Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Kate Smith: Egg Whites, Sugar, Buttercream + Success!

By  0 Comments

Kate Smith has a half million reasons to love her work. The Lenexa, Kansas, wife and mother runs Kate Smith Soirée and helps brides achieve the wedding dessert of their dreams with French macarons, many times in place of the usual wedding cake. She estimates that each week her team produces about 2,000 of the delicate shells filled with cream and, since she started her business in 2018, they have made 500,000 macarons.

Kate Smith Soirée is found in the Lenexa Public Market and shares space with her Butterfield restaurant. She describes her labor of love as a luxe boutique bakery being shaped by a local small business offering a product that is a bit more elevated, high-end dessert. She creates mountains of various flavors of macarons for consumption, but she concentrates on helping brides and grooms set new standards for oohs and aahs through the art of building with macarons.

“No one in Kansas City was doing what I’m now doing. I noticed that everyone in the wedding industry was doing the same tiered, buttercream or fondant cakes. It was the same thing over and over again, and not everyone likes cake. I’m not a huge cake person and at my own wedding I had a cake and I didn’t even eat it. But I did bake 500 macarons for the wedding and they disappeared before the dinner even started,” Kate remarked. “When I came here there was no alternative; it was either cake or cupcakes. But I thought, why aren’t you doing more elevated, high-end stuff, and that’s where the macaron came to me. You can make it look like a cake with a tower that has a big and grand feel to it but it’s not
a cake.”

Kate began her love of the food industry by working side by side as a youngster with her parents in their restaurant. The Oklahoma native decided on a degree in hotel and restaurant administration and achieved that goal by graduating from Oklahoma State University in 2017. To complete her food and beverage internship, she worked in China and studied culinary arts and pastry in Florence, Italy, where she developed her passion for the French macaron.

The French macaron is defined by two rounded disks created from a batter of egg whites, sugar and almond milk, held together with a delightfully creamy filling such as ganache, buttercream or jam. The love of these macarons goes back centuries. When Catherine de Medici married into the French royal family in 1533, she brought her Italian chef and her love of Italian macarons. From these roots, chefs in France added their own techniques and the French macaron was born. An extreme faux pas in the bakery world would be committed by confusing the macaron with the like-sounding macaroon, which is a coconut cookie.

Her mantra is “dare to be bold” and the creations from Kate and her staff are simply amazing. The journey began in December 2018 hosting pop-up carts and selling thousands of macarons. Her first storefront came in June 2019, and the rest is macaron history. Kate Smith Soirée has enjoyed leading couples through an adventure in alternative wedding desserts, stepping outside traditional wedding cakes. With her incredibly talented team, she employs the macaron to construct wedding desserts that are unbelievable
and memorable.

“That’s our brand, specializing in alternative wedding desserts and stepping outside the norm of the traditional wedding cake. But we do understand the tradition of having a wedding cake so we offer smaller cakes or a cake on top of a macaron tower. This is what made us famous in Kansas City, the macaron tower with a small six-inch cake on top so the wedding couple can cut into it and serve to each other,” she stated. “Every couple I have met has a unique vision of their wedding. They have unique personalities and want to showcase that through their dessert display. Sometimes they want an array of different desserts and colors, and a wedding cake is usually three tiers with white buttercream. But our macaron towers can be whatever color you want or have a gradient effect. It’s fun to see the couple’s creative process from start to finish. They give me their color palette and tell me about themselves, and we create something that reflects each unique couple. I love getting to do that.”

Kate reports that each year the bakery serves 120 couples and, unfortunately, they do have to turn away some customers. But a newly opened location in Overland Park, Kansas, should give Kate Smith Soirée the ability to serve more wedding day guests.

The bakery boasts 70 core flavors but that can be expanded to 120 by delicately altering the components. The deliciousness of the macaron derives its pleasurable palate from the concoction of various flavors for the filling, sandwiched between shells customized to match in color. Think key lime, red wine chocolate, chocolate vanilla swirl, puppy chow, sour blue razz and so many more mind-dizzying choices. While Kate is proud of these impressive offerings of high-quality French macarons, her confectionary is no small cookie. The bakery features a rotating selection of sweets, confections and custom celebration cakes using seasonal ingredients.

Macarons are notoriously hard to make even for professional chefs. Producing a successful macaron can drive the baker “macaroni.” But Kate loves to share her macaron abilities with others and hosts classes at her Lenexa Public Market space.

“We don’t keep our recipe a secret. I teach classes at the bakery with the actual recipe and anyone can make them, even seven-year-olds. But it can be trial and error,” she remarked. “You can do pretty much everything right, but if your oven is not exact or the temperature is not correct or the environment of your kitchen isn’t right, then it can be difficult. They are finicky little things. But we’ve nailed down the environment and the oven, and in my class, they always come out perfect.” Kate reminds potential macaron architects to precisely weigh their ingredients, with no volume measuring for macarons. Weighing is the absolute key to your success because the ingredients must be exact. An oven, electric whisk and piping bag are key components, and Kate notes that round-circle templates can be printed from the internet to ensure consistency of size for the shells.

At Kate Smith Soirée, the confections are handcrafted using delicate classic techniques. Kate notes that it’s not always the fastest or easiest method, but it’s the best way to ensure attention to detail and create mouth-watering treats.

“Everything we make is in small batches, in Lenexa and soon Overland Park, in-house and with our own two hands. We try to source local ingredients to highlight in our products such as honey from local farmers made especially for us. We use local coffee from All the Love Roasting by Martin City Brewing and tea from Savoy Tea Company. We try to highlight local because we’re a small local business and we wholesale our products to other small businesses. We love to create that relationship in support of each other,” she commented. “We are in the business to make people’s day. Our concept is that people should allow themselves the pleasures of a sweet treat. You don’t have to have a reason. We are in the celebration industry. Anyone can walk in and purchase a sweet treat.”

Kate started out of her kitchen but has built a successful business, employing many others, at several locations. Kate shares that determination to never let go of her dream or never let the cookie crumble has guided her throughout this career. “Sometimes people don’t want to make room for you and you have to make room for yourself. I never wanted to give up my dream because someone wouldn’t give me the time of day. I had to create a space for myself and my team. We wanted an inclusive and inviting space to be creative and do what we had a passion for,” Kate advised. “If someone says no to you, don’t use that as a reason to give up.”

Kate added that networking was another component of her success. “Create that space, network and meet people because it takes a village to create and bring it to life,” she noted. “I can’t stress how important it is to create connections and network. I started my business out of my home but every single connection and networking event that I went to opened a door and made a new contact, which opened a new door for me. They became my colleagues. I would much rather work in an environment that’s collaboration over competition.”

At Kate Smith Soirée, the team focuses on making unique wedding desserts and building upon their extensive skillsets to showcase the perfectly curated dessert display. After pleasing hundreds of couples with incredibly impressive sweets, Kate relishes the time she spends with them to create a masterpiece that brings to the forefront the uniqueness of each person. Her passion is found not only in her works of delectable artwork but also in her ability to live her dream.

“Stay true to yourself. It’s easy to follow what everyone else is doing. But there’s a sense of pride in going against that grain and paving a new way or starting a new trend. The world would be incredibly boring if people didn’t step outside of the norm and try something new,” she noted. “Also, the key to success is to surround yourself with the people you aspire to be. Every chance you get, put yourself in a room with those people because you can only become what you want when you surround yourself with those people. Put yourself in that environment and you’ll get there.”