Story by Dave Eckert
Here’s a question for you. What happens when you take a rum cake maker, a sugar cookie baker, a dessert creator, and chocolate mover and shaker and put them in in the same article? Deliciousness, that’s what!
I wanted to do something on the wide range of sweet treats available to us here in the metro and the people behind them in advance of the sweetest day of the year – Valentine’s Day. So, I rounded up four folks, three of whom I knew well and one I just met, to discuss what they create and why they create it. I got much more than I bargained for, starting with Craig Adcock, the man behind Jude’s Rum Cakes, which I have dubbed “the best rum cakes on the planet.” “The whole idea goes back to my wife’s mother, Judy, whom I call Jude, making a dessert for me. It was a rum cake and it was terrific,” Adcock told me over rum cakes and wine recently. Fast-forward a couple of years to Adcock starting a barbecue-based catering company. He needed a dessert. The dessert was Jude’s rum cake, and before too long, the rum cake was more popular than Adcock’s barbecue.
Photo courtesy of Jude’s Rum Cakes
“I left corporate America in 2008 to pursue this full-time. We were selling about 300 cakes a year. I wasn’t making any money, and my wife says ‘You’ve given it two years. You’ve got to get a job,’” Adcock shared. He was just about to do that when a local newspaper ran an article on him and his cakes. He sold 700 rum cakes in three days and was officially and forever in the rum cake business. “We’re going to do about 40,000 rum cakes this year. We ship them all over the country. I have my own kitchen, my own cake mix, a consistent supply of delicious Missouri nuts, and now, even my own rum,” Adcock stated.
Adcock is a classic example of a 20-year “overnight” success story and we are all the better for it. You can reach Adcock at judesrumcake.com or drop by his kitchen on Santa Fe in old town Lenexa. He’s always happy to share a glass of wine, a story or two, make a new friend, and convert them to rum cakes.
Photos courtesy of Porto do Sul
Leonice Ludwig has been making desserts since she was a child growing up in Southern Brazil. Now, she supplies the desserts, all homemade and hand-crafted at Porto do Sul, the Brazilian Steak House she and her husband run at 119th and Metcalf in Overland Park. Ludwig served me a platter of her desserts recently, seven in all, and shared some thoughts about her love of all things sweet. “It really started when I was about eight. Every weekend at my grandmother’s house, she would light a fire, and start to slowly caramelize sugar and then incorporate all the other ingredients. The house smelled so good. It was amazing,” Ludwig recalled.
Ludwig has both recreated and modernized those childhood dessert creations of her grandmother, and they are featured daily at Porto do Sul. Her flan is considered the best in the city. The tres leches cake was moist and delicious. A passionfruit mousse, made only with fresh passionfruit, was sweet, tart, and beautifully balanced. Her crème brulee is on par with my wife’s (high praise indeed). And, her brigadeiro, a Brazilian version of a chocolate truffle, which Ludwig has re-invented and put in an edible chocolate vessel, is a chocolate-lover’s dream. I asked her if she had a favorite. “I think it depends on the occasion. If it’s after dinner, I prefer the flan. But, if you’re drinking wine, the brigadeiro is the way to go,” Ludwig said. I know one thing. I’ll never go without dessert at Porto do Sul.
Sophia Hudson of Swoon Cookie Crafters calls Swoon “an accidental cookie company.” “I’m trained as a furniture designer and I had a furniture store in The Crossroads. My mother-in-law would make sugar cookies for First Fridays, and people started coming just for the cookies,” Hudson said. In 2008 Hudson started part-time cookie baking, which has now led to Hudson opening her own space with a small retail area in Columbus Park.
Swoon’s cookies are beautifully creative. Hudson has a whole line of Valentine’s Day cookies available. But what really sets the cookies apart, in my opinion, is they are delicious. Hudson attributes that to the use of only buttercream icing, which stays moist and packs great flavor. “I always laugh when people say they don’t like sugar cookies and you look down and they’ve eaten half the box,” Hudson commented. I’m one of those people, and while I didn’t eat half the box, I did gleefully devour one of Hudson’s new flavored sugar cookies during our chat.
Try Swoon’s creations by visiting justswoon.com, or check out Hudson’s recently opened shop a couple blocks north of the original Garozzo’s.
Photos courtesy of Panache Chocolatier
Julie House knows a thing of two about chocolate. Since 2013, House has owned and operated Panache Chocolatier which recently relocated from its Country Club Plaza roots to Leawood’s Town Center Plaza, is a Kansas City landmark. But House said it needed a shot in the arm. “We wanted to create a chocolate experience. Not just come in and by some chocolates, but taste them, savor them, and understand what goes into making them and why the flavors unfold the way they do,” House stated. “We also wanted to make the space and experience more upscale.”
House has achieved that as the new Town Center store is sleek and elegant with the smells of chocolate everywhere and the tempting creations on full display. Coming up on Valentine’s Day, an obviously big holiday for Panache, House and her team are crafting ideas for this year’s International Chocolate Competition for Valentine’s Day. At the time of our conversation, House wasn’t sure exactly what the entries might be, but they’ve got a high bar to exceed. “Last year, we won five gold medals and also the “most romantic sentiment” at the competition. But we’re going to beat it this year,” House exclaimed. Check out Panache a their new shop. You will not be disappointed!