UAB Alumna Bakes Up a Business
By Caperton Gillett
UAB graduate Jan Moon used her knowledge of nutrition science to create a specialized bakery in nearby Homewood.
Customers are given fair warning as soon as they walk through the door of Dreamcakes Bakery. “Sorry,” a sign says, “everything’s delicious.” Even without sampling the entire menu, a few bites of Jan Moon’s signature Over the Moon cupcakes make it clear that here is no idle threat. But is this an honest profession for a former food and nutrition student at UAB?
“I get a lot of flak about that,” says Moon, owner of the petite confection shop in Homewood, Alabama. It was a love of food, though, and not a fear of frosting that led Moon to what was then UAB’s School of Allied Health in 1978. Afterward she took a position at UAB Hospital, where she worked with cancer and transplant patients and was charged with preparing meals that were both nutritious and palatable. “The thing I liked most was going down to the kitchen and trying to concoct something the oral cancer patients could eat,” she says. “They would tell me what they wanted, and I would try to come up with something they would enjoy.”
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When Moon went searching for a more hands-on role in the food industry, she found it in the test kitchens at Southern Living magazine and later Cooking Light magazine, where she invented cover-ready showpieces seen by millions each month. Fifteen years later, she left to freelance as a food stylist, all the while indulging her hobby of baking and decorating wedding cakes on the weekends. The full-time work and the hobby began to compete for time, so she eventually decided to ditch her day job to open a miniature one-room bakery in the Cahaba Heights neighborhood.
“I rented a tiny kitchen, just to meet with brides and do cakes. We didn’t even have a bakery case,” Moon says. “But people started coming in and asking for things. So I finally bought a bakery case that held maybe eight little trays of cupcakes.” Within six weeks, demand was outstripping the baking capacity of her closet-size kitchen, and she started looking for a new location. She found her current shop in July 2009, and in November, Dreamcakes moved in. “We’ve been going crazy ever since,” she says.
Filled With Surprises
Dreamcakes offers an ever-changing variety of elaborately decorated cupcakes. Bestsellers include the signature Over the Moon, made of white cake with cream filling and vanilla bean frosting topped with white chocolate curls and edible glitter; Chocolate High, made of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and chocolate buttercream icing, drizzled with chocolate and topped with a chocolate candy; and Caramel Sea Salt Mocha, made of chocolate cake and mocha frosting, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt.
“A cupcake is a small indulgence,” Moon says. “You’re not going to have it sitting around the house for a week while you’re tempted to eat it. It’s a little, decadent creation—a few bites of something really wonderful, and then it’s done, and you’re not going to overeat it. Unless you buy a dozen and eat them all yourself.”
And lest anyone accuse Moon of leaving her UAB nutrition education at the kitchen door, Dreamcakes offers special sweets for vegans and others with special dietary needs. “We do a lot of gluten-free recipes for people with celiac disease and wheat allergies,” she says. “I never realized there was such a need for that, especially for little kids’ birthday parties. We had one little girl who had never had anything from a bakery. So we did her very first birthday cake, which was gluten-free. That was our best day.”