MINOT, N.D. — Valentine's Day is big at Marketplace Food & Drug here. So is the company's signature, heart-shaped truffle cake.
Each year, sales have grown to the point that this year, cake department manager Nyla Stromberg told SN she expected to easily sell 400 of the $16.99 cakes, and maybe more.
“We've been making this cake for several years, and sales keep growing each year. It's a draw into our department,” Stromberg said.
It consists of three heart-shaped layers with different fillings between the layers, such as raspberry jam, orange cream, fluffy chocolate or a number of other fillings. When they're stacked, a big mound of real whipped heavy cream is placed on top, smoothed out a little, and then the cake is chilled thoroughly in the freezer just long enough for the whipped cream to harden somewhat. Once out of the freezer, dark chocolate ganache is poured over the cake. When the ganache enrobement hardens, decorating the cake can begin.
“That's our big ticket item for Valentine's Day,” Stromberg said.
She was very enthusiastic this year because Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday.
“I look at it as a positive. It gives people two days to think about Valentine's Day, and it gives us two high-traffic days to do a lot of sampling.”
In earlier interviews, Stromberg has explained that the seemingly high intensity of labor is balanced by the large volume of cake sales the department rings up. The creation of such items as the popular heart-shaped truffle cake becomes almost assembly-line efficient just because there are so many of them being made in a relatively short time. Also, a huge variety of smaller items like single-layer, heart-shaped cakes, fudge in a heart-shaped pan, and uniquely decorated cupcakes ring up a lot of sales.
This year, Stromberg added a new item for Valentine's Day — a cookie bouquet. It consists of six or seven 5-inch cookies that have been baked on a long stick. They're decorated for whatever occasion is coming up.
“We started doing these a couple of months ago and decorated them with a sports theme, local basketball team colors,” Stromberg said. “For Valentine's Day, we'll do them in reds, pink and white.”
Stromberg, who has been a baker and decorator for 30 years, has built the cake department at Marketplace Food & Drug. In fact, the cake business became so successful under her watch that a few years ago, when the store was remodeled, the owners separated the cake department from the rest of the in-store bakery.
At that time, Stromberg had already been given the title of cake department manager. Over the years, she has racked up awards, including taking second place in one of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's annual Cake Decorating Challenges.
This month, when SN talked to Stromberg, she had just returned from a North Dakota-Minnesota state grocers association competition in Fargo, N.D.
Between Stromberg and one of her cake decorators, Latoya Carpenter, the two women came home with five trophies.