Natasha Gaskill left Lulu’s Chocolate Bar in 2013 to launch a wedding cake business, and now her A Squad Bake Shop is a unique operation known for its pastries, donuts and cakes at some of Savannah’s best dining establishments.
Working out of a 10-foot by 16-foot baking cottage in her backyard, Gaskill works six days a week starting at 4 a.m. to create desserts for neighborhood businesses Atlantic, Perc Coffee, The Collins Quarter and Smith Brothers Butcher Shop. She is currently in discussion with other restaurants in town.
“She’s a joy to work with and the quality of her product is outstanding. You can’t just walk into a typical supermarket and purchase it,” said Robert Anderson, owner of Smith Brothers Butcher Shop. “She tries to work with in-season and local ingredients and creates a unique variety of pastries and pies.”
Gaskill explained her business helps alleviate stress for businesses.
“None of the restaurants can really afford an in-house pastry chef, and baking kitchens are so much different than savory kitchens. My business gets that off their plates so they don’t have to worry about it,” she said.
Gaskill moved from a town north of Seattle, Wash., to Savannah in 2001 with her husband, Nathan, a firefighter. Together, the couple launched a business, Rare Earth Recycling, the first recycling company in Savannah.
“For years, we were the only curbside recycling company for residents. We helped the city find the company they use now. Because I knew owning Rare Earth Recycling would be finite, I went to culinary school at Savannah Tech because I’ve always loved cooking,” Gaskill said.
Gaskill didn’t finish culinary school, but landed a job while she was a student at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, a homemade sweets and specialty cocktail restaurant and bar in downtown Savannah.
“At Lulu’s, we decided to start making wedding cakes. We moved into a bigger baking space in Midtown, which was where I met Minnette Rushing, who’s the queen of all things wedding cake. People come from all over the world to take her sugar classes,” Gaskill said.
Gaskill shared a kitchen with Rushing and took sugar classes from her.
“She’s one of the best wedding cake makers in the world. We’d learn how to make exquisite flowers made of sugar. You can’t tell if they’re real flowers or not,” Gaskill continued. “Minnette was one of the people who was instrumental in making A-Squad Bake Shop happen.”
Gaskill also took cooking classes with Ron Ben-Israel, an illustrious Israeli pastry chef out of New York City. “He and Minnette are good friends and that’s how I met Ron.”
In 2013, Gaskill started A Squad Bake Shop.
“We already had the cottage behind our house, and we started to look at what it would take to make it into a commercial kitchen,” said Gaskill. “It took a long time. The zoning had to be the different, and I petitioned the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Once that was cleared, it was just a matter of the licensing, which was with the Department of Agriculture, because I wholesale to restaurants.”
While Gaskill started off with a wedding cake business, she now said that this month will be her last for wedding cakes.
“Making wedding cakes is awesome. And it’s lucrative.” she said. “But they happen during the nicest weekends of the year. Plus, I always knew I wanted to sell to businesses.”
“It’s been an organic, meandering path of finding what’s interesting to me,” Gaskill explained. “That’s the nice thing about working for yourself. You can say, ‘I want to do wedding cakes,’ and then say, ‘Now, I want to do donuts.’”
Gaskill is currently looking for larger spaces to bake where she will create product for more establishments around town, as well as sell retail.
“I like the idea of being outside of downtown. I like the outside districts that actually service the locals and the students. When we first moved to Savannah, there were neighborhoods where people wouldn’t dream of moving. I like how all these Savannah neighborhoods have diversified. Now we have young creatives who are hungry and excited about the neighborhoods they’re living in and working in.”
She continued, “I’m happier when I work from myself. My kids are 15 and 13 now, and running A Squad Bake Shop makes it easier for me to spend time with my family.”