Capital City Cheesecake Serves Up Small Cakes
Sisters let Takoma Park eat cake … and so much more.
You might think the owners of a place called Capital City Cheesecake would have something of a passion for their product — or that they grew up with a love of baking, or spent their youth carefully learning an old family recipe that is now at the heart of their business.
Not so, said Caitlin and Meaghan Murphy with a smile, sisters and co-owners of the café at 7071 Carroll St., where they sell dozens of their miniature cheesecakes daily, along with a small menu of sandwiches, pastries, muffins and bagels.
"To this day, we still say, 'I don't know how we ended up in this cheesecake world,'" said Meaghan, 26, who manages the business end of things at the bakery/café, while her sister Caitlin, 29, handles much of the baking.
"People want this grand story about how we always had this dream," she added. "Neither of us had a passion for baking, making your grandmother's recipe. Nothing."
The genesis of Capital City Cheesecake started more than 10 years ago. A friend of Caitlin's asked her for a cheesecake for his birthday. It was a dessert he loved, and it made for a cheap gift. So Caitlin did an Internet search and made her first cake. She was not thrilled by the results.
"She hated making them," Meaghan said. "She told us she was a teacher, not a baker."
But in 2008, an illness forced Caitlin to reconsider her career. She needed more flexible hours and more control over her work environment. She decided to leave teaching and faced a difficult transition as she considered her next step. The cheesecakes came back to the forefront.
"It was just something I had in my back pocket," Caitlin said.
As a way of passing the time, Caitlin and Meaghan began to make cheesecakes, but in different flavors that friends and family requested, like key lime. When one of those friends kept remarking on how good it was, something clicked for Meaghan, who at that time was just finishing her business degree at Trinity University.
In November 2008, Meaghan and Caitlin became business partners and did a test run of their cheesecakes for about 40 "friends of friends." They wanted to see if their recipes really appealed to a larger crowd. They even expanded their offerings and added flavors like crème brulee, pumpkin spice, chocolate and red velvet, in addition to their original cheesecake.
These cakes also differed in one other significant way. They were tiny: two, maybe three, bites at most.
"[Customers] can mix and match flavors; it's fun," Meaghan said. "It's a new concept in cheesecake, a whole new dessert."
Orders for the tiny cakes poured in for the holiday season out of their initial test run, and in 2009, the sisters began baking out of the Colonel Brooks Tavern in Brookland. They started a delivery service and built a website where customers could place orders.
By the end of the year, Meaghan knew they had to make their next step, and they decided to look for a storefront because they enjoyed interacting with their customers.
"Takoma Park is family-oriented, and so are we," Meaghan said. "They stick together, have good values, take care of the environment, and [Takoma Park] has a feeling of peace. When you walk in Takoma Park, people are happy. And we wanted a place where we could contribute, too."
Residents let them know from day one just how the sisters could contribute.
After the two found their setting at the site of the old Savory Café, whose owners had left before their lease had run out, people began emailing them almost as soon as the ink had dried on the contract. They wanted a café with a selection of sandwiches, a full-service espresso bar, even weekend brunches. After the two had their grand opening in May to a huge response from the community, they have slowly tried to expand their offerings.
"This one space cannot be everything they desire," Meaghan explained. "But it can be a lot of what they want, and we are always open and willing to try and see if it could work."
On Sundays, Capital City Cheesecake hosts a weekend brunch, complete with eggs, bacon, house potatoes and waffles, just as the people asked. And they are working on getting the espresso drinks going, hopefully sometime this fall.
"Our goal is to touch peoples lives, and add to their day," Meaghan said. "And to leave with an experience."