Jocelyn Pierce has built her Rockport company just like the best desserts: from scratch.
“This cake tastes pretty!” the teenage girl declared, after a moment of silence that followed her first fork of Mayflour Cake + Confection’s lavender cake with honey-buttercream frosting.
Jocelyn Pierce, 37, Mayflour’s owner and baker, believes that cakes — even wedding cakes — should be made with the best quality ingredients, sourced as locally as possible and as organically as possible. Fresh flowers tumble from the frosted tiers — no unnecessary ornament in sight.
The Mayflour style reflects Pierce’s absolute commitment to seasonality and simplicity — a style that has won hearts, customers, and even awards.
Boston Magazine annointed Mayflour with its 2016 coveted “Best Wedding Cake” award. Brides, Martha Stewart, Edible Boston, and the online magazine Style Me Pretty, have each showered praise upon Mayflour like guests tossing birdseed on the just-married.
Gone are the days when plates bearing wedges of wedding cake are returned to the caterer, untouched.
“We believe every celebration is better with a dessert that tastes as good as it looks,” Pierce declares.
No wasted slices here. Imagine layers of rosemary and lemon cake, soaked with champagne, served with champagne buttercream. Or a bride and groom cutting into vanilla layers filled with fresh strawberries, and frosted with honey buttercream.
For her brother’s wedding last summer, Pierce created his favorite: chocolate layers with alternating fillings of bittersweet chocolate ganache and hazelnut paste, all frosted in chocolate buttercream.
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Mayflour cakes have become the “it” dessert for twentysomething Bostonians to serve at their weddings. Not bad for a tiny bakery in a way-off-the-beaten path nook in Rockport. Home Sweet Home for the woman who makes Brahmin weddings naturally artful.
Born and raised in Newton, Mass., Jocelyn Pierce has always loved baking. But the celebratory power of desserts didn’t come clear to her until she created her first wedding cake for a friend. “It was a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting ... four layers, with white chocolate curls on top.” And still one of her most popular wedding choices. “The dudes love the carrot cake,” Pierce says, smiling.
In her early 30s, Pierce was working as a store designer at Crate & Barrel when she sensed the beginnings of a new food movement, and saw an opportunity to carve out her own niche.
“I was seeing all these great things happening with food — simplifying and focusing on seasonality and the quality of the ingredients. But I wasn’t seeing it happening with baked goods or desserts. Edible Boston was well established at that point, and was a publication I poured over — all the small makers, and farm-to-table food — it was something I was really passionate about. But I was not seeing as much of these elements with cake, especially in the wedding industry.”
Pierce began to sense her place: wedding cakes as loyal to the principles of quality, seasonality, and simplicity as their ingredient list. For validation and inspiration, she turned to two magazines that have defined the trend towards simplicity.
“I had always devoured Martha Stewart Living. When I became more focused on wedding cakes, prior to making my career change, I certainly looked to her and appreciated that there was always an elegance to the cakes she featured.”
“Kinfolk, a lifestyle magazine built on the idea of less stuff, better stuff, more natural stuff — sort of a Martha Stewart Living for millennials — came on the scene the year before I left for pastry school. It was absolutely an inspiration, and also an affirmation that the aesthetic I was envisioning: an organic simplicity. It was definitely what people were looking for in every area of art and design.”
At the same time, Pierce began following Maggie Austin, an haute cake designer creating ephemeral wedding cakes so adroit, so lyrical, so exquisite that they can only be classified as Art. Austin was trained at the French Pastry School in Chicago. Inspired, Pierce said au revoir to Crate & Barrel and bonjour to L’Art du Gateau, a four-month professional cake baking and decorating program at the same school.
Graduating with high honors, Pierce mastered the precision of petit-fours, chocolate work, spun sugar, and genoise. She triumphed over the weight-bearing powers of fondant and “cakes that looked like stiletto heels.”
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Pierce knew from the start that her own business model would make local sourcing and sustainability a priority. She combined her classical French pastry lessons with this philosophy and its consequential aesthetic. Buttercream, ganaches, and naturally-flavored frostings replaced fondant, because they just taste better. Deliciousness comes first. Waste is not part of the model.
The choice to build her business on Cape Ann was an easy one for two reasons: Pierce had friends here — like small business owners Jon Conant of Crossfit Cape Ann and Jenny Davis at Second Wind Sails — and because its natural beauty makes Cape Ann a very popular destination for weddings.
“Most of my clients are from the city, in and around Boston, but they get married up here. There are so many beautiful venues on the North Shore — I knew I wouldn’t be traveling far for events.”
But ﬁnding herself a kitchen for baking cakes — along with the haystack macaroons, the classic Breton canneles, and lavender shortbread cookies for which Mayflour has also become renowned — proved difficult.
“My original goal was to find an existing kitchen space to rent, but those are few and far between around here. After about a year of looking and not finding anything, I started looking for affordable spaces that I could build out. I found the space at Whistlestop Mall in Rockport — the size and rent were right — and it was really a blank slate.”
Once Pierce realized she would be working out of her own kitchen space rather than sharing a commercial kitchen, she was looking at much larger start up costs.
“I used my own savings for the renovations including plumbing, electrical, carpentry, flooring, and then launched a Kickstarter campaign which helped cover the cost of most of my appliances and equipment — and was so crucial to launching the business. I couldn’t have done it without all the pledges I received, which mostly came from family, friends, and people here in our local community.”
Today, Mayflour creates those award-winning layers in their Rockport kitchen tucked — with heavy irony — directly behind a Dunkin’ Donuts. The kitchen looks like a page from her cherished Martha Stewart magazine: industrial chic with some soft edges, like white enameled stools for client meetings.
“It’s been wonderful to have my own space to work in and host clients for tastings and meetings. It has allowed for continued growth and given me a place within the local community.
“I run the kitchen as sustainably as I can. I share with someone else (Nectar & Green, makers of small batch organic almond milk, also uses the space). I work with Black Earth Composting. I compost and recycle almost 90 percent of our waste. I almost never empty a trash bag!”
Pierce sources her eggs from Seven Acres Farm in North Reading, Mass., her honey from Tomten Beeworks, in Ipswich, her coffee from Equal Exchange, in Boston, her salt from Atlantic Saltworks, in Gloucester, Cape Cod Lavender Farm, in Harwich, Mass., to use in her special buttercream, and her berries and carrots from various local farms.
And she still gets excited about weddings.
“I couldn’t pick a favorite North Shore wedding venue. I love The Crane Estate — it’s breathtaking, and there are now two separate spaces there: The Great House, of course, has the view, but lower down is the Barn, which still has a beautiful view, but of marshes. Willowdale Estate in Topsfield is wonderful. Glen Magna Farms in Danvers has a dreamy garden. I’ve created cakes for weddings at Moraine Farm, Misselwood at Endicott College, and the Tupper Manor in Beverly Farms. One of my favorite weddings ever was at the Maritime Heritage Center in Gloucester.
“But I’ve even seen wonderful weddings at CK Pearl in Essex — an Essex couple who were married on the beach and then had a Sunday brunch reception for 30 at the restaurant. Even Short & Main has hosted weddings upstairs. My very first wedding ever was at the Rockport Art Association. There are endless beautiful spaces here.”
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Pierce has made herself a life on Cape Ann. “I’m a big walker. I live in East Gloucester, and love walking out my door to the back shore. I love Halibut Point and Crane’s Beach. I have a lot of friends up here in the food and restaurant industry. One of my favorite things to do is have breakfast at The Market on a quiet weekday. My favorite place to meet a friend for coffee is at the Willow Rest. I love their baby lettuce salad, and their BLT, but I always add avocado. I love the rice bowl at Superfine. The burger at Halibut Point. And Brother’s Brew donuts!
“Living here, being a business owner, I can’t imagine doing anything else. There are so many like-minded farmers, small-business owners, and makers who share the same goals. The kind of businesses we want to be: thoughtful, aware of environmental impact and sourcing, sustainability, and who we are working with. I feel very well supported.
“I honestly can’t imagine my life any other way — we live in this gorgeous place with such an amazing community of people. It feels more like home than anywhere else I’ve lived.”
✹ Mayflour Cake + Confections, 1 Whistlestop Mall, Rockport. Email for appointments.
Heather Atwood is the managing editor of TheOtherCape. Mark Spooner is a Beverly-based photographer who specializes in weddings.