A Chat With A Sweet Berry Farm Baker: Kathleen Russell

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From season to season at Sweet Berry Farm, our kitchen crew creates baked goods that are as beautiful to look at as they are delicious to eat. From cakes to cupcakes, cookies and beyond, our desserts are made with the very best ingredients. One of our bakers, Kathleen Russell, has been expanding our offerings this season to include some stunning confections.

A former florist with a flair for design, Kathleen creates expertly decorated floral cakes and cupcakes. They have been such a hit that we had to supply the kitchen with extra baking trays to help keep the farm market stocked! Kathleen incorporates what’s growing here on the farm into her creations and is passionate about the Sweet Berry Farm community. We’re so happy to have her on the team!

We sat down with Kathleen to get the scoop on the inspiration behind her designs and what customers can expect to see in the months ahead.

Q: This is your second season at Sweet Berry Farm. What do you like about being back?
A: I adore being at Sweet Berry because I really like the artistry behind the cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. I also love the people I work with; they are genuinely good people! We laugh a lot, and there’s mutual respect. We taste each other’s food, making sure it tastes great before it goes out. I think that comes across in the final product. It’s a really positive atmosphere.

Q: What’s special about Sweet Berry's baked goods?
A: Our cakes are made within 24 hours of ordering, so they’re always fresh. Our customers are really getting incredible value from these dishes because they’re made with all-natural ingredients of the highest quality. We source the best ingredients we can find — everything from Nielsen-Massey Madagascar vanilla extract to Callebaut Belgian chocolate, and pure butter. The buttercream we use seals in the freshness so the cakes are really moist.

The Sweet Berry kitchen includes high-caliber, experienced cooks who really understand home-style comfort food. We’re inspired by what's growing in season right here at the farm. Quality ingredients, freshness, and passion make the difference.

Q: How did you get your start in baking, and how did your experiences lead you to Sweet Berry?
A: I’m a self-taught baker. I went to school for journalism and ended up working in various fields that have all contributed to my work at Sweet Berry in some way. I owned a specialty florist business in upstate New York, and dabbled in interior design and styling. I was a teacher. I’ve worked to raise funds for dozens of non-profit agencies. I’m also a mother of four. Community, friends, family, food, and flowers are all very important to me.

Q: What is your favorite thing to bake?
A: I like making cupcakes and specialty cookies the most and decorating with our buttercream, which is hands-down the best around. I use [Sweet Berry's Head Chef] Brian’s recipe which has been perfected over the years in Sweet Berry’s kitchen. It has the structure I need to create decorative flowers and it’s the most satisfying to eat. We’re making more cupcakes than we ever have. We even had to buy more pans this year!

Q: Where does your inspiration come from?
A: The style of the cakes is timely and changes from week to week because I try to reflect what’s going on at the farm. I'm inspired by the colors and blooms on the farm and around the island. What is growing and what’s in season is where my inspiration comes from. Last week, I created peony cakes because [Co-owner] Michelle’s gorgeous peony flowers began to bloom. Last summer, I made many sunflower cakes when sunflowers were in season.

Q: Are you trying anything new this year?
A: When I lived in Seattle, salted caramel was very popular, so I decided to experiment with it in my baking. This year, I started adding caramel ganache to my chocolate and vanilla cakes by cutting the cake, piping a border around it, and filling the center with the ganache. We’ve had a good response from customers!

Q: What do you love about Sweet Berry?
A: Sweet Berry Farm is an experience in itself. It nails it as a true New England experience, from the feel, aesthetic, and people to the farm experience. The farm presents new inspirations each day; another profusion of color and flavor appear with each island sunrise. A Sweet Berry experience is ever new, and with each weekly visit, customers leave with cheerful hearts and thankful bellies. It’s a beloved island encounter. I feel lucky to be working here and spend time with all of these great people.

Q: How do you spend free time away from the farm?
A: I love to play tennis, spend time with my family, and go to the beach. We like to attend polo events and immerse ourselves in the New England culture.

Follow Sweet Berry Farm’s Instagram page to see photos of Kathleen’s work, or stop by our farm market and pick up one of her latest creations. They go fast!