Richard and April Wysocki moved to Minnesota in 1989 with a tasty mission in mind. April Wysocki hails from Chicago, the couple had lived in New Jersey while April attended New York’s Culinary Institute of America, and they had even done a stint in Dallas. With a food-centric background and a love for serving others through beautiful, tasty eats, no matter their zip code, the Midwestern move gave the Wysockis an opportunity to stake a claim in Minnesota’s culinary scene.
“We looked at the lay of the land and what Minnesota already had to offer; I really wanted to take a small home and create a culinary destination,” says April Wysocki. After getting settled and researching what other bakers and restaurants were doing in the area, they bought a fixer-upper home on Willow Drive in Long Lake in 1995 for the site of their new bakery.
“I wanted a place that reminded people of home—I hoped they’d come in and enjoy the smell of someone baking something fresh,” says Wysocki. The pair gutted the house and added an industrial kitchen so they could bake from-scratch delicacies like special-occasion cakes and cookies. A decade later, they added a café, where visitors could stay and enjoy a meal or a slice of cake in a charming dining room overlooking their private garden.
From the beginning, the Wysockis have had an eye on their “Minnesota nice” community and wanted to give visitors a special, personal experience, even beyond the business itself. “This is a tight-knit community, and we’re always involved in what’s going on, from Corn Days at St. George’s to Taste of Long Lake to the Long Lake Block Party,” says Wysocki. “If something happens to a family here, people don’t even ask any questions—they just pitch in. It’s a very generous community.”
There are a few other non-negotiables: a dedication to customer service, top-quality ingredients, and creating delicious and interesting flavors that keep customers delighted and eager for their next visit. The recipe has worked—the business celebrated 20 years this season and continues to adapt to changes in the industry and clientele.
Wedding baking, in particular, has seen a lot of changes. “Brides are more eclectic than they ever were before,” says Wysocki. “When I started in the business, there was never talk of cupcakes or pies or anything else—then specific tastes took off. Barn weddings became popular—and all of a sudden, brides were replacing cakes with pies, doughnuts, Rice Krispie treats. . . I still get traditional requests, but I’d say 45 percent of brides go a different way with their weddings now. People want guests to be surprised.”
While there might be a slightly different focus for brides these days, regular customer Kathy Klohs knows a wedding isn’t the time to compromise on quality, even when talking cupcakes or crullers instead of a five-tier cake. “I’m very diplomatic about recommending a baker for someone’s wedding cake—I know there are a lot of options out there—but I tell people they have to put April on their list of bakers to consider,” says Klohs. “Her cakes are pieces of artwork.”
The confections don’t end at fancy, once-in-a-lifetime cakes. Country Cupboard sells a line-up of desserts that’ll make you friends at the office or at home any day of the week. “Sugar cookies with real buttercream frosting. The cupcakes are outstanding. And you never have to make a pie again, ever,” says Klohs. “I tell all my friends, ‘Call April.’ I even have her number memorized and on speed-dial.”
Klohs is a huge fan of Country Cupboard’s wide range of catering services, often calling in Wysocki and her team to augment her menu when she’s entertaining. Wysocki once created a memorable dip for Klohs’ birthday party. “It was shaped like a purse and embellished,” Klohs remembers. She works with executives and helps them develop their wardrobes (hence the purse motif), so she knows the power of presentation. She appreciates the extra attention that Wysocki and her team give to their business, whether it’s finger food for a 6-year-old’s party or something a bit more upscale.
“I mean, I like to entertain, but she’s Martha Stewart,” says Klohs. (And yes, Wysocki has actually been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings.) “She’s amazing. On time. She’s an artist and a foodie and absolutely passionate about entertaining. She’s on top of trends in food and she’s really passionate about her business. As a person, she has this huge heart and is always donating things and going above and beyond.”
When she’s not calling in reinforcements for her next gathering and simply wants to stop by Country Cupboard for a bite, what does Klohs recommend? “They have the best French toast in the world,” she says, “and I’m addicted to the chicken salad. I guess there are worse things to be addicted to.”
Visit during Thrifty Tuesday and score a $7 breakfast or lunch that includes everything except a beverage. For breakfast, the rotating menu could include a ham-and-potato hash with eggs and toast, or a stack of buttermilk pancakes with fresh blueberries. Thrifty Tuesday lunches could mean a gourmet sandwich—most are named after customers’ beloved pets—or tacos with a side and dessert.
There are always a few interesting soups on the menu—all made from scratch—from seasonal, summery gazpacho or cold shrimp soup to heartier beef stew. The famous chicken salad is available by itself or on a sandwich, and Wysocki says it has always been one of the café’s biggest draws: “People buy it by the pound.”
It almost goes without saying that there’s a wide variety of cookies, bars and pies available, so save room or plan to take a few home. If you want something a little more on healthy side, try Wysocki’s famous gluten-free energy bites. (Klohs buys them in bulk to split with her daughter.)