A well-known caterer who handles Masters week parties for clients such as Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobile and Comcast South, Very Vera completes more than half its business during the holidays.
Owner Vera Stewart has to back a refrigerated truck up to her loading dock in the Augusta Business Center to handle the holiday orders.
“It’s just lined with cakes,” said Retail Sales and Café Manager Kyle Gailor, 21, who also pointed to the company’s in-house units. “This is usually lined to the brim.”
Customers ship layer cakes, such as the best selling red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, to relatives across the country. Parents ship pound cakes, such as chocolate chip, to their enlisted military sons and daughters across the world, and each year, the customers come back. Ninety percent of December orders are from previous clients.
I found out why when Gailor said, “I cut a slice of coconut cream cake just for you.” Oh, Kyle, my new best friend, cutting a piece of the cake that reminds me of my great-grandmother’s Sunday dinners. God bless Mama Ida, but Very Vera’s moist, creamy cake beat hers to pieces. My childhood memory of the Best Cake Ever was destroyed.
Delivery desserts are a far cry from Stewart’s own kitchen, where she began her catering business in 1984. Twenty years later, the Web site driven mail-order division accounts for 60 percent of her business and has been featured in Southern Living, InStyle magazine and Gourmet.
Cakes are handmade and shipped overnight or second-day in custom-made tins packed in specially made boxes, all of which are designed to fit the precise proportions of the cakes that emerge from the wall of ovens in Very Vera’s industrial kitchen.
“So basically you can send a cake from our door to your parents’ house in Indianapolis and it won’t show up all beaten up,” Gailor said, while demonstrating the ease with which cakes lift in and out of the container.
Cakes eat so much of the business that their lovely café closes for the entire month of December – which is four Fridays too many without their seafood bisque. The café is a cheerful checkerboard combination of tables and display cases, ith a menu that utilizes many of the same flavors available through the catering arm of the business.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Gailor said, “Kind of like you’re in your friend’s grandmother’s kitchen.”
That includes their signature cranberry almond chicken salad, a BLT that features jalapeño bacon and a pecan crusted chicken salad topped with dried cranberries. Sides include a flavorful derby pasta salad with feta cheese and asparagus, a baked potato salad and a broccoli salad with
bacon and raisins.
A warm and filling choice for lunch is the café’s four-cheese quiche, topped with the flavor of the day. The shrimp and Parmesan is a fan favorite, but hold out for Gailor’s choice: praline pecan and ham.
“It doesn’t sound like it would go together, but it really does,” he said.
Children’s meals include the classics PB&J and grilled cheese, but a great addition is the “snack” plate with sliced ham, sliced cheese and nuts.
All children’s meals come with fresh fruit and a cookie. Of course the cafe carries their delectable cakes by the slice, including strawberry layer
cake, the Neapolitan layer cake, and the classic chocolate layer cake.
March’s cake of the month is the unique and addictive Bailey’s Irish Cream cake with cream cheese frosting — just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
Best of all, just like in your grandmother’s kitchen, you’re liable to make some friends here.
“Here, it’s the same people who come in every day,” Gailor said. “So much of my clientele is loyal.”
Very Vera is at 3113 Washington Road Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, go to http://www.veryvera.com.