Have you ever dreamed of having a zebra-shaped birthday cake? How about a “high heel dress shoe,” sculpted from fondant, to top off a bridal cake? Edible mini-video game controllers decorating your cupcakes? Well, meet Jordan Harvey, owner and baker at Velvet Sky Bakery in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Jordan has deliciously combined her love for fine desserts and sculpture into her daily routine. Velvet Sky Bakery caters to all lovers of sweet things, whether you’re celebrating with 500 people or just taking some “sweet time” for yourself. Maybe you’re planning a huge shindig that really could use a gigantic cupcake tower, or maybe you need a customized theme cake (Star Wars, Leprechauns, poker, you name it) or how about 500 cake-pops delicately assembled into a five-tier tower for a party that everyone is guaranteed to remember? Absolutely, Jordan and the Velvet Sky gang can do that without blinking an eye. You can also simply stroll by and pop in for a delicious, traditional vanilla cupcake. Warning: you’ll then probably end up buying a dozen more to go. After all, Velvet Sky Bakery offers specialty cupcakes, such as Caramel Macchiato, Raspberry Lemonade and Tiramisu, just to name a few. We recently caught up with Velvet Sky Bakery owner/baker Jordan Harvey and shared some “sweet” stories which included, of course, many Chocolate Covered Memories …
How did you find yourself in this niche of the food industry?
After graduating with a Bachelors in Sculpture and Photography at FAU [Florida Atlantic University], I moved to Savannah, Georgia, in 2007 to attend The Savannah College of Art and Design and major in Furniture Design. So, I ended up working as a server — like many Fine Arts graduates do — in one of the finest restaurants in the city and started picking up hours in the kitchen as a pastry chef. For extra cash during the day, I began working in a wedding cake bakery as a cake decorator. So quite literally, I fell into this industry by accident. Savannah is a gorgeous city and is known by many as the “romantic capital of the United States,” so I was able to learn a lot very quickly about high end baking and worked on some really gorgeous projects. I found that my background in sculpture, as well as my experience with fine desserts, coupled quite nicely together in the world of pastries and sculpted desserts.
Velvet Sky Bakery was quite another “happy accident.” I grew up in this area, and when the business became available for purchase I thought, there it was, an opportunity to actually work on my own art, my way! I remember the opportunity coming up, then my husband and I sitting in a bar sipping on a “Caprese-tini” — muddled basil, tomato vodka, vermouth, balsamic glaze around the glass, yum! — and thinking, I HAVE to turn this into a cupcake! Pretty much that night, I began packing my bags to move to Pennsylvania.
What are your earliest childhood memories of food? Were you a picky eater as a kid? Any foods you couldn’t stand growing up?
I was a tough kid to feed. I was always wierd and picky. When I was very young, I had my own names for different foods. I called halva “candy cream cheese” and fudge “seashore pudding.” I would make my own dishes from the different dishes on the table. When my family ate mushu, I would make rollups of rice and hoisin for dinner. I’d only eat the peas out of fried rice. Catalina on spaghetti. Some days, I would only eat if I was standing on the chair in the kitchen. Yeah, I experimented a lot early on. The best was microwaving my grandmother’s cheese cake. Heavenly. My worst food memory is of a dish one of my relatives came up with, and I do hope it was an accident. It was called “The Hawaiian Sandwich.” It was an English muffin with mayonnaise, American cheese and canned pineapple slices, heated in a toaster oven. Today, you couldn’t pay me to eat a Hawaiian pizza slice.
Where does your love of food stem from?
This is a tough one because my first reaction is “Who doesn’t love food?” <laughter> I think working in the fine dining industry for almost a decade helped me to hone my already picky tastes. I’ve had the pleasure of working in some incredible restaurants and being exposed to amazing dishes over the years. I love wine, I love mixology, I love good food that focuses on quality ingredients.
What do you think of big “bakeries,” like Entenmann’s, Hostess, supermarket bakeries and Dunkin Donuts?
You know, I don’t have too much against the “factory production-line” bakeries. I myself am happy to chow down on a slice of box-mix cake at a party, but it’s just not what I’m about and would not put that out to the world myself. I know cake isn’t the healthiest food around, but, I mean, have you read the ingredients lists on some of those boxes? In the food world, you get what you pay for, and cake is no exception. I’d rather know I’m using high quality ingredients and pushing myself artistically to create something delicious and personally gratifying than serve generic “World’s Best Mom” buttercreams that are just as squishy two weeks after you bought it. Seriously, that’s not natural.
What do you think of the modern food world?
Something I love about food is that it is alive and always growing. We’re very lucky to be living in a time where we have such easy access to so many different ingredients and culinary styles, and our curiosity for food is being so well rewarded. It wasn’t too long ago that oregano was a “rare herb” only found in specialty stores in America, and carrot cake was a weird idea. Today I can put out black sesame cupcakes with matcha and cream cheese frosting, and people are dying to try them. And then customers share their opinions and sensual experiences with the entire world online. It’s an exciting time for food and it’s great to be a part of that world.
What recipe do you want to share with us?
This recipe was a result of not having anything left in the house one night many years ago. I ended up having to improvise dessert for friends that came over for dinner. Since then, it’s become a real staple. Friends and family request it constantly! Enjoy my Quick Blueberry Puff Pastry with Crème Anglaise!
Originally from Philadelphia, Jordan Harvey trained as a pastry chef and cake designer in Savannah, Georgia under such personalities as Ron Ben Israel and Elisa Strauss for over five years. In May of 2011, Jordan returned to her hometown to pursue her own vision of operating a boutique bakery, Velvet Sky Bakery (Jenkintown, Pennsylvania) whilst maintaining the integrity of an already successful concept.