls “the opposite of writer’s block” where flavor combinations and presentation ideas are constantly coming to her, but she finds herself “always running out of time and hands to make everything I want to.”
Grocut’s kitchen creativity caught the attention of The Shanty owner Kara Sheridan, who had employed Grocut for five years as a server prior to pandemic interruptions. With an offer to use The Shanty’s kitchen on the Post Road as her commercial home, Grocut became responsible for the exclusive offerings on The Shanty’s dessert menu in 2022, while being afforded the opportunity to prepare her baked treats in a commercial space. Thus, Grocut would have the legal ability to sell her goods to the general public through her Instagram page, @cakesbyIsabelNoel, and her dreams of entrepreneurship were officially realized.
Her favorite medium is buttercream and Grocut often sources ingenuity from design and baking trends emerging from Australia. Katherine Sabbath, a popular Australian baker and author to multiple cookbooks such as Bake My Day and Bake Australia Great with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, serves as a great inspiration for Grocut. As Sabbath has provided tutorials, Grocut recently dedicated herself to “learning to perfectly pipe a Lambeth Cake, ideal for overly ornate special occasions.”
Special occasion orders are taking up much more of Grocut’s time these days as wedding/dessert buffets, birthdays, and holiday treat boxes are in high demand among her local customer base. “This summer, I was hired to bake a really fun Rhode Island-themed dessert bar for a family reunion,” Grocut recalled. With white chocolate and stuffing made from cake pops, she recreated “stuffies” and quahogs alongside desserts showcasing other Ocean State favorites like Del’s Lemonade for a Lemonade Cake, a Beach Plum Cake, and even a cake made to look like a realistic New England summertime staple, a lobster roll (shown below in submitted photo).
In all of her visions and recipes, Grocut is insistent upon using what she says are “the very best ingredients.” She carefully sources dyes from Australia, frequently hand molds and melts chocolates, only bakes with “real butter, and other carefully selected ingredients,” mindful of staying true to her own aesthetic, “one that is obviously expressive of my signature flair for abstract design conceptualizations, but grounded in real flavor.”
Grocut was a recent mention in an article in Hey Rhody’s December 2022 issue, and looks forward to branching out with new recipes and established customer favorites as she aims to perfect not only her own recipes, but what her vision of self-employment will look like in the years to come.