Jan Wright & Christi Ross: Cake Makers

Wrightberry’s Cakes & Cupcakes

Oregon City. Creative industries, specialty media, and trendy boutiques, such as Wrightberry’s Cakes and Cupcakes, are at the center of this new makeover.

Started by Jan and Tom Wright and their daughter Christi Ross, The Wrightberry’s storefront in historic downtown Oregon City reflects the city’s true pioneer foundations while typifying the post-industrial, creative surge at present.

It’s difficult to judge what you will notice first when you walk into Wrightberry’s Cakes and Cupcakes, whether it’s the bright colors of its shapely and decadent wares, or their tantalizingly sweet aroma. Offerings include wedding cakes, occasion cakes and filled cupcakes, a special line of snicker doodle cookies with flavors such as lemon, mocha, and salted caramel, and Happy Rock coffee out of nearby Gladstone. One sure bet, Wrightberry’s aims to please. Their slogan is, “Whatever you visualize, we endeavor to create!” Oregon brides tend to agree. The business was voted “The Knot Best of Weddings 2012.”

Where are you from originally?

Christi: I am a sixth generation Oregonian. My great, great, great grandfather settled in Antelope, Oregon, and we also have a lot of relatives in McMinnville.

Jan: My parents were also both born in that area. My father was with the Red Cross in the early days when I was little. We lived in Sacramento for a while, but then we moved back to Portland. I’ve been here since I was thirteen. We’ve lived here in Oregon City for over eighteen years.

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How did Wrightberry’s Cakes & Cupcakes get its start?

Christi: I was attending culinary school at Western Culinary Institute, that’s when I started making wedding cakes for my friends. I asked by my mom to help me. We did our first cake in April of 1998. We initially started at home in my mom’s kitchen, and worked our way up to where we are today.

Tell us about the different roles you and your family members play in running the business.

Jan: I was in commercial real estate with my dad for a number of years. We built Berry Hill Shopping Center in Oregon City. A large real estate investment trust that I had been working for went out of business, so at that point in time I decided to change careers. I’ve always loved art. I’ve always been able to paint and sculpt things.

Christi: I do most of the baking and I come up with the recipes, too. We have some artists and other bakers that we bring in on a contract basis to help if we need.

Jan: I love baking, but I am more passionate about the art part of it. My husband also bakes, and he handles a lot of structural issues for us.

Christi: We were getting too big and so we moved downtown, and then after two years we expanded to another thousand square feet. Now we have a lot more exposure, which has increased our business.

It was just three years ago that you transitioned from working out of your home to having a storefront. How has that change affected your lives and your business?

Jan: We’re working long hours, six or seven days a week.

Which recent clients or events have you taken on would you say makes you most proud?

Christi: We donate for a lot of different children’s promotions and dinners, and we also do the big Portland Bridal Show in January every year at the Convention Center.

Jan: We did our cupcake tower with 400 cupcakes for Children’s Cancer Association at Nike’s Tiger Woods Center. We did a cake for the re-opening of Arch Bridge, and we did a cake for Grimm. More recently, we did Relay for Life, and we did a big cake for the 100th birthday of the Andrew Carnegie Library in Oregon City.

Tell us about your experience being asked to make a cake for popular NBC television show Grimm.wrightberry's carousel*304

Jan: Last year, we got a call from the Oregon Governor’s Film and Video Office, and they asked us to make a cake for Grimm Season 2. They gave us about a week to do it, and so we had to think quickly and put it together.

Christi: When we took the cake down to their studios, we got to meet legendary actor Ed Asner and the producer of the show, and all the different actors that were the main characters. It was really a lot of fun.

Were you there when Governor Kitzhaber cut the first celebratory slice?

Christi: Yes. I helped cut the cake after the initial cutting.

Jan: I had made a little monster that held a sign that said, “Thank you for Season 2,” and the governor picked one up one of the prop knives that was on the table and stabbed the little monster. It was pretty funny, but I kind of gasped because it took me five hours to make that little monster!

From your fine wedding cakes to the monstrous Grimm cake, your culinary artistry is no secret. Where did you learn your skills?

Jan: I’m pretty much self-taught.

Can you explain some of the sugar techniques and sculpting methods you use?

Jan: I met a gal from England who taught me how to make the handmade sugar flowers. I’m very interested in, and always trying to keep up with the latest trends online, in books, and at the cake shows. We are very hands on, and we just get in there and do it. Once you learn how to do handmade sugar flowers, sculpting other things is pretty easy. We sculpt figures and shapes, and we’ve done things like purses and hats. Everything is edible. We shape it and paint it to make it look realistic.

Christi: We did a benefit for the OHSU Center for Women’s Health called “Hats off to the Hill.” I think there were thirteen different bakeries in town and we all did a cake shaped like a hat, one for each table. They voted on one, and we won best cake.

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 What has it been like to be right in the middle of revitalization efforts in Oregon City?

Jan: We’ve gone from having a storefront with a very small window that had a tree in front of it, to going through all the construction—the sidewalks, the streets, the closure of Arch Bridge, everything—to then expanding, having more presence and having new tenants move in. They’re bringing in dress shops, they’re starting to bring in more restaurants, and it’s been very exciting to see. It took a long time, but now we are starting to reap the rewards of hanging in there.

You are basically pioneers of a new era, continuing the story in the move from industrial times to our current time, which is more creative and media focused. How do y

ou think all these new creative industries are going to change things here?

Christi: It’s just a matter of getting the word out. When we first started it was really frustrating. At Christmas time, everybody goes to the mall. They don’t think about coming downtown to Oregon City. But now, more and more retailers are starting to come in.

Jan: We just did a commercial project with Robb Crocker of Funnelbox. He’s putting together a video on small businesses. It’s kind of a how-to-make-a-video, but he used us as an example. It will be coming up on our website, and he’ll use it to teach other people. The video shows how we do our cupcakes.

Is that a unique process?

Christi: I guess it’s kind of unique because we fill all of our cupcakes. Most bakeries don’t fill the little ones. For our jumbo-sized cupcakes, we get our paper from Sweden and we bake into that, and of course we have all the different flavors. And then our little guys are just a small version of the big ones. They’re really popular and really good!WrightberrysCupcakes

What are some of your most popular flavors?

Jan: Our salted caramel cupcakes have been very popular. We do all types of seasonal flavors, but we also have our standards that are year round. We have our chocolates, such as our German chocolate; we also have peanut butter cup, coffee, red velvet, pink champagne, strawberry lemon, white with raspberry, Boston cream, and more!

What is the best part of the work that you do?

Jan: I think that my personal favorite is the reaction we get from brides, from a customer that orders a birthday cake, or when the four or five year olds get really excited about a character cake that we’ve done. It’s the excitement that they come in with—the “Wow!” or “This is really cool!” That’s what gives me the most satisfaction.

 wrightberryweddingcakes.com

About The Author: Jenn Dawson