The sweet life on Summit Street

Written by Kathy Weiss

Photos by Reggie Morrow

Craving something sweet, rich and edible? Close your eyes and think warm, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies ... a thick slice of moist, lemony citrus-glazed poppy seed bread ... or luscious multi-layered carrot cake petit fours piped with a little orange carrot on top.

Have a hankering for happy food? Line up for scrumptious, colorful hand-decorated Christmas cookies or that nostalgia-inducing iconic confection — the cupcake, prettied up with piped butter cream icing and a raspberry flower.

Such is the sweet life on Summit Street at Deluxe Cakes & Pastries, the retro-style, kitchy-cool neighborhood destination where pastry chef Jamie Powers stirs, mixes, whips and blends her way through the most irresistible treats, and then fills, frosts, dusts and sprinkles them to perfection.

From early morning to late afternoon, bells on the shop door jingle as patrons come and go, toting coffee, scones, pastries and muffins or a highly prized one-of-a-kind creation, be it a signature box of cookies for classmates at school, a sophisticated seven-layer birthday cake or the cutest cupcakes for a child's party, sure to bring smiles all around.

Inspired by the famous sweet shops of New York City, Jamie opened the bakery four years ago after serving as a pastry chef in Denver at the esteemed Wolfgang Puck restaurant, the five-star Brown Palace Hotel and a European-style mom-and-pop pastry shop named Gateaux Bakery.

"Once I hit the Brown Palace, I knew I had hit the real culinary world," she recalled recently. "It was tough," she said, turning out all the desserts and petit fours for high tea. "I had to be fast, efficient and quality based."

When Jamie and her husband, Jason, a family practice physician, decided to return to Iowa City to be closer to family, she put out a flier advertising her services and made wedding cakes and cookies out of her home. "It just took off," she said of her business, which prompted her husband to eventually suggest that she take the leap and open her own storefront bakery. That she did just two blocks from home.

Since then, business has been, well, a piece of cake.

As a matter of fact, employees wear that very expression on the back of their shirts. Still, there's not a lot of time to sit back and marvel at their dazzling creations.

"You have to be on your feet and time things, and time your whole day," Jamie says. "I like all that - it's a challenge. It's always the pace of the season and it gets to me. It's the pace of life. I can't not think about making good things for people."

This season, fans and foodies can indulge in her usual repertoire of freshly-baked morning pastries drizzled with glaze, caramel sticky buns dotted with pecans or fresh, fruity raspberry scones and muffins. "People go bonkers over our sticky buns," Jamie shares, as she puts the finishing touch on a milk chocolate mousse birthday cake in the kitchen. Nearby, employee Mary Simmons, who Jamie calls the "heart strings" of the bakery, dips squirrel-shaped sugar cookies into icing and the two discuss what's next: Rolling out chocolate tart shells.

"Everything here is made with the finest ingredients - fresh butter, cream, sugar," adds the pastry chef, who makes no excuses for those seeking a low-fat alternative. "I feel that you can splurge on a wholesome treat and just cut back in other areas."

This season's holiday menu features desserts worthy of center-of-the-table status like her double butter crust apple pie, pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream, decadent Jack Daniel's chocolate pecan tart and festive holiday cakes with layers of rich mousse filling dressed in Swiss butter cream icing, chocolate ganache or smooth, elegant fondant. Double yum.

"I try to do things that set me apart from other bakers and moms who want to do it at home," she says. At a time when few things are made by hand, Jamie has carved a niche for herself. Judging by the steady flow of customers in the middle of a sunny, fall afternoon, she's doing her community a great service.

"I am really excited about creating a neighborhood place where people can go," she acknowledges with a smile, spatula in hand. "Every neighborhood should have that."