Every now and then a male friend introduces me to someone he calls, “My brother from another mother.” It is usually a very good friend of his with similar likes. Well, I can do them one better. Yesterday I met “My brother from another grandmother.”
Like me, Frank Vilt was raised by his grandmother, who taught him to cook and bake. By the time he was seven or eight, he was preparing meals and baking for his large family. He would go on to work for Jennifer and Christian Masse at the original Zachary Jacques, then 20 years in the bakeries at Raley’s and Bel Air, before retiring to spend all of his time and energy on his own business, Frank Vilt’s Cakes in Cameron Park.
To complete the story, my grandmother also taught me to cook and bake, but our similarity sort of ends there. She let me help her in the kitchen, but I never reached the point where she left me alone. After all, it was her kitchen.
As I mentioned, Frank would go on to be a first class baker, but I would use my grandmother given talents to cook and bake for my children and judge baked goods at fairs and other events.
“I had planned on going to a culinary school in France,” Frank told me as we sat at a small table at his bakery talking while I sampled one of their very popular ‘Death by chocolate’ cupcakes. “I had even picked out the school and taken four years of French, but life got in the way and I had to change my direction,” stopping to then continue with a sly grin, “that cupcake won’t really kill you, but from the first bite on you will think you went to heaven.” He was right: devil’s food, injected with chocolate and thickly frosted with more chocolate.
“What I picked up from Christian and Jennifer at Zachary Jacques helped me a lot,” he continued. “I added to that what I learned at Raley’s and Bel Air.
“During the last few years I was at Raley’s and Bel Air, my wife, Nicole, and I baked mini cupcakes as a licensed cottage industry in our house. With both jobs, I was working from 3 a.m. until around 11 p.m. Fortunately I had the stamina to do that.
“About four and a half years ago we opened here in Cameron Park, behind Safeway and next to China City restaurant. Our first year we made the KCRA “A” List for Best Wedding Cake. That was exciting, as are our five star ratings on social media. I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far and humbled by it at the same time.
“This location is a good place for us and along with our constantly returning regulars and wonderful new customers, we get lots of dessert seekers from China City,” he continued. “I would really like to have a place with more walking traffic and big windows so people could watch us at work, but for now this works and is affordable.”
Frank Vilt specializes in wedding cakes and cup cakes. He is very picky about everything he makes, and especially them.
“Most wedding cakes are beautiful, but not necessarily tasty,” he told me. “Ours are different. The people at the wedding are our potential customers, so they should enjoy both the looks of the cake and especially the taste. I love to make beautiful cakes, but flavor is my top priority.
“We have the bride and groom come in to the bakery as many times as they want, to not only come up with a design for their cake but its flavor. We have lots of flavor options and they can come up with their own flavor if they wish. Maybe they have something from a special occasion they remember and want it duplicated. We can do that. After all, customer service is another of our highest priorities.”
Frank went on to explain to me that everything is from scratch. They use nothing pre-made and they use as few ingredients as possible.
“The raspberry topping that is cooking on the stove right now is made from raspberries, sugar, water and a little cornstarch,” he said, “ that’s all. People like simple things. For some reason it reminds them of their childhood.
“We avoid freezers. Freshness and quality are what we want and use. Butter is our major expense. It costs us almost as much as our lease payment, but it’s worth it.
“We try to balance our flavors between sweet and tart. We don’t want you just to enjoy what you are eating, we want it to be a ‘Symphony in your mouth.’
“We are a family operation,” Frank continued, “and it isn’t just myself, my wife, Nicole, and daughter Kaylie Rose. Our family includes our great employees, Kelsey and Alec.”
In addition to the wedding cakes and cupcakes, Frank Vilt’s Cakes also makes special occasion cakes, cake pops, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, lemon squares and much more, including what Frank calls a “California Cannoli, filled with cream cheese and mascarpone, instead of ricotta.
Frank Vilt’s Cakes is located at 4100 Cameron Park Drive, Suite 117, just behind Safeway and next to China City restaurant. Their hours are Wednesday through Friday from 9 – 7 and on Saturday from 9 – 2. They are open Tuesday and Sunday by appointment only.
You can reach them at (530) 409-7046 and get lots of information from their website, www.frankviltscakes.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.
I excitedly told a friend about Frank Vilt’s Cakes the next day. He replied to me, “I know about them. When we get invited to a dinner, we offer to bring dessert and get their cupcakes. They are always a big hit. I can see why.