by Abby Warren, Project & Office Coordinator at Portland Farmers Market and cake peddler at Palace Cakes
On the second day of Palace Cakes settling into their new home, the staff all took appropriate measures of celebration – champagne and, of course, cake. Although I’d been lucky enough to indulge in owner and baker Elizabeth Beekley’s heavenly masterpieces a few times before when they were being crafted at the sister bakery, Two Tarts, there’s really nothing that can prepare one for the jaw-dropping sensation (likely because you want to put as much cake in your mouth as possible) of taking your first bite of straight-from-the-farm buttercream or end-of-summer peach nestled into a breakfast cake.
Ok – back to our celebration. As we were chatting over bubbly and buckies (Beekley’s creative alias for cupcakes – think Buckminster Fuller, geodesic dome), I couldn’t help but notice the number of people who strolled by, stopped, did a double take, and then popped on in. “Oh, it’s a cake shop! I had to see what was happening in here.” No question they were drawn in by the warm glow that emanates from the enormous windows that circle half the shop. From the outside the windows invite you in, and from the inside they shower you with warm sunshine or, during the rainy months, make you feel ever so grateful to be inside with coffee and cake in hand.
Just as I’m a sucker for Elizabeth’s baked goods, I also am baffled by her innate interior decorating abilities. The walls and shelves are adorned with antique treasures, all donated by the community who supports this venture – doilies knit by a friend’s great aunt, 1950s cake cookbooks from a regular, even the bathroom boasts pals’ postcards from the 1970s.
Ok, so now that you’re settled in the space, go ahead, sit down. Let’s talk cake. The magic that happens behind the counter at Palace is a force to be reckoned with. In my entire quarter of a century in this life, never have I had a slice of cake that rivals Palace’s – yes, honestly.
As a long-time Portland Farmers Market vendor (Two Tarts actually got their start at our PSU market), Elizabeth has friends in all of the right places. Winters Farms honey, raspberries and blackberries and, featured this season, Starvation Alley cranberries, all contribute color and flavor to different buttercreams. Hazelnuts from Freddy Guys, peaches from Baird Orchards, sweet potato from Rick Steffen Farms, quince from Sun Gold Farm, apples and pears from Stephens Farm, and carrots from Groundwork Organics or Spring Hill Organic Farm all make their way into seasonally featured cakes. Flour from Shepherd’s Grain, eggs from Dancing Chicken and butter from an assortment of local vendors make up the “meat of the operation”, creating rich, real, light, fluffy delicacies.
As I mentioned earlier, Elizabeth is a born decorator. Her design skills are in no means reserved for interiors. Watching that woman drop dots onto a wedding cake, or wave a spatula to create perfectly swirled full frosting – that is something to behold. Elizabeth is joined by fellow cake master, Annastacia Weiss, a true baking genius with past experiences at other Portland staples. Together these two create some of the finest masterpieces in this food paradise we call Portland, while simultaneously supporting sustainable, fair agricultural practices and our local farmers. Cake with a conscience has never tasted so good.