How many artists does it take to make an edible masterpiece?
And a whip.
Actually, a whip is a whisk, and the artists are Mary Katherine Dunston and Courtney Lollar, two women who have been making custom cakes for a decade apiece and who recently opened their own cakery Two Girls and a Whip in the South Main neighborhood in October.
"We deal primarily in all things cake and cake related," says Dunston, who works in the fondant medium.
Lollar is on the buttercream side of things, Swiss meringue buttercream as a matter of fact, a less sugary version of traditional icing, and between the two of them, they're a perfect match.
"Courtney does everything I don't do. We're a perfect marriage," Dunston says.
They offer custom cakes and cupcakes — think floating unicorns and fishnet wedding cakes, gourmet cakes and cupcakes, and boozy cakes and cupcakes.
Everything is divided into three categories: Basic Betties - chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, lemon, etc.; Fancy Nancies — Nutter Butter, Pay Day, Snickers, carrot, etc.; and Top Shelf Boozy Suzies — White Russian, Pina Colada, Strawberry Margarita, and Irish Carbombs — with real alcohol, y'all.
Prices range accordingly. Cakes can go anywhere from $35 to $2,600. That's a 60-hour cake we're talking about here, a version of which you can see on display in the shop.
Lollar got her start making ice cream cakes for Ben & Jerry's while a student at MCA (yet another creative transplant to Memphis thanks to the fine arts college), and Dunston made her first fondant cake on a whim to take to a party.
"It was a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet, and I screamed and cried," Dunston says. "I made my own fondant. I had no idea you could go to the cake store and buy it. I spent $150 on just the stuff to make it, and I screwed up the fondant five times."
Dunston contacted Lollar a couple of years ago about doing a dessert food truck together, and Lollar suggested opening an actual bakery.
"I was like, wow, okay, let's do that," Dunston says.
"It can be stressful, but it's fun," Lollar says.
• Tracy and Josh Burgess are opening Lucy J's Bakery in Crosstown Concourse later this year that will not only serve up pastries, pies, and other sugariness, but also provide a living wage to their employees. That's right, all employees will start out at $15 an hour.
"It's unheard of here," Tracy says. "And they will all have health benefits through the Church Health Center."
That's not all. They plan on hiring at least half of their employees from the Dorothy Day House, a nonprofit which assists families who are battling homelessness.
The Dorothy Day House, located in Midtown near the Concourse, houses three families at a time, giving them a place to live, providing job placement opportunities, and eventually finding them new furnished homes with the first month's rent covered.
The Dorothy Day House, unlike other shelters, allows the whole family to stay together.
Tracy is the director of development for the DDH, and Josh, who has a long history in the restaurant business, is the executive director of Lucy J's.
Lucy J's, named for the couple's children, Lucy and Jacob, will offer danishes, cupcakes, cakes, custom cakes, pies, breads, muffins, and other favorites, and there will be a pay-what-you-can coffee option, with all the profits going to the Dorothy Day House.