Jane Lockhart – Sweet Lady Jane Bakery

Interview by Kristin Livingston

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KRISTIN: Hello everyone, and thank you for tuning in to watch Weddinc TV. My name is Kristin and I am here with the world renowned Mrs. Jane Lockhart, the owner and founder of Sweet Lady Jane Bakery. How are you?

JANE: I am doing well, thank you, and how about you?

KRISTIN: I am doing well. Thank you for taking this time today to spend with us.

KRISTIN: First things first, we have got to know! Sweet Lady Jane is such a perfect name for your business. Where did it originate? We know there is a story there…

JANE: There is a story there, but it surprises everyone when I tell them. It basically came around when I was a child. I was very *neat* and had an uncle that called me “Lady Jane” through my years growing up. So when I started to bake, I thought for about two minutes, and thought, “What am I going to call this business?” Everyone loves the name and the logo. It is just very catchy, so it works for us.

KRISTIN: In your earliest memory, who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration for becoming a world class baker?

JANE: My biggest inspiration really was homemade *1:23* from aunts and my mom. My mom really wasn’t a great baker, but she always said my grandmother, her mother, had been, and so she used to joke and say to me it was in my genes. But, my aunts were living and they did make some wonderful baked good,s and I always preferred that taste to what was commercial taste, you know from the bakeries that you tasted as a kid.

KRISTIN: Thinking back to when you first started your business from home, can you describe what your setting was like back then?

JANE: There was no industrial oven, no industrial mixer. I had a little 5’ 4” mixer. I could make one cake at a time. I could make one batch of cookies, one carrot cake, one cheesecake, and it was very slow going because once I started getting all the orders from the restaurants, I knew I had hours of baking. During Hollywood Bowl season there was one place that was ordering a lot, and they would give me their order by 5 pm the night before and I knew I had at least 8 hours of work.

KRISTIN: Wow! That is dedication.

JANE: It really was. it really was. There were times where I thought I couldn’t do this anymore because I was working a regular job as well, but my husband was very supportive and kept saying, “If you are going to stay in this profession, it is a good thing to keep these restaurants going.” And 26 years later, here is the bakery.

KRISTIN: So, tell us how you went from being an out-of-home bakery to what Sweet Lady Jane is today.

JANE: Well actually this place that I am referring to is … on Sunset Boulevard, and they were very popular at the time. They did a lot for the Hollywood Bowl – desserts, food – and I was the dessert supplier. I also went to local restaurants all over the West Hollywood area and from there, I had a partner when we first opened who enabled me, us, to build the store together. He was with us for about four years, but he decided he wanted to go on and do something else. I would say this business really grew from word of mouth. Before we knew it, the LA Times had written us up in the first year and you know, that puts you on the map, then it really just grew every year. We were very fortunate to have the quality, and that takes a lot of work, so it wasn’t really luck. I just applied myself to that total concept of embracing that I had to be the best.

KRISTIN: Playing around with ingredients and tweaking recipes is another one of your special talents. Do you confine yourself to measuring utensils?

JANE:

“I have found that baking is more of a science. When you play around, you are experimenting more or less with flavors”.

With stew, you can go up to the pot, taste it, and say this needs a little more salt, a little more garlic. With cake you can’t go into the oven and go, “Oops! I have to throw in a little more sugar.” What I developed was my palate of not making things overly sweet. So, if it is chocolate, I like the chocolate to stand out. If it has fruit in it, I like the fruit to stand out.

KRISTIN: Can you describe the most difficult cakes you have made design-wise?

JANE: Well there have been several, but one of the wedding cakes that had gone up to Napa Valley. It was six tiers, and it was in the Fall, so we took the tiers there and I had to set it up, but it turned out that everybody kept moving around, so we finished up outside… in the cold… in October… trying to pipe buttercream out of a bag that was getting colder and colder and colder. My husband was my cheer-leading squad saying, “One more dot! One more pearl!” – that was one of them. But, through the years we have had, you know, off the wall projects. Like we made a giant Big Mac for McDonald’s years ago. That went to the original site of where they introduced the Big Mac. Recently we did Dr Phil’s … iconic chair that he sits in. And, for Charles Barkley – who never got a ring, you know he was on winning teams, but he never got the championship – for the All Star game, we made a giant ring for Charles Barkley. We have had a lot of fun over the years.

KRISTIN: Are there any desserts that you have kept close to your heart? Any recipes that you have decided should stay a family secret?

JANE: Well, I have shared family recipes, but there is one recipe that is very near and dear to my heart. It was something I loved as a child. Because I didn’t like overly sweet things, my aunt used to bake a delicious butter cookie, which sounds very simple, but it was from her husband’s side of the family, so it was a Hungarian recipe. When we opened, I turned it into our Linzer cookie, which is actually two cookies with a hole in the center. We put a delicious, imported, raspberry [filling] in the center –that one is very special to me. When I want a cup of coffee or a cup of tea, that is my go to.

KRISTIN: Now we have all read recipes and thought, “Wow! It calls for that?” Can you tell us one ingredient you use that may come as a complete surprise to non-bakers?

JANE: Well lately, and it is not just me, but we have introduced sea salt. It tops one of our brownies. We make a brownie with walnuts, and we have for many years, but I would say in the last year and a half, I introduced a sea salt brownie and you just add a pinch of sea salt on the top. With the sweetness of the chocolate, it is a wonderful contrast.

KRISTIN: How did you discover that trick?

JANE: You see things around. I saw caramel, a sea salt caramel, but I decided to use it on the brownie.

KRISTIN: Oh, and we want to tell you congratulations on your new line in Trader Joes and the Costco account this year, as well as opening two new stores! What’s next?

JANE: Well, the two new stores are going to be big for us. One will be in Encino and the other in Corona Del Mar off Pacific Coast Highway, so they will be our newest challenge. We are also looking to spread the name, Sweet Lady Jane, nationally. So, we have our Just Jane line, which is in Costco, Ralph’s, Gelson’s, and Bristol Farms, but we are trying to spread the line back east so we can become a national brand.

KRISTIN: Well I am sure that is on its way with your new found motion with Oprah. Why don’t you talk about that for a second?

JANE: We are hoping to do some more Oprah, but years ago I was on her show when she did a celebrity entertainment wedding segment. Recently, we went on Access Hollywood. Jackson came into the bakery, she is engaged, so she came in and said we are going to do her wedding cake. We also did the Beverly Hills House Wives, two of their reality episodes. One most recently with Lisa Rinna, she was ordering a birthday cake. And … we delivered a beautiful birthday cake [for Lisa] two days later. And, the other one was one of the other gals, Vanderpump, I think her name was Lisa, too. She was ordering a custom cake. It is fun because once you are in the Hollywood world, people do come after you. Quincy Jones  –we have done cakes for her too!

KRISTIN: And, just for fun, if you were entered into a baking competition and had to make one dessert that would appeal to taste buds around the world, what one dessert would that be?

JANE: You would think, “Everybody loves fruit, everybody loves chocolate”, but not everybody does. I love peanut butter, but some people say, “No, no.  I can’t do peanut butter.” But, I do think there is one dessert that does appeal to most because it is light on the mocha, light on the chocolate, and that really, to me, is the perfect dessert to serve  –and, that is Tiramisu. I think it appeals to everyone because it has a little bit of everything. It’s got a richness about it. The custard, it’s soft, almost like an ice cream, and yet its got that great pick-me-up. I think that is the kind of dessert I like to do because it appeals to a lot of people.

KRISTIN: As soon as you said mocha and chocolate, I thought, “Tiramisu! That is my favorite dessert!”

KRISTIN: Well there you have it. If you would like to find out more about Jane, visit sweetladyjane.com.

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