Honoring International Women's Day

Happy International Women’s Day from all of us here at JR Dessert Bakery! 

As a female owned (and operated) small business we fully support the development of strong women at our bakery and around the world. From a very young age I watched my mom (JR) break barriers in the food industry and can only hope to follow in her footsteps.

We are extremely dedicated to giving women - especially working moms and immigrants - the opportunity to not just have a job but a meaningful career.

This year’s theme is “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” Now is the time to talk about it with your co-workers, friends, family and children. Let our actions today make a difference for the future of our daughters and granddaughters like my mom’s did for me!

-Natalie Kaplan (2nd generation bakery owner) 

A 3-Year-Old's Dream Rainbow Birthday Cake

It all started when 2-year-old Leo said he wanted a, “big big big big big big rainbow birthday cake,” for his 3rd birthday.

Leo is the current heir of JR Dessert Bakery. His mom (Natalie) runs the bakery alongside her mom (Leo’s grandma (aka JR)). Each year they look forward to his birthday and the cake they get to make for it.

Surprised that Leo knew exactly what he wanted this year, Natalie got to work on dreaming up the perfect birthday cake for her soon to be 3-year-old.

She sketched up an idea and checked in with her lead decorator to make sure it was a sound plan. For all those who don’t know – JR Dessert Bakery is all natural, which means they don’t normally use food coloring or fondant in or on their desserts. However, exceptions are always made for “Little Leo.”

They opted for a seven-layer 10” cake base to represent all the colors of the rainbow. Natalie’s husband, Mike, is a stickler for details and reminded her of ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, ivory and violet). Many cake makers cut out the ivory. Mike wanted it in.

A mix of yellow cake was made and divided into seven bowls. A touch of Chefmaster food coloring was added to each. 1.7 lbs. of the colored batter was deposited into 10” pans (although less could be used). The thick layers were baked, popped and frozen. The cake was stacked and frosted with JR’s famous cream cheese buttercream frosting with a thin layer between each color. A plastic rod was cut and inserted into the middle of the cake to support the weight (approximately 15 lbs. at that point). The top edge of the cake was piped with rainbow colors to match the layers inside and the bottom 3” were decorated with nonpareils. To finalize the cake Natalie ordered a custom fondant rainbow cake topper from MagicalCakesAnSweets on Etsy, which came with four decorative clouds.

Natalie setup all her birthday decorations the night before and woke up extra early to put the cake in place for Leo’s big surprise. That morning he ran into the living room with a look of pure joy and was shocked by his “big big big big big big rainbow birthday cake.” It was the perfect way to kickoff celebrations on his special day.  

Celebrating 40 Years of Sweet Success!

You can smell the cookies baking as soon as you walk into Chicago’s JR Dessert Bakery. Everyday there is a selection of fresh desserts on display in their charming retail area and the bustle of a team of bakers in back, which you can’t see but know are there.

The West Roger’s Park bakery operates out of a 6,000 square foot commercial kitchen. Bakers start trickling in around 6:30 am to begin production. Their list of clients is endless including some of the city’s most popular restaurants, café’s, grocery stores and event venues. Hundreds of food service businesses around the Chicagoland area source their desserts from the bakery. Everyone from your neighborhood coffee shop to Chicago's stadiums has ordered from JR.

“This year the bakery is celebrating a big birthday,” says Janet Rosing – aka JR. “We’ve been in business for 40 years!” 

Rosing opened the bakery in 1979. While working at some of Chicago’s premier restaurants she noticed their menus lacked high-end dessert items. She started developing a plan to bake and sell desserts to food service businesses that didn’t have the time or expertise to focus on it themselves. JR started with cheesecake and slowly built up a clientele.  

Rosing grew up with a mother who loved to bake, so creating her initial recipes came naturally. Running a successful business was much harder. In the beginning she shopped for her own ingredients, baked all of the cheesecakes herself, personally sold the desserts to restaurants and even made the deliveries. She did have some influential mentors who helped along the way including the late Bill Neiman, former CEO of Chicago’s large ingredient company Neiman Brothers.

“Bill said that one of his restaurant customers owed him a favor,” Rosing remembered. “He helped arrange for me to bake in the basement of their bakery after hours.”

As her customer base increased so did her need for space and she moved to her current facility in West Roger’s Park thanks to a $12,000 loan from her father, which she quickly paid back.

Several years later she started transitioning her cheesecake company into a full-line dessert bakery. Hence the name change to JR Dessert Bakery – which currently offers a wide range of specialty desserts including cakes, pies, pastries, cookies and brownies as well as her infamous cheesecake flavors. Every dessert is handmade with all-natural ingredients.

The bakery currently has twenty loyal employees. A handful of the team have been with JR since the very beginning. Some of the bakers hitting 10, 20 and 30-year milestones. Each day one baker prepares lunch and they all sit-down at noon for a family-style meal.

JR’s daughter, Natalie, joined the company in 2015. The two now run the business together, “My first big job with the bakery was managing our booth at the Taste of Chicago when I was in college,” Natalie recalls. “Our booth was next to the restaurant Fireplace Inn and I smelled like ribs for 10-days straight.”

Now JR and Natalie are working on a plan for the future, “This business is rewarding, but also a real challenge,” Natalie admits. “With rising ingredient, labor and overhead costs we have to watch every penny and strategize about the best way to move forward.”

Any Chicagoland restaurant with a hint of interest in their desserts will find Natalie knocking at their door with a pastry box full of samples, “I absolutely love meeting with chefs, owners and managers,” she says. “Once I get my foot in the door our product usually sells itself.”

The bakery prides itself on working closely with clients to develop their perfect dessert options and those desserts are featured on menus around the city.

“You would be surprised how many restaurants don’t make desserts themselves,” Janet explained. “It’s a lot more complicated and labor intensive than you’d think, which is why we try and act as an extension of their kitchen to fulfill that need.” 

The company has also been focusing on their private label business where they partner with large retailers to distribute JR desserts under various brand names nationwide.

“We have a unique ability to meet high production needs even while making everything by hand,” Natalie explains. “That’s really attractive to some bigger clients.” 

Since the food scene in Chicago is always changing the bakery has learned to adapt to trends and fashions. More recently they have been developing their individual 3” dessert menu as well as gluten free options. But they credit their continued success to mainstay principles, which will never change.

“We only use the finest ingredients, we always focus on the quality of our products and strive to provide our clients’ with superb customer service,” says JR.

“We work tirelessly but also laugh often and taste test everyday. Turning 40-years-old feels pretty good.”

Amazon Sells JR Desserts on Treasure Trucks Nationwide

Amazon and JR Dessert Bakery have teamed up to sell specialty desserts on their Treasure Trucks nationwide!

We have been providing handmade and all-natural desserts to food service businesses around the Chicagoland area since 1979. We cater to some of the city’s most popular restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and event venues. Since our team primarily focuses on wholesale we were ecstatic to partner with Amazon on this huge retail deal.

The Treasure Truck is one of Amazon’s newest ways to shop. Here’s how it works: Amazon hand picks what they want to sell on their trucks, millions of customers who are signed up for the app get a text revealing that day’s specific offer, then they buy it online and pick it up from one of the trucks. The concept is supposed to be like finding a hidden treasure.

For their first offer in 2018 we made a custom cheesecake - ½ plain and ½ chocolate chip - for the big event. The offer went live on trucks in 18 different cities around the country including Chicago. Then this March we partnered for a second deal selling giant chocolate chip brownies. That deal went live in 25 cities, quickly selling out in the majority of them within hours.

Amazon announces what is on the Treasure Truck the morning of the big sale, so you never know what is coming next!

Pumpkin Desserts Spice Up October Business

At the beginning of each month my mom and I sit down to develop a list of specials at our bakery. As one of Chicago’s leading wholesale bakeries, hundreds of restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, coffee shops and other food service businesses around the city rely on us to meet all of their dessert needs. Just as chefs work hard to keep their menus seasonal, we aim to provide them with a selection of new dessert options that have their customers asking for seconds.

What some fail to realize is that many of the desserts they’re eating while dining out aren’t actually baked in-house, but instead by a commercial bakery like us - JR Dessert Bakery – a 37-year-old family owned bakery in Chicago’s West Rogers Park area. We make everything by hand using all-natural ingredients. Now don’t get me wrong, some of Chicago’s top restaurants have world-renowned pastry chefs whipping up daily masterpieces in their kitchens, but the reality of the situation is that the majority of food establishments can’t afford to have a full-time dessert person on staff, which is where we come in.

The secret to our success is to somewhat remain a secret. We prefer to act as an extension to a restaurant’s kitchen and have been successful at doing so by remaining current; hence, the importance of those monthly specials.

As tastes have changed, there’s an emphasis in the food industry to buy local, stay seasonal, and keep it fresh. That’s exactly what we aim to do. Some months are easier than others. For example, our strawberry rhubarb rustic tarts are a big hit in July as is our pear Bundt cake in September. But the ultimate seasonal ingredient has always been pumpkin.

For many, pumpkin is the taste of autumn, and its arrival signifies the end of summer and beginning of fall. If you walk into just about any cafe they’ve got their pumpkin spice lattes prominently advertised. Meanwhile, pumpkin soups, raviolis, ice creams and bars are all the rage. Around this time of year, chefs and bakers galore rush to put pumpkin into just about whatever they can, because it sells – and really well.

Our customers start asking us about our pumpkin specials in late August eagerly awaiting our October 1st deliveries. Over the years we’ve developed a nice selection always featuring some sort of pumpkin cheesecake, pie, cupcake, muffin and cookie option for the month. This way we ensure a high quality product while continuing to maintain the production of all of our other sweets. The trick is to only feature popular seasonal ingredients for a limited time. Just as customers start to get bored we’ve moved into a different month with an entirely new list of specials.

We believe the key to a truly delicious pumpkin dessert is based upon the other ingredients you chose to mix it with. In many ways baking is an exact science and the most successful in this field treat it that way. Our top seller – the pumpkin cheesecake - is a delicate blend of pumpkin puree with rich cream cheese topped with crushed walnuts and a fresh whip cream piping. We sell the dessert whole or pre-cut in order to guarantee that each slice is absolutely perfect when it eventually hits the diner’s plate. 

Whether you are cooking at home for your family or are a caterer planning an event for two hundred guests, we highly recommend using pumpkin as an ingredient in your next menu while always remembering those other three keywords: local, seasonal and fresh. It’s a trend that’s clearly here to stay and could literally pay off in the end.

Bon Appétit!