For Jan and Dwight Potter, Dreamcakes Café is a sweet addition to their already thriving bakery business.
In the confines of a tiny 400-square-foot kitchen in Cahaba Heights 11 years ago, Jan Potter realized she had quite the following. She was renting the kitchen for the equipment and space she needed to make wedding cakes by special order. But for every hour she was spending on the cakes, she was fielding that many or more questions from people about what they could buy from her. “It was just going to be a commercial kitchen, but people kept coming in and asking if we were selling anything,” Jan says.
Not that she needed the reassurance. Jan had worked as a food stylist and recipe developer in Southern Living magazine’s test kitchen—“the most wonderful place to work, she says—for nearly 15 years, savoring the opportunity to be creative with food on a daily basis.
She took cake decorating classes in 1990 and admits to becoming obsessed with it, enough to start teaching such classes herself three years later. Jan was making cakes mostly for friends and family, but anyone with a fork and a general sense of what constitutes a good-tasting cake could have endorsed her creations. With the excitement of a new challenge, Jan decided to close her chapter at Southern Living and focus on her wedding cakes. In November 2009, Dreamcakes was born. Little did she know she would be opening a second location a decade later.
Jan’s success with her cakes came as quickly as a sugar rush, reinforcing her decision to go all in on her own baking business. By October 2010, her operation had already outgrown that tiny commercial kitchen, so off to Homewood she went. And for the last 10 years, that’s where Dreamcakes Bakery has grown and thrived.
But with the growth and increasing demand came the realization that Jan needed more hands on deck to oversee the business side of Dreamcakes. Enter Dwight Potter, a man with an extensive background in commercial real estate. “We loosely joked that if it looks good and tastes good, it’s her accomplishment,” Dwight says. “Anything boring like bills or contracts comes to my desk.”
Dwight’s arrival came at an opportune time. Along with its brick-and-mortar store, Dreamcakes then was operating one of just a few food trucks in the Birmingham area, and Jan was desperate to hire someone to run the truck for her. Dwight was a recruiter at the time and reached out to Jan to offer his assistance in finding someone. He and Jan could see the benefits of further expanding the bakery, so Dwight bought in and became an investor, officially making them co-owners of Dreamcakes.
Not too long into their working relationship, they realized they had developed more than a friendship, too. “In 2014, we decided it was more than just a business relationship, and we got married,” Jan says. Dwight’s summation is a bit more … romantic. “Sparks flew,” he says, and adds, “It’s been good for everyone.”
The next big project was opening a second location last year, a venture many people had asked them about before they made any official announcements. “We wanted to keep it relatively close to the original location,” Jan says. “We really love Ross Bridge. We live here, we love our community and we decided this is where we wanted to be.”
They wanted to create a neighborhood gathering place—a spot where friends could meet for a cup of coffee and a quick sandwich at breakfast or lunch, where families could sit on the patio on a pretty day and let their children roam the green space next to the building, where a student could stop by after school and try a milkshake.
The café concept at the new location – which opened right down the road from the Ross Bridge clubhouse in October 2019 – gives them the flexibility to offer more than just desserts. They have more than 20 flavors of scooped ice cream from an Atlanta dairy, and their automatic espresso machine from Switzerland brews top-of-the-line espresso. They also sell locally roasted premium coffee, and nitro brew, or cold brew coffee, could be added soon to the menu, which will feature different food items, like salads and cold dishes, as the weather gets warmer. They can even host special events and provide catering services. “We really wanted a place where people would feel comfortable,” Dwight says.
Those wanting to order a one-of-a-kind Dreamcakes cake at the café in Ross Bridge will find that Jan and her team are just as focused on the cakes as Jan was when she started her cake business nearly 12 years ago. “That’s the part I love,” she says. “That’s how I started, and I never get tired of that.”
Ever the innovator, Jan spends much of her time on recipe development, food styling for the bakery’s social media pages and simply interacting with customers to figure out how she can make the cake they’re envisioning, right down to the last dollop of frosting. “We’re in the business of life celebrations, like weddings, wedding showers and baby showers,” Jan says. “We do a ton of gender reveal cakes. Those are really fun.”
Dreamcakes supplies small cakes, called “birth cakes,” for parents of all babies born at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, as well as cakes and cupcakes for the Birmingham Barons. Dreamcakes also partners with local school and community groups on fundraisers.
Despite the awards and accolades Dreamcakes has racked up over the years, though, the focus remains on giving customers exactly what they want every day, no exceptions. “You’re as good as what you serve today,” Dwight says. “We make sure we put out quality things that look good and taste good every day. We really try to earn the success we’ve had.”
Dreamcakes Café is located at 3601 Market Street in Hoover. The café is open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 12-8 p.m. Visit @dreamcakescafe on Facebook for more information and updates.