By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 16, 2011 at 9:04 AM

For 59 years, Dave Rich’s family has owned a food-related business on South 27th Street. Since 1994, he has managed Rich’s House of Cakes, 4353 S. 27th St., a made-from-scratch cake business known for its incredible, top-secret icing.

However, the business originated as a fine dining restaurant called Rich’s Tip Top owned by Rich’s uncle. It was later bought out by The Chancery and moved to its current location,  4624 S. 27th St.

Last summer, the family opened a second location in Waukesha at 821 Meadowbrook Rd. Also called Rich’s House of Cakes, it's operated by Rich’s sister, Sandy Wicklund.

At both locations, Rich's cakes are 100 percent home made. They use real fruit, whole fruit and the business focuses entirely on cakes.

"We’re all-scratch, no bags, no boxes," says Rich. "None of our layers are ordered from New York six months ago. We don’t sell donuts or breads. We’re all cakes."

The "frosting" on the cakes is actually a light, fluffy cream that is not super heavy or sugary. This is appealing to people who find bakery frosting to be excessively sweet and it keeps customers returning to Rich's.

"The cream recipe was formulated in the ‘70s. And since then, there have been a lot of copycats, but none of them hold up to ours, in my opinion," says Rich.

Will he divulge the cream-frosting formula?

"Absolutely not," he says.

Rich says he has made cakes for as long as he can remember. "I have memories of pots and cake pans from when I was five or six," he says.

Today, his 13-year-old son helps with deliveries. "We’re hoping he continues with this, but I think he might be smarter than me and might do something even better," says Rich.

Rich’s cake sales are 50 percent for weddings and 50 percent for just about any other occasion. Rich’s has a cooler with about 80 pre-made cakes, but most of their cakes are custom designed.

"You don’t pick something out of a book here," he says.

Rich does 80 percent of the cake decorating himself. Most of the cakes are simple, with scripty writing and silk flowers, but they will create a cake with just about anything on it or in just about any shape. They have 20 different shapes on hand, but can custom sculpt almost anything from cake.

Rich’s asks people to call ahead about three weeks before a large event requiring a custom-designed cake, but only three days for a regular birthday cake.

Some of the most popular cake shapes these days are purses, animals, baby booties, Mickey Mouse and two-tiered cakes of any kind.

"If you can dream it, we can probably design it," he says.

They also make character cakes – they sell a variety of character cake toppers in the shop – and they make popular two-tiered birthday cakes as well.

Rich says he has made multiple 20-layer cakes before, but the largest cake he ever baked was three years ago, when he and a few of his employees made a 5-foot-by-9-foot square cake to celebrate Greenfield’s 50th anniversary. Rich believes the multi-flavored cake was the largest cake ever made in southeastern Wisconsin.

"We had three people cutting it, one on each end and one in the middle," he says.

Most Rich’s cakes, however are 8, 10, 12 or 14 inches. Prices range quite a bit depending on the amount of customizing needed for the cake. They are more expensive, in general, than a grocery store cake, but have a completely different taste thanks to the cream topping.

Even though weddings, birthdays and funerals are the most common cake-eating events, Rich says he encourages people to buy a cake for any occasion.

"I tell people you can celebrate with a cake before you were born and after you're gone and for anything in between," he says. "Every occasion deserves a cake."

 

Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.

As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.

She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that. 

Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.

Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.

In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!

When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.