It all started with focaccia bread – and lots of it.
That was what Kelsey Earl decided to make and sell at the beginning of the pandemic as a way to keep busy and help feed both herself and her friends in the restaurant industry who had also lost their jobs when the world closed down last year. Realizing she liked being her own boss and setting her own hours, she went all in this year and launched her own cottage baking company, Little Butter Bakery.
Earl has been seen popping up at places around Kansas City like Blip Roasters, Meta Coffee Roasting Co. and Lifted Spirits Distillery, offering sweet and savory pastries to sell-out crowds. She has also been offering a weekly pastry box since April, posting the menu on her Instagram page every Friday at noon and accepting orders via her website until she sells out at 24 boxes each week.
“Customers will place their orders online and pay me, and it is first come, first serve," Earl says. "I have been known to sell out anywhere between 17 minutes to up to 4 hours, so people need to set an alarm and act fast. On Sundays, my customers can pick up their boxes between noon and 2pm, either at my house or I sometimes use the commercial kitchen at the Ivanhoe Farmers Market."
Each weekly pastry box usually includes four items for $20, and her fans know that she also does cookies by the dozen or half dozen. Flavors include oatmeal-blueberry-tahini, salted chocolate chunk and pie crust crumble – a bar cookie made with an all-butter crust, wild sandhill plum preserves and a brown sugar oat topping. She thinks they are the perfect ratio of crust to filling.
“In the beginning, I think I went a little chocolate heavy in the items I made for my box," Earl says. "Now I try to balance the number of savory items with sweet ones. I try to have one or two breads, one cake or muffin item, and then a brownie, bar or cookie of some kind in every box. I also seriously consider what I still have on hand that I can use to cut down on my food waste.”
Lately, Earl has been collaborating with both savory and pastry chefs for the creations she makes for her weekly boxes. A recent Kansas City Chiefs tailgate box featured her golden brown, glazed milk buns stuffed with Ted Liberda’s Buck Tui BBQ meat, and she has also worked with pastry chef Kendra Valentine, who is known for making delicious yeast donuts.
According to Earl, what sets her products apart are her quality ingredients and her interest in working with local farmers to get farm-fresh eggs, milk, produce and fruit. Plus, she only uses all-purpose flour from King Arthur or whole grain flours from Heartland Mill out of Marienthal, Kansas.
“Twice a week, I head out to the market to see what is there and what looks good,” Earl says. “I do feel like that the flavors I am pulling from is from my years spent as a bartender. I like to balance the sweet by adding in fresh herbs and vegetables to my recipes.”
Earl insists she is not interested in having a brick-and-mortar shop for Little Butter Bakery. Right now, she just hopes to grow her business enough to be able to rent a commercial kitchen, so she can have a place outside her home to bake and fill her Little Butter Bakery boxes.