Mitchell couple charts new journey with Michelle’s Mad Batter, offers 'taste of Charleston'
What started as an online bakery business with Michelle Kalan taking custom orders for cakes, macarons and other desserts has now blossomed into a full fledged bakery in downtown Mitchell
MITCHELL — From the moment she made her first Harry Potter-inspired cupcake in high school, baking became Michelle Kalan’s escape and an avenue to express her emotions.
Little did she know, her passion for dessert baking would lead her on a journey to Charleston, South Carolina — a coastal city revered for its rich variety of restaurants and bakeries — where she developed her skills for a few years and met her husband, Blake Kalan.
Michelle has brought the Charleston flavor and her signature desserts to downtown Mitchell with her new bakery, Michelle’s Mad Batter.
“I had a lot of health issues, and this is my escape. It started with butterbeer cupcakes from Harry Potter,” Michelle said of her early years of learning the art of baking. “My goal was to bring Charleston here.”
After finishing culinary school in South Carolina, Michelle started working in some of Charleston’s renowned bakeries like Kaminskey’s Dessert Cafe and gained a wealth of baking knowledge.
As she was honing her skills in the East Coast city, the pandemic hit. And baking suddenly “wasn’t fun anymore,” she said. Gone were the days of spending most of her time in the kitchen whipping up macarons, cheesecakes and an assortment of desserts. Instead, she was pigeon-holed to a limited menu and spent most of her time delivering desserts due to the coronavirus restrictions that upended the restaurant world.
“It took the fun out of it completely. You had to have a set menu with only a few things. I was packaging things and delivering more than I was baking,” she said.
Michelle and her husband decided to pack their bags and head to Mitchell to start a new life together.
When the Kalans moved to Mitchell during the pandemic, Michelle had no intentions of baking for customers other than friends. But that quickly changed when word of her tasty desserts spread throughout Mitchell and an influx of area residents began reaching out to her for custom orders.
While working a full-time job at a local bank, Michelle spent nights in the kitchen, preparing orders that continuously grew by day. As the revenue she was making from the growing list of custom orders started to outdo her paychecks from her full-time job, Michelle and Blake were getting the itch to take on a full-fledged business. And in January, Michelle’s Mad Batter made its first transition from a home kitchen to a downtown Mitchell storefront.
“I started taking orders for people I knew, and it got to where I was accepting a lot of orders. I thought, ‘This is fun again.’ It got to the point where I was working a 40-hour job and working all night to get my orders done,” she said. “I was making more money after work than I was at my full-time job. So I thought I needed to make a choice here, and I quit to do baking full-time at my house.”
With the strong support of her husband, who is also a baker, and parents, Jay and Deanna Wempe, Michelle took her leap of faith into opening her very own bakery at 123 E. Third Ave. in a storefront that recently became vacant.
The nerves that came on the grand opening day for the young couple were met with relief, as the desserts sold out within five hours.
Among the desserts Michelle perfected over the years, her macarons especially stand out. Although learning the art of macaron-making didn’t come easy, the circular-shaped sandwich cookies with meringue-based filling have become a Michelle’s Mad Batter signature dessert.
A customer review on Facebook lauded the macarons as “To. Die. For!” Another review dubbed Michelle’s Mad Batter items as the “Literally the best baked goods I’ve ever had.”
“They are very finicky. You always have to change something because the environment might be off. If it’s raining outside, you have to completely change the time in the oven,” Michelle said of the finite details that go into making her macarons.
Along with the macarons, Michelle’s menu primarily consists of gourmet cookies, ranging from Fruity Pebbles to Cinnamon Toast Crunch-inspired flavors, cheesecake, cupcakes, cakes and homemade pop tarts.
“Literally, everything in here is made from scratch. We pride ourselves on that,” said Blake, one of the pastry chefs behind some of the desserts.
Transforming downtown store into bakery
During their search for a physical location that hit some snags, they learned of a vacancy at the former Cornerstone Coffee in downtown Mitchell.
“We had no idea this space was going to be available, and within a month of learning it would be available we signed a lease. It has the windows. I thought, ‘It will have the feel I’m looking for,’ and it’s double the space we were going to have,” Michelle said of the downtown storefront.
With a lease signed, the construction portion to transform the corner store into the bakery was the next step, which turned out to be a six-month process led by Michelle’s dad, husband and contractors.
“This place was completely gutted, and we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us to make this look the way it does now. It couldn’t have turned out better,” Blake said.
A self-described perfectionist, Michelle’s attention to detail can be seen in every corner of her bakery. From the perfectly symmetrical shapes of her macarons to the organized presentation of her desserts in the display case, Michelle said the “smallest details” can make a “big difference” in the bakery realm.
Every feature in the bakery was done by design. The open space was intended to allow for a more “free feeling environment,” along with providing space for pop up shops.
“We want this to be a place for everyone. Whether a student doing homework, parents taking kids for desserts, having coffee and macarons, you name it,” Blake said. “The support from the community has been amazing, and we want to give that back with the way we do business.”