In January, Alison Odowski went looking for a dessert with Detroit roots. She and her husband, Erik Jackson own the excellent Good Day Donuts in White Center; they also host a rotating crew of ascendant popups, and this week Chachi’s PNW was on the docket. Odowski, the de facto dessert maker when popups set up shop, wanted a confection to complement Chachi’s Detroit-style pizza.
She found bumpy cake.
The regional confection, devised in Detroit in 1875, starts with a single-layer chocolate cake, its surface piped with fat rails of vanilla buttercream. A final coating of ganache transforms those strips of frosting into a bumpy, chocolate-covered surface. “It’s so freaking good,” says Odowski. It’s also one of the top sellers at Good Day Donuts’ unexpected spinoff, Cakes and Trees, which opened quietly in June.
Here, at 13th and Jefferson, a glass case full of eight or nine styles of cake share space with a photogenic thicket of plants—tree-size and much smaller—all available for sale. As combinations go, it’s not exactly typical but that’s part of the charm. The other part is, undoubtedly, Odowski’s cakes. Customers line up to order peanut butter Texas sheet cake or coconut bundt by the slice. Odowski says lemon velvet, Polish apple, and that Detroit-inspired bumpy cake are consistent favorites, though single-layer “snacking cakes” like the caramel-draped banana offer the appeal of cake but the appearance of a reasonable breakfast. Flavors on display always include at least one vegan and one gluten-free option.
Technically the couple was searching for a commissary kitchen when they found the space at 509 13th Avenue. It had a spacious prep area, but also room for a shop, in a classic 1909 brick building. They didn’t want a second doughnut shop—the couple had opened the first one mostly to build a business of their own, en route to more savory pursuits.
Many of those pursuits, namely Good Day’s roster of popups, had required dessert, and Odowski enjoyed making them. Her personal favorite destination for baked goods, the Wandering Goose, had closed. She asked her husband, “What about a cake counter?”
Odowski polled her family, her own recipe stash, and even sources like the New York Times for appealing styles of cake. She grew up in the South—“I cooked in my granny’s kitchen, and there were Sunday cakes”—but also embraces cakes with broader Americana vibes.
Jackson’s savory cooking talent surfaces here, too. This weekend, he debuts as a popup of sorts in his own business, dispensing $50 to-go meals of porchetta and sides on Friday and Saturday. (Yes, of course these include cake.) He will also turn a big table just beyond the cake counter into a private dining destination, putting on single-party meals for groups of six to 12, and gleefully honoring dietary restrictions.
But for now, there is cake, for sale Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 to 7. And plants. And, at the moment, a case full of Good Day’s doughnuts. “I could also see that becoming a savory pastry case,” says Odowski. “But with us, who knows?” After an incremental introduction, Cakes and Trees will hopefully graduate to being a proper little cafe operating among the plants. Meanwhile, the shop also accepts whole cake orders, to pick up here or at Good Day Donuts.