Justin Fox Burks
The Prozac, a rich chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream icing, is one of Muddy’s best sellers. But where does the Prozac come from? How is it made? And how does a bakery turning out some 2,300 cupcakes every day — plus cakes, cookies, and pies — keep it all straight?
To find out, I toured the Muddy’s kitchen and distribution warehouse on Broad Avenue, meeting Bridget Carratt, the production manager at Muddy’s kitchen, at 8 a.m. sharp.
When I walk into the kitchen, I feel like I am discovering a scaled-down version of Santa’s workshop. Beautiful exposed red brick walls boast white accent features, and gnome stickers decorate an enormous refrigerator. Bakers and decorators work at their designated stations, deeply focused, or scurry to their next task. Tom Petty favorites play from the speakers.
As I tour the facility, Carratt gives me a breakdown of what happens at the Muddy’s kitchen. The first shift starts at midnight, mixing and baking the cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, and fillings, and than icing the cupcakes — all 2,300 of them. A batch of 250 Prozac cupcakes for the Sanderlin location is one of 29 flavors made at this time.
All of Muddy’s baked goods made during the midnight shift are prepared with fresh ingredients, including free-range eggs and organic milk. The bakery, named one of the best bakeries in America by Travel+Leisure, does not use preservatives.
While the overnight crew works on baked goods, the 8 a.m. bakers focus on pre-orders, which are usually 6- or 8-inch cakes and cupcakes in two sizes. They bake cakes in 30 different flavors, and I am particularly charmed by one of Muddy’s newest additions, the Unicorn cake. The luscious vanilla cake baked with confetti sprinkles, iced with cream cheese cherry icing, and topped with gold sparkles and a popping purple border looks like a party on a plate.
Like all the cakes at Muddy’s, the Unicorn’s decoration happens in carefully staged steps. First, cake decorators, or cake finishers in Muddy’s lingo, get their orders for the day from a team leader. Next, they count all of the cake layers (remember the cakes are baked at night) and make sure the layers meet Muddy’s standards. Then, they sandwich the layers together with the appropriate icing and let them sit a bit. While the layers rest, finishers go back to their earlier orders and finish the cakes with borders and personalized inscriptions.
Justin Fox Burks
Throughout the day, the team at Muddy’s also delivers baked goods to two retail locations with a custom-built truck. “We have a truck that is outfitted with sleeves that fit our boxes perfectly,” Carrett says. “Our runs start with the Grind House because they open first, and we keep moving throughout the day.” The delivery driver typically starts at 6 a.m. and finishes around 2.
Baked goods fill specific trays that are color-coded to match their destination: yellow trays are heading for the Grind House in Midtown; blue for Muddy’s Bake Shop in East Memphis.
While the quality of Muddy’s offerings certainly depends on the skill of the bakery’s staff, owner Kat Gordon says something more ethereal also builds the brand: the staff’s passion for creativity and excellence.
“These folks are incredible in their ability to do physically demanding work with an immense amount of joy, enthusiasm, and genuine care for the person who will ultimately enjoy the treats we prepare,” says Gordon.