Until now, finding healthier or gluten-free options in Amsterdam’s cafés and coffee shops was a like looking for a needle in a hay stack. I felt like Amsterdam was running a bit behind compared to other European capitals. But not anymore! You can now find gluten-free and refined sugar-free cakes in several cafés thanks to Alexandra’s Zoet.
I regularly see Alexandra’s cakes selling like hot cakes in my neighborhood’s coffee shop. I actually prefer indulging in one of her cakes rather than in a regular cake: not because of it’s gluten-free or added sugar-free; just because they simply taste better than the regular cakes! Her banana cake for example is very filling, has just the right amount of sweetness and softness. Unlike regular cakes, it doesn’t leave me with a sugar rush and mood swings, but satisfy my craving as well as my appetite.
I really wanted to know the woman behind the cakes, so I contacted Alexandra for a short interview which she kindly accepted! So here it is:
How did Alexandra’s Zoet all begin?
As a kid I used to visit my Italian grandmother every summer holiday: I learned early on how to prepare simple, healthy food. Cooking has always been something that comes naturally. Friends used to ask why I didn’t do anything with food as a living, but I was raised with parents that were doctors, so they expected me to study and that what I did. I studied health sciences. After my studies I worked as a health scientist, but I always knew I wanted to start my own business. In the meanwhile I became the mother of two beautiful daughters. When I went out for a coffee with my kids, there were no healthier cakes in any café. Everything was full of sugar. I saw around me other mothers struggling with the same problem.
One day one of the owners of the café chain ‘Coffee Company’ [a kind of Dutch Starbucks] asked me if I had time to make a cheesecake (regular cheesecake, with sugar). Although I wasn’t fond of these kinds of cakes I said ‘yes’ and they loved it. Without noticing it, I started to make more and more cakes. After a couple of months I worked 14, 15, 16 hours a day with my own oven at home. But in my mind, I knew I wanted to make a switch and make healthier cakes.
So I started to develop cakes without white sugar and/or gluten and offered them along my ‘regular’ cakes. And slowly I developed more and more clients in Amsterdam & Haarlem, selling my cakes to other coffee shops and cafés.
How did you convince your clients to give the ‘healthier’ cakes a try?
Well, I didn’t really had to convince people. I just gave them the option for cakes with or without sugar and gluten. And it turned out that their customers appreciate having that choice. I’ve never forced or pushed the healthier cake demand in any way, things just happened naturally.
How does a typical day look like?
Owning a business like this is not only baking. Its funny sometimes if I tell people what my business is, they immediately ask me: so you’re baking the whole day? Well, no, it’s much more then that: acquisition, organizing everything well so my clients get their cakes in time, accounting, making sure things that went wrong are being solved, thinking about how to grow, public relations, marketing, networking, so many things to think about and to do.
I invent the cakes and try them out, but now I’ve found some really good people who do the production. I have too many clients to still bake from my oven at home! I still bring the cakes to my clients, because I find it important to maintain a great relationship. They tell me exactly what they like and what not and I find this information very important to get better and better.
What are the main challenges running a small business?
There are so many things to do and think about. Almost every night I wake up with ideas! When I started I used to say yes to everything and I was running around like crazy. I almost got a burn-out, so I decided to make some choices. What’s really important and what’s not. I want to go step by step and not grow too fast.
What are your future plans for Alexandra’s Zoet?
Start making wedding cakes and birthday cakes without sugar. Focus on companies in addition to bars and cafés. I also want to give workshops about baking cakes without sugar. I would love to write more about my passion in different magazines. And I would love to make my own cooking book and talk to everybody about health, cooking and good food!
You can buy Alexandra’s cakes in the following cafés in Amsterdam and Haarlem:
Amsterdam, Bar Bukowski, Oosterpark 10
Amsterdam, Café Finch, Noordermarkt 5H
Amsterdam, Café Fonteyn, Nieuwmarkt 15
Amsterdam, Café Maxwell, Beukenplein 27
Amsterdam, Café Wolvenstraat, Wolvenstraat 23
Amsterdam, Coffee Company, Rijnstraat 32
Amsterdam, Coffee Company, Oude Doelenstraat 11
Amsterdam, Coffee Company, Javaplein 14
Amsterdam, O’reilly’s irish Pub, Paleisstraat 103-105
Amsterdam, Tarwegras Koning, Roelof Hartstraat 10
Amsterdam, Van Deale, Paleisstraat 101
Haarlem, Coffee-star, Gasthuisstraat 32
Haarlem, Zaamen, Nieuwe Gracht 3
And also online: http://alexandraszoet.ordermonkey.nl
Alexandra’s Zoet website: alexandrazoet.nl