Karri Suh is a hobby baker passionate about creating her own unique delectable cake recipes and bringing people together socially through the joy of food. I came across her ad on Nextdoor, a neighborhood discover app, looking for cake tasters in the area. Having a weakness for sweets there was no way I could pass up free cake! I was intrigued by her free peach basil slice of cake to strangers in exchange for an honest critique. Those who responded received a message with a pickup location, her front porch, and she invited each taster to take their sample home or sit and chat while tasting. Peach basil was a flavor combo I had never heard of so I was interested in seeing how those flavors worked together.
At 10:00 AM on a warm Saturday morning, I walked up to her porch where she had a display set out on a table. As others visited to pick up their samples I spoke briefly with Karri about the possibility of showcasing her story on The Creative Push, a week later we met again and I did our interview while taking some of the photos here.
Karri’s love for baking began as a child while spending time in the kitchen with her grandmother inventing recipes. Her grandmother, also a ceramic painter, offered Karri a creative outlet for ideas through flavors and decoration. She gave her some decorating tools and an old cake decorating book that Karri used to learn how to bake from home.
Growing up Karri watched Julia Child’s on PBS regularly and found an interest in wanting to create her own unique concoctions. Her mom allowed her to spend as much time in the kitchen as she wanted as long as she cleaned after she was finished. Her love of experimenting with flavors, recipes, and baking grew into a passion.
Karri often found herself mesmerized while watching the bakers at Kroger decorate the cakes when going to the grocery store with her mom. She was intrigued by all of the choices of colors, flavors, and frostings. Both Karri and her sister’s birthdays were around the Christmas holiday, so her mom made them both feel special each year with a delectable strawberry birthday cake made from her secret recipe. In college, Karri was known for making homemade cinnamon rolls each week that brought all of her friends together socially. Over time the celebratory aspect of food became an integral part of her love of baking, especially how it brought people together, she explains,
“As I’ve gotten older, I have enjoyed more flavor combinations and the structural limitations and challenges that come along with making layered cakes. I always just gravitated towards baking cake more than anything else.”
For the past five years, Karri has been perfecting her recipes as a hobby baker mostly for friends and family. She documents her creations on Instagram like her peach basil, peach galette, lemon and thyme, banana puddin’, and her Mexican chocolate cakes. She created a special margarita cake for a friend who wasn’t much of a cake person but loved margaritas. She has since changed up the recipe each year.
Karri got the idea to find cake tasters after reading through a pie recipe book, where the author mentioned how she found a group of people she could offer pie samples to in exchange for feedback. Karri used the same methods to test her own recipes after moving to the Sylvan Park neighborhood in Nashville during the Pandemic last year. She figured it would also allow her to meet some of her neighbors in the process.
Karri has an education degree and taught art and English in the Tennessee public school system for four years but works in marketing as a career. She and her husband started a data analytics company together a few years ago where she works in analytics gaining feedback between customers and vendors. Understanding the importance of a target audience she applied her marketing knowledge to her baking research in order to get honest feedback from cake testers on Nextdoor. She explains,
“I needed to test out my new recipes and I needed to know what people liked and didn’t like. I had to create a method of tasting that was easy for people to offer their opinions, but I also needed to be very specific with the questions I asked in order to get the answers I needed to perfect my recipes. I asked specifically how the texture of the buttercream was and gave options to choose from knowing it would offer much more constructive feedback to know what was working and what I needed to change.”
Karri created a Google Q&A form with a QR code people could easily scan on their phones and taped it on top of each to-go box of sliced cake. This was an easy way for her to give a sample in exchange for easy and honest feedback from each taster, myself included. While she understands there is always a percentage of personal preference, the Q&A results still helped her determine changes she could make to improve her overall recipe.
Karri enjoys all kinds of baking but when it comes to cakes she prefers three layers and says it generally takes her three to four bakes to get the filling and frosting recipe down. She often infuses seasonal fruits and uses Italian buttercream icing for decoration. Recently she has learned that the structure of the cake and the filling needs to hold up when selling slices. She admits she had not considered this aspect until she started baking cakes for a small local restaurant called Miel. Her husband has known the owner for 12 years and when their normal baker suddenly became unavailable they reached out to Karri after seeing her cakes on Instagram. Each Tuesday every week she bakes a 10-inch cake and delivers it to the restaurant a few blocks from her home.
In the future Karri says she would love to open a baking supply boutique. That idea came about during covid after having a difficult time getting ingredients in the stores and not feeling confident of the quality of items from Amazon. She explains her dream boutique space would be a place for people to shop for all of their baking supplies from the fresh ingredients, the sugars, the flour, and the harder-to-find sprinkle stations and patterns. Everything needed for a party and baking all in one place including a library of cookbooks for shoppers to look through and purchase. There would be a variety of unique pans and cake stands as well as evening workshops on baking and cake decorating. Her goal would be to offer a fun place for friends and families to experience the same joy she has experienced over the years creating and baking her own recipes.
For now, Karri prefers to keep baking as a hobby offering her cakes to the local restaurant, family members, and a few friends. She is selective with who she bakes for because she doesn’t want the pressure of delivering baked goods regularly. She has some new seasonal recipes she is excited to try out soon.
“This winter when citrus from Florida is ripe I want to create something with dark chocolate, wine, and blood oranges. I’ve been wanting to make this wine, citrus, and chocolate recipe for a while,” Karri says.
In my artist interview podcast with Karri, she shares her thoughts on creativity and offers advice to other hobby bakers. You can also see more cake decorating photos from our shoot at Sheri Oneal Photography.
You can find more about Karri on Instagram.
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