By Anna Grace Moore

Photos by Kelsea Schafer & Dawn Harrison

While the scorching July sun beats down on furrowed brows, moms and dads struggle to grasp their little ones’ hands, wriggling to get free from their parents’ tight holds. The two-by-two parade–a standstill only moving inches an hour–has now wrapped nearly twice around the mom-and-pop bakery, K&J’s Elegant Pastries.

Inside, co-owner and chef Kristal Bryant scrambles to prepare for the influx of hungry bellies outside her front door. Finally, the clock’s hand points to 10 a.m., and the floodgates open with swarms of customers pouring in, breathing in gusts of blissful decadence.

Delightful squeals warm the ambiance of the bakery as children catch a glimpse of the cotton candy kolossal milkshake, whose cerulean blue and bubblegum pink cotton candy puffs tower over the brim-filled mug. Hours pass like minutes at K&J’s, as Kristal works diligently to ice every cake and frost every shake.

Boasting more than 35,000 Instagram followers, K&J’s has attracted media attention from Southern Living,, Birmingham Magazine, Shelby Living and more, as the business sees thousands of customers a year. The signature “kolossal” shakes–some reaching more than a foot tall–have become a staple in Alabama and have even been featured on “Good Morning America,” “The Travel Channel,” “Food Network” and “Pickler and Ben.”

Kristal says she’s even had customers drive up to five hours simply to taste one of her “kolossal” shakes.

“Being a part of lifelong memories for families is one of the things that I love the most about this job,” Kristal says.

The Birmingham native says she first learned she wanted to become a chef at only 14 years old. Kristal grew up infatuated with painting, and her interest peaked when she learned how to channel her artistic endeavors into cooking.

After graduating, Kristal attended Virginia College Culinard in Birmingham, Alabama, where she studied the art of savories and flavor profiles. Her first job out of school was actually at The Cheesecake Factory, and although Kristal enjoyed working on the line, she says creating the same meals repeatedly did not yield much room for creativity.

To expand her repertoire, Kristal began baking cakes out of her home for her family and friends. She says she enjoyed being able to express herself artistically while also being a homemaker.

Unfortunately, a disgruntled customer complained, forcing Kristal to move her business into a storefront, which is how the first-ever K&J’s Elegant Pastries location opened on Kent Dairy Road in Alabaster in 2013.

“It actually ended up being a huge blessing for me because I feel like I was complacent with making cakes at home,” Kristal says. “Our first store was really small. We didn’t have any seating. It was a pickup bakery, where you could pick up cupcakes on display.”

As time progressed, Kristal toyed with the menu, adding ice cream and milkshakes. When she first started making cakes, she made standard, round cakes–usually chocolate cakes with strawberries on top.

K&J’s started gaining popularity, enabling Kristal to expand the business in 2017 to its former location on 236 First Street South in Alabaster. The business saw thousands of customers a year–sometimes hundreds a day–as people from across the Southeast came to sample the famous kolossal shakes.

“The first milkshakes that we made were the strawberry shortcake crunch,” Kristal says. “I took things I loved and created the shake. I illustrated them all on paper, and then once we got ice cream, we made them come to life.”

To create the kolossal shakes, Kristal will envision what she wants each shake to look like–from the colors to the texture to the types of candy, chocolate, cupcakes or cotton candy garnishing the top. The more color, the better.

Strawberry shortcake happened to be Kristal’s mother’s favorite popsicle flavor when she was growing up. Kristal took the flavor profiles and created a shake in honor of her mom, and now, K&J’s sports 15 different milkshake flavors.

“You eat with your eyes, so you want your food to look good and taste good, too,” Kristal says.

Just as business was picking up, March 13, 2020, happened, and K&J’s was forced to close its doors for several weeks, only to be restricted to curbside orders during the following months. While Kristal says they initially struggled to stay afloat, the generosity of the Alabaster community helped them to stay open until they eventually outgrew the space.

Kristal made the tough decision to close the Alabaster location and relocate K&J’s to one of its current locations at 2260 Ninth Avenue North in downtown Birmingham in 2022. She says the hardest part about moving was that her business got its start in Alabaster.

Although, this bittersweet feeling did not last for long. When Dreamcakes Bakery closed its doors in Ross Bridge, Kristal saw the perfect opportunity to expand yet again–opening another location this time in Hoover.

On Dec. 22, 2022, K&J’s opened at 3601 Market Street Suite 101 in Ross Bridge, welcoming more than 100 customers on its first day.

“We’re so excited to serve Hoover,” Kristal says. “Everybody has been so nice. I want to thank all of our supporters over the last 10 years. We really appreciate all of them.”

Looking at the menu, both newcomers and longtime customers will be delighted to see that K&J’s now offers more than 50 different cake flavors and 100 different cupcake flavors. The bakery also sells cookies, pound cake, cinnamon rolls and readily available cakes, ready for pickup any time of day.

Ironically, Kristal says she has never taken a cake course, but using her culinary knowledge, she was able to venture into the wedding industry years ago. Now, K&J’s churns out more than 1,500 wedding and birthday cakes a year.

While the kolossal shakes may have made K&J’s famous, Kristal says her true love is baking wedding cakes. Some cakes she can spend a week or more on, drawing out the design, size and scale before combining flavor profiles to create a savory work of art.

The largest cake she ever made was for a wedding of 500 people. The 12-tier wedding cake weighed close to 50 pounds and flaunted 4,000 sugar flowers, requiring Kristal to stand on a ladder to stack the cake.

Another event Kristal loved catering was American rapper Da Brat’s baby shower in Atlanta in May 2023. Kristal designed and built a 20-by-15-foot wall of banana-based desserts and decorations, including chocolate-dipped bananas, banana pudding shooters, banana cupcakes and more for the Minions-themed baby shower.

“My mind is always thinking about what we can do next–what can be the next big thing,” Kristal says.

No matter the occasion or the dream, Kristal can bring her customers’ desires into fruition. She says she never would have thought her business would grow to the following it has today.

Because of her customers, however, she’s been able to challenge herself to grow and accomplish her dreams–ones she hopes taste just as sweet to her customers within every bite.

K&J’s Elegant Pastries is located at 3601 Market Street, Suite 101, in Hoover. K&J’s is open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Visit for a full menu.

Baker’s Choice

Red Velvet Ice Cream Shake
-Red velvet cheesecake, chocolate syrup and red velvet Oreos.

Ultimate Oreo Cheesecake Shake
-Cookies and cream ice cream, Oreos, cheesecake, whipped cream and hot fudge

Strawberry Shortcake Cookie Stack
-Strawberry-flavored cookies, strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake, strawberries and whipped cream

Sweet Potato Cheesecake Cupcakes
-Sweet potato-flavored cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese frosting