For 59 years, Dave Rich’s family has owned a food-related business on South 27th Street. Since 1994, he has managed Rich’s House of Cakes, 4353 S. 27th St., a made-from-scratch cake business known for its incredible, top-secret icing.
However, the business originated as a fine dining restaurant called Rich’s Tip Top owned by Rich’s uncle. It was later bought out by The Chancery and moved to its current location, 4624 S. 27th St.
Last summer, the family opened a second location in Waukesha at 821 Meadowbrook Rd. Also called Rich’s House of Cakes, it’s operated by Rich’s sister, Sandy Wicklund.
At both locations, Rich’s cakes are 100 percent home made. They use real fruit, whole fruit and the business focuses entirely on cakes.
“We’re all-scratch, no bags, no boxes,” says Rich. “None of our layers are ordered from New York six months ago. We don’t sell donuts or breads. We’re all cakes.”
The “frosting” on the cakes is actually a light, fluffy cream that is not super heavy or sugary. This is appealing to people who find bakery frosting to be excessively sweet and it keeps customers returning to Rich’s.
“The cream recipe was formulated in the ‘70s. And since then, there have been a lot of copycats, but none of them hold up to ours, in my opinion,” says Rich.
Will he divulge the cream-frosting formula?
“Absolutely not,” he says.
Rich says he has made cakes for as long as he can remember. “I have memories of pots and cake pans from when I was five or six,” he says.
Today, his 13-year-old son helps with deliveries. “We’re hoping he continues with this, but I think he might be smarter than me and might do something even better,” says Rich.
Rich’s cake sales are 50 percent for weddings and 50 percent for just about any other occasion. Rich’s has a cooler with about 80 pre-made cakes, but most of their cakes are custom designed.
“You don’t pick something out of a book here,” he says.
Rich does 80 percent of the cake decorating himself. Most of the cakes are simple, with scripty writing and silk flowers, but they will create a cake with just about anything on it or in just about any shape. They have 20 different shapes on hand, but can custom sculpt almost anything from cake.
Rich’s asks people to call ahead about three weeks before a large event requiring a custom-designed cake, but only three days for a regular birthday cake.
Some of the most popular cake shapes these days are purses, animals, baby booties, Mickey Mouse and two-tiered cakes of any kind.
“If you can dream it, we can probably design it,” he says.
They also make character cakes – they sell a variety of character cake toppers in the shop – and they make popular two-tiered birthday cakes as well.
Rich says he has made multiple 20-layer cakes before, but the largest cake he ever baked was three years ago, when he and a few of his employees made a 5-foot-by-9-foot square cake to celebrate Greenfield’s 50th anniversary. Rich believes the multi-flavored cake was the largest cake ever made in southeastern Wisconsin.
“We had three people cutting it, one on each end and one in the middle,” he says.
Most Rich’s cakes, however are 8, 10, 12 or 14 inches. Prices range quite a bit depending on the amount of customizing needed for the cake. They are more expensive, in general, than a grocery store cake, but have a completely different taste thanks to the cream topping.
Even though weddings, birthdays and funerals are the most common cake-eating events, Rich says he encourages people to buy a cake for any occasion.
“I tell people you can celebrate with a cake before you were born and after you’re gone and for anything in between,” he says. “Every occasion deserves a cake.”