Chef Q&A: Pam Turkin of Just Baked
For over a year, Pam Turkin put in long hours through the weekend tweaking and perfecting her recipe for buttercream frosting. “I bet I made 100 batches,” recalls Turkin of her efforts. Along with buttercream, Turkin baked different varieties of cupcakes trying to find the right balance of sweetness, flavor, moistness and that indescribable something that just makes cupcakes so alluring: See Just Baked’s Fat Elvis cupcake for an example☺
During the week, Turkin worked in marketing and advertising often traveling for her job. She’d noticed on her travels little boutique cupcake shops dotting each coast and yet when she got home to Michigan, she couldn’t find a similar shop. “I just got it into my head that a cupcake shop was one thing I wanted to bring Detroit,” says Turkin. To date, she’s brought four retail shops, called Just Baked to Michigan.
Turkin’s first store opened in Livonia in 2009. Other stores followed in Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, and soon the first franchise in Canton, just across the street from IKEA. While Turkin admits baking, marketing, planning and everything else involved with running the cupcake shops have eaten away most of her time, her family has been supportive all along the way. Granted, her five kids acted as the official taste-testers in the early days of her business!
So far, Turkin’s keeping mum on her cupcake recipes (darn!), but she passed along a recipe for her pumpkin cookies to share with MKES readers.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Fresh eggs, fresh butter, potato chips
Your favorite meal to make or serve?
I love to cook. My favorite meal to cook is Thanksgiving dinner—the turkey, stuffing, I love the smell of it, the look of it—I love everything about it.
We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Easy, shortbread. We make our own homemade shortbread to use in a lot of our cupcake bottoms. Many of the cupcakes are layered. We also use crumbled shortbread as a topping for our strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. My employees know to stash a little extra shortbread in the back for me.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
My mother never cooked, but she happens to make one thing really well and that’s brisket. No matter what I do, I either overcook or undercook it. Every time I make it it’s just wrong. I’ve given up.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
I love Faygo sodas. When I think of Detroit I think of Faygo, it’s indicative of Detroit. I had the opportunity to go to the plant—it has to be the best smelling place in the world. It smells just like orange cream soda.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Just Baked? What menu item should they make sure to try?
Our Grumpy cake cupcake is definitely our bestseller. With the holidays coming up, though, I’d have to recommend the pumpkin pie cupcake—it’s my personal favorite. Then there’s the sweet potato pie cupcake that we also only do around this time of year and that’s really good too. *By request Turkin also has gluten free and vegan cupcakes available.