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For such a rich cake, Freeport Bakery’s Seville Marnier is surprisingly fluffy.
It could be the off-white buttermilk cake speckled with poppyseeds, the boozy glaze or the chocolate whipped cream dividing all that. But roughly 30 years after co-owner Marlene Goetzler decided she wanted a rectangular chocolate-orange cake, head decorator Carol Clevenger still oversees their creation every day.
“Chocolate and orange are just so good together. I don’t know if it’s the poppyseeds but ... there’s something about that cake that has a moisture and a consistency that’s just really delicious,” Clevenger said. “It’s just a phenomenal combination. The mousse is really soft and creamy, and ganache is a darker chocolate version of the same thing. It just works really well together.”
Freeport bakers starts by creaming sugar, butter and eggs together and alternately mixing in flour, baking powder and poppyseeds with buttermilk. They pour the mixture into sheet pans and bake it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Once the body cools, a cake designer douses each layer in enough Grand Marnier to make Ernest Hemingway blush, then spreads a housemade chocolate mousse (French vanilla chocolate from Burlingame-based Guittard Chocolate Co. mixed with cream) until stacked about 4 inches tall. The resulting sheet is cut and chilled until the mousse is stable, at which point it’s iced with a ganache that’s essentially the mousse plus butter combined in a food processor.
A designer fills in the corners and tops the Seville Marnier with chocolate curls. The curls are made when a Freeport Bakery staffer spreads coating chocolate across the back of an overturned tray, lets it set, then rips ribbons off with a device similar to a paint scraper.
A typical week at Freeport means crafting 30 to 40 Seville Marnier cakes, with room for growth during winter months when customers look for heavier options. Slices sell for $4.50, an 8-inch cake costs $33.95 and quarter- and half-sheets go for $56.95 and $77.95, respectively.
“The people that love the Seville really love it, and they are loyal,” Clevenger said. “People definitely have their preferences for their slices. Sometimes they come in and request the outside piece because it’s mostly ganache, and sometimes they request a middle piece or an inside piece because that piece has a little of everything.”
Marlene and Walter Goetzler bought the fledgling Freeport Bakery in 1987 upon moving from San Diego. A professional baker raised in his family’s Bavarian pastry shop, Walter had just concluded a postgrad motorcycle tour of the U.S. when he walked into a small bookstore run by Marlene, who happened to need a German tutor.
The Goetzlers started Freeport with few neighboring businesses and seven employees in a building less than half the size of their current digs. Cakes such as the fruit basket, Boston creme torte and shadow fresa cakes landed on the menu early, but the Seville Marnier’s addition in the late 1980s or early 1990s marked a notable jump, said Clevenger, who started working for the Goetzlers in 1989 and never left.
“Marlene and Walter really established more varieties of cookies (and) Danishes, and experimented with the neighborhood to see what people wanted,” Clevenger said. “It was very whimsical. We’d try poached pears wrapped in puff pastry and that kind of thing. There was a lot of experimentation going on, and then as we grew and established customer favorites, then we didn’t have as much time for experimentation.”
That development window has reopened somewhat, though, as Freeport embraces more seasonal desserts and savory items to keep pace with trendier bakeries. With more than 60 employees working around the clock and a large annex for decorating and wedding cake consultation, Freeport can still get creative with its cakes – and their toppers.
In 2016, a customer requested a buttermilk cake topped with a Ken doll in a tiara and pink dress, which Marlene posted to Facebook with the caption “Ken’s looking good.” After an initial outcry and loss of Facebook likes, support started pouring in from across the world as the story landed in outlets such as the Washington Post and The Guardian.
Freeport still gets a couple orders per week for cakes featuring a cross-dressing Ken, Clevenger said. That’s nothing like the immediate aftermath when was a constant presence in walk-in refrigerators
“The coolest thing was that it happened, and that it’s just in our history,” Clevenger said. “It was a fun little adventure, and I think that conversation still needs to continue.”
2966 Freeport Blvd., (916) 442-4256
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Pro Tip: Need to satiate your sweet tooth but don’t want a whole slice of cake? Try one of Freeport’s rotating cake pops.