The beautiful cake gracing the cover of our magazine this issue is from The Baking Grounds, a quaint, cozy bakery/cafe, tucked away on Lee Street in historic Buford.
By: Rachel Pillow | Photos by Julie Perdue & Walt Wooden
Owned by Lorne and Malinda McCaslin, the Buford location has been open for just a little over three years, but the McCaslin family has been professionally baking for nearly six decades. Lorne’s father, Louis McCaslin opened the family’s first shop, McCaslin Bakery, in Sandwich, Illinois in 1958. Yes, the city is actually named “Sandwich” – maybe their profession was destiny. Louis first entered the industry at the age of 12 when he started training under the expertise of a local, German baker. And what started as a part-time job as a kid to earn a little extra spending money, turned into a lifelong career for both him and his family. Lorne, alongside his four siblings, grew up working in his dad’s bakery, joking that they were all born on a flour sack.
Malinda also began working at the McCaslin Bakery when she was in high school, which is when she and Lorne first started dating. By that time Lorne was already one of the bakers and his older sister, Lisa, was the main cake decorator. “I started as a sales clerk in the storefront but little by little I wanted to get more into the decorating side, so Lisa took me under her wing to teach me,” reminisced Malinda.
Today, Malinda’s cakes are some of the most elaborate and beautifully designed cakes in the industry. As a preferred vendor for Lanier Islands and Ashton Gardens, her wedding cakes are undeniably a work of art. But, while many cake decorators use fondant, a sort of edible paste, for ease of decorating, The Baking Grounds prides itself on using homemade, delicious icing on all of their cakes.
Just like Louis’ original McCaslin Bakery, Baking Grounds is also a full-line bakery making fresh cakes, rolls, pastries, cupcakes, donuts, muffins and breads from scratch each day. “Working at McCaslin’s in the early days, before there were large supermarkets, was really neat,” said Malinda. “It was just like the storybooks where you have a butcher and a baker, and everyone goes to the bakery to get their supply of bread, rolls and sweets,” she continued. The Baking Grounds does continue that tradition with their storefront where customers can purchase freshly baked goods to take home, such as their line of specialty breads including: sourdough, jalapeño cheddar, rosemary olive and the 7-grain Siebenfelder (German for 7-fields).
The baking roots run deep in the McCaslin family with Lorne’s brothers also having their own bakeries and his cousin’s shop called “Cake Among Us” in Rancho Cucamonga, California, which recently won Buzz Feed’s 2016 award for “Best Donut Shop in California.” Lorne and Malinda’s daughters are helping carry on the family tradition having all worked in the shop either as decorators, bakers or sales clerks. Their daughter, Lexi, has been their lead wedding cake decorator for the past few years but is now looking to open her own cake shop in the Roswell/Alpharetta area within the next year.
But, life as a baker is no piece of cake (pun intended). The hours are long and tedious, requiring hard work and dedication. The Baking Grounds also serves breakfast and lunch, so each morning Lorne and his team start between 5 and 6am. Lorne sets the daily specials, including which homemade soups, specialty coffees, sandwiches and breakfast items will be made. “My father-in-law (Louis) really instilled an amazing work ethic in us,” said Malinda. “He taught us a lot about consistency and hard work – he always said it was about having a consistent product, consistent schedule and consistent pricing.” The original McCaslin Bakery in Illinois was sold about 15 years ago, about the time that Lorne and Malinda decided to move down South, but its legacy lives on through The Baking Grounds and the McCaslin’s dedication to their craft.