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The Connecticut Muffin: an unassuming little coffee shop that we all must thank for the delectable creations we can’t live without. Before the ginger snaps and twixters and lemon clouds and salted caramel cheesecakes, there was a girl who thought culinary school wasn’t the cool thing to do right out of high school.
“I went to college in California and struggled and struggled,” Stacy Kucy says. “Finally, after three years I decided it just wasn’t for me and moved back to Connecticut.” Needing a job while she considered her options, she started working at Connecticut Muffin. “It kind of changed everything,” she says. From the coffee shop, Kucy applied to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and was accepted. Her studies were directed to the baking and pastry program which became a launching point after graduating.
“The first job I got after school was to be working underneath a pastry chef,” she says. “But on the first day, there was no chef…it was me. I was the pastry chef.” And while that may appeal to some, Kucy was looking for a learning opportunity and to work within the industry with experienced chefs as she found her footing.
That opportunity came with a call to come work in Santa Fe at the Coyote Café. Here she was able to work with and learn from Andrew McLachlan, an author and former pastry chef at Charlie Trotter. It was also here that an aspiring chef named Gary Kucy started frequenting the pastry department. “I am sure he had a pickup line but I honestly don’t remember what it was,” she laughs.
Kucy would spend five years at the Coyote Café before moving with Gary to Jackson Hole. While the opportunity was great, she had another ski town in mind. “I really wanted to move to McCall,” says Kucy. “My family has owned a place on the lake since the 1930s so I have been coming here since I was a baby. It just always felt like home.” At the time, Gary had never been to McCall, but they made the move – only to discover there were not a lot of job prospects at the time.
“That first year was crazy,” says Kucy. “I got pregnant with our son and started doing a little pop-up bakery table at the Farmers Market.” What started out as a simple card table with a few gingersnaps quickly grew into a cult following. Fast forward several years and Stacey Cakes had outgrown the Farmers Market. “I had always dreamed of owning my own bakery,” she says, “and it felt like now was the time.”
That was twelve years ago, and Stacey Cakes is still baking up a storm. “I feel so fortunate,” she says. “Not only with the support of the community but with the people who I get to work with.”
About five years ago, Kucy’s dad shared a letter she had written to them when she had decided that college wasn’t for her. “I basically told them that I was moving back home, I wanted to go to culinary school, and my dream was to live in McCall and own a bakery,” she says. And she did it. Thanks to a kick from a little coffee shop in Connecticut and the courage to follow a dream.
Honestly, I love chocolate chip cookies. They are my classics. I probably have chocolate chip cookie dough every single day.
BUTTER. In the summer Stacey Cakes will go through 240 pounds of butter every week.
I like Mexican food a lot, but we did just get a pizza oven, so we have been really experimenting with that and having a lot of fun.
My mom baked all the time, and I was definitely in the kitchen baking with her. The lemon cloud is actually a variation on a recipe my mom used to make. I do remember that one of the first things I baked in culinary school was a cake. I hated the way it turned out so I just threw it in the garbage and started over. I did that a lot in the beginning – it had to be exactly right!