Maybe you need a rainbow-maned unicorn cake for a birthday party.
Perhaps an edible “bottle” of Southern Comfort or a purple corset cake is more your style. Or do you want a wedding cake with faux birch bark frosting?
Custom bakery the Thirsty Whale can make your wildest cake dreams come true.
Founders and sisters Megan and Sarah Bignell launched the bakery in July 2017. Megan attended Le Cordon Bleu and is the creative wizard of the Thirsty Whale; Sarah has a degree in business and is the marketing manager of the bakery. Kyle Baker, who started out as Megan’s apprentice at Blue Egg Bakery in Elk River, is a partner and jack-of-all trades.
Over the past 18 months, the trio has gained notoriety at local farmers markets and cake decorating competitions while fulfilling custom orders at a private kitchen. But the plan was always to have a storefront, and they’re closer than ever to opening the doors at 4149 Fremont Ave. N. in Minneapolis.
The storefront will allow the bakery to expand its menu. In addition to the cakes, cupcakes, dessert bars, brownies, and cake pops they currently offer, the Thirsty Whale will also dish out fresh doughnuts, which are Kyle’s specialty.
But cakes will remain their primary focus, and rightfully so. Megan is known for incorporating 3-D characters, moving elements, and even smoke into her designs. Last year, she made a cake in the guise of a pizza oven with a moving paddle -- complete with lights to substitute for fire -- for the Upper Midwest Bakery Association Cake Challenge. She won, and went on to compete in nationals.
“She is absolutely the artistic one. It’s insane,” Sarah says of her sister. “She really likes to push herself. Her whole thing is: She wants to do stuff that other people don’t do. We are the people that you come to when all the other bakeries told you no, they couldn’t do that. Then you come find us, and Megan finds a way to make it happen.”
Kyle is the one who ensures the cakes taste as good as they look. “There’s a couple of tricks we use to make sure things stay moist,” Sarah says. They also experiment with custom flavors, though that process can be more trial-and-error.
Up until now, much of the Thirsty Whale’s business occurred online, where clients can upload pictorial inspiration for their cake-to-be. Some call with a vague idea of what they want, prompting Megan to sketch out three or four different artsy options. Others just want the standard three-tier wedding cake without the bells and whistles. The three-person staff can accommodate any of those requests.
In fact, they’ve been so busy that they’d like to hire another employee, but the new bakery space is too small for four bodies. Initially, they’ll only have a small retail section to pick up orders and buy fresh doughnuts and other menu items.
“We’re doing the small one just to get open and have something because people have been waiting for so long,” Sarah says. (They looked for a home for more than a year; between a false start in Robbinsdale, contractor issues, and waiting to get city approval, it’s taken far longer than expected. The partners have even started to do some of the final construction work themselves to open sooner.)
But within six months, the bakery plans to take over more space next door, a move that will allow them to add Bootstrap coffee to the menu and provide seating for a pastry-shop feel.
“We are expanding faster than we thought we would -- which is great, it’s an awesome problem to have,” Sarah says.
Where did the name the Thirsty Whale come from, anyway? Well, every year, the sisters go on a trip with their mother and grandmother. One year, while in Belize, their grandmother got drunk at a bar called the Wet Lizard. Upon return to the cruise ship, she raved about how great the Thirsty Whale was. No one knew what she was talking about. “She had mixed up the name and it turned into a kind of family joke,” Sarah says.
Still, the moniker is fitting: it was that same grandmother who taught Megan to bake.
The Thirsty Whale
4149 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-259-7168
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