One of our rituals is Elaine’s birthday, which we celebrate during our second week at the lake, the centerpiece being a large vanilla birthday cake. Right around sunset, we gather on the deck overlooking the lake, and serve up the cake, some soft ice cream from Donnelly’s, chips and dip, and maybe a bottle of wine. If we’re lucky, we get a photograph of the three girls.
The cake is always delicious. Always. Because we get it from the world’s best baker, the lady who runs Lake Flour Bakery, and who also must be the world’s worst business person. The bakery itself is located on the main highway leading into the town of Saranac Lake, just one block before Main Street. The small white building sits across from Lake Flower, affording the apt pun in the name of the bakery. It is a perfect location.
A few years ago, however, Nancy, the baker and proprietor, went to the local Chamber of Commerce meeting. And she had a complaint. The town needed better street signs. Why? It seems that people were coming into her shop to ask directions. Which she apparently found intolerable.
Originally, the bakery was open for business, with something like reasonable business hours. But now, it is almost always closed, and Nancy has turned her baking business into a road show, hauling her delicious baked goods to Farmers Markets in the region, some 15 or 20 miles away. It is unclear why she prefers to load the goods into her van, haul it around the Adirondacks, while the bakery’s spacious, convenient parking lot remains roped-off. Better to discourage those direction-seekers, I suppose.
But, if you venture into the lot on the day of Saranac Lake’s own farmer’s market, you can find the lady herself. And, if you are feeling bold, you might ask for a few loaves of her unique sausage bread. And she will furrow her brow, look intensely confused and displeased, grit her teeth, and ask skeptically, “How many?” … “Four?” … “Well, I really want to have some for the farmers’ market in Tupper Lake, and that’s a long way, and the other day someone wanted a wedding cake decorated to look like maple leaves on it, so I had to get actual maple leaves to model the decorations, and it’s been a long day … But, I suppose, I could sell you four loaves.”
And then, pushing our luck, we order Elaine’s birthday cake. She looks at us narrowly, “I think I better get a pen and paper to write this down.” She disappears into the bakery and emerges with half a piece of eight-and-a-half by eleven paper, and begins to write down the details of the cake order. Invariably her pen has run out of ink, and we get one out of the car. “A single-layer full sheet or a double-layer half-sheet?” she asks suspiciously. “Whatever would be easier for you!” And so it goes. Finally, we negotiate the cake (not the price; her prices are quite reasonable).
And the cake really is outstanding. If you are ever in Saranac Lake on Farmers’ Market day, be sure to stop by Lake Flour Bakery, but just don’t trespass any other time.