Tareka Lofton is a creative force of nature. You might have been introduced to her in March, when she broke the Internet with what she calls her “Toilet Tissue Cake,” but she’s been baking up a storm in Fort Worth since 2017. The cake was a typical multi-layer round cake, decorated to look like a roll of toilet paper as a funny, sassy comment on the state of early 2020. It was a Hail Mary pass from a small business owner whose main source of income –– crafting classic and bespoke wedding cakes –– had literally dried up overnight due to COVID-19.
Tell us about the Toilet Paper cake.
"I had done a few of these in the past. People were asking for a gag cake, a “Holy Crap, You’re Old” cake. Ours is all buttercream frosting with a thin layer of sugar to make the top crinkly. Other bakers do this, but most do fondant, and we were able to execute it with buttercream."
How did this help business amidst the pandemic?
"We had really just started to take off [business-wise]. I had more weddings booked [in 2020] than ever before this year. Eighty percent of my business was weddings. We started playing around with some of the public service announcement ideas –– don’t touch your face, wash your hands."
Then The Today Show came calling...
"It was a rollercoaster of emotions (laughing). We had calls came in from all over the country. I had 900 emails [immediately after the spot aired] and we had to install a second phone line. We made 150-200 cakes a week for a whole month. We couldn’t get enough supplies, and couldn’t get ingredients."
How else has your business model changed?
"We have a Signature Cake Collection. There are 12 innovative cake flavor ideas that are fun, and take people to a happy place. We have The Kookie Monster [electric blue vanilla buttercream with dark chocolate cake and cookie crumbs], Cereal + Milk [vanilla cake with Crunchberry cereal crumbs, a milk mousse, and white buttercream with pastel sprinkles], and a Southern Peach Marmalade honoring my grandma. That one [a cinnamon and vanilla cake with peach marmalade, topped by a dainty peach vanilla buttercream] takes you all the way to my grandma’s porch in Arkansas."
What’s the average cost of a cake?
"All the signature cakes are $30-$95, depending on the size. The signature cakes are sold by the slice for $7." A full list of flavors available here.
Tell us about your background.
"I’ve always been an artist at heart. [Formerly a sculptor,] I’ve also done pottery and watercolor. Baking was a leisure activity for many years (before graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Dallas in 2013)."
"I wanted to learn the proper skill set, not just dabbling. I wanted to be a pastry chef to know the art form. I took the lessons and combined them with how my Arkansas grandmother cooks –– with love and a pinch of this and a dash of that. I like combining technique and intuition."
The national protests drove positive attention to BIPOC businesses. How has this movement affected you and what action did you take?
"There’s more than one way to be heard, to protest, and to make a difference. I knew I was called to do something. Blackout Tuesday struck a chord. When everything happened with the protests –– they were literally around the corner. Our tenants [in our building] taped Black Lives Matter signs on the doors."
Tareka and her team made Blackout Cakes and sold them with 50% of the proceeds being donated to Black Lives Matter.
Barton Fluker is one of those proverbial Jacks of all trades. His day job is running the house at Kent & Co. Wine Bar on Magnolia Ave. A Fort Worth resident for the last 15 years, he’s also served in the U.S. Air Force and was the MC for Visit Fort Worth's 2020 Annual Meeting.
Your day job is running Kent & Co. Wine Bar. What formal training do you have?
"I was a leader in the U.S. Air Force, and I’ve also worked in the service industry. The cool thing about me is that prior to Kent & Co., I had not a single iota of wine knowledge. When I was younger I would go to Target or the gas station and look for the biggest bottle at the cheapest price (laughs). When I worked at Pappadeaux we had to sell a lot of wine (laughs). When I started here, I didn’t come in with any bad habits or preconceived notions about which wine was good and which wasn’t."
"Kent & Co's Wine Bar is shut down, open for retail only. We’re blessed and lucky because like Spec’s and Central Market, we have a retail license, so people can still walk in and buy wine."
Tell us about the Corks in Cowtown podcast.
"Robin [co-host Robin Risenhoover] posted on her Instagram that she was a creating a blog about life, dating, etc. and I volunteered to be the male voice counterpart for that. We want to be the official podcast for the city of Fort Worth, so we’re interviewing the people that make Fort Worth great. We have a weekend recap and then interview a Fort Worth mover-shaker-influencer. Once COVID happened we had to pivot, and talk about relatable things for the moment."
Besides the champagne, what’s your favorite thing to drink?
"Well, it is Corks in Cowtown, but we do sip other things. We love TX Blended Whiskey – when they came out I went to their distillery. The whiskey has a caramel flavor, and it’s super smooth and easy to drink straight. It’s a great product and I’m happy they’re right down the street."
In June, you used mic time to talk about race. Tell us about that episode.
"Normally we chambong champagne. We decided not to drink. I did a lot of the talking on that episode. We didn’t set up to be have a show that was political in nature. But when things that affect our society happen, we can’t be silent on our platform because it does affect so many people."
"I’ve lived in downtown Fort Worth for 10 or 11 years. Out of 15 years there’s only been one incident [with the Fort Worth Police Department] that they [the police] thought about me only as a Black man. Over the years the communication with the Fort Worth Police Department has gotten better. I have a lot of good friends, both white and Black in the police department. We have come a long way, but there are steps forward, and steps back."
How was this received?
"We got a lot of great feedback, a lot of messages about how the discussion helped people. Robin talked about how she grew up in a small, white town. I grew up only around Black people, so, there was that. Robin lost some [social media] followers after the show."
You can listen to the episode here and visit CorksinCowtown.com to learn more.
Last month, Fort Worth Magazine interviewed Fluker. He’s got a list of food-for-thought book and entertainment recommendations at the end of the piece.