The Christmas season was a special time for Laura Kotran.
It was a time to observe and assist her mother in baking a family recipe. She remembers gathering the eggs, flour and sugar. She remembers scooping the cookie dough onto the greased cookie sheet. She remembers licking the whisk full of leftover cookie dough.
She remembers this as her fondest baking memory.
Kotran, of Northampton, Pennsylvania, is the owner of Warm Sugar Bakery. She makes cupcakes, cake truffles, scones, muffins, cakes, brownies and some gluten-free items.
Much of her baking now reflects the baking she did with her mother as a child.
“Every family has those certain recipes they like to make, and I remember helping my mom make her pressed chocolate chip cookies during Christmastime,” Kotran said. “We would get so excited because they were so good…it’s that memory that I want to convey, create and trigger for someone else trying my products.”
In 2012, Kotran worked for Warm Sugar Bakery under Amy Wardle. Just a year later, Wardle closed the storefront in Hellertown and sold the company to Kotran.
Kotran manages the company alone and no longer has a storefront. Instead, she bakes out of her own certified kitchen at home. She typically bakes three days a week for eight to 10 hours and offers free delivery and curbside pickup.
She also handles an Instagram account, Facebook page and website for Warm Sugar, providing photographs and detailed descriptions of her products. Kotran earned a bachelor of fine arts in photography from Kutztown University, so she often photographs her work.
Kotran’s friend, Emma Horning, said in college Kotran used art as a way to express baking.
“We both have an art degree, and when we were in college, she’d be making prints of food items and kitchen utensils,” Horning said. “I think she was always subconsciously thinking about (baking) even if she wasn’t physically doing it.”
Horning has known Kotran since 2007 and has seen her evolve as a baker. She said Kotran is always striving to improve her desserts and add to the menu.
Horning said she has trouble deciding which dessert is her favorite.
“(Kotran’s) scones, brownies and crumb cake are all really good,” Horning said. “You can really enjoy them more so than a throwaway dessert, like a cookie you get out of a package. But her cupcakes…I see a lot of cupcakes, and her cake is so dense and fresh. That’s the best way to describe them.”
Warm Sugar has always been known for its cupcakes. But since Kotran acquired the business, she has expanded the menu with more cupcake flavors and other desserts. Now there are over 50 cupcake flavors ranging from hot chocolate, mint chocolate chip, snickcupdoodle and fluffy peanut.
But this isn’t enough for Kotran.
“One year my grandmother wrote out this cook book that she really liked, and there was a lot of baking in there,” Kotran said. “I want to start baking them for the business.”
Her time spent baking with her mother and grandmother fuels her to bake with a “rustic home approach.” She wants her customers to be reminded of homemade goods when they eat her desserts.
She said she is “gourmet” in terms of her execution, sourcing from local producers and using natural ingredients like sweet cream butter, pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, fresh berries, artisanal preserves, homemade custards and tangy citrus zest.
She purchases some of her ingredients at local farmers’ markets, but she also actively attends these markets as a vendor.
Kotran can be found at seasonal farmers’ markets Thursdays through Sundays. Her busy season falls between May and November in Saucon Valley, Trexlertown and Bethlehem, but she also sells desserts in the winter in Trexlertown.
Aside from farmers’ markets, she has a wholesale account and attends larger events like Baconfest in Easton and the Harvest and Chile Pepper festivals in Bowers. She said these markets and events allow her to sustain the business.
During busy seasons, her friend Beth Raynock helps part time in the kitchen when needed. Raynock and Kotran met at a project called the Artisan’s Kitchen Project in Hellertown when Kotran was in the process of acquiring Warm Sugar.
“She is meticulous about the quality, and she’s always trying to create new cupcake flavors,” Raynock said. “She and I have worked together since she has owned the company, and we have so much fun in the kitchen…(it’s) my favorite part about working for her.”
In addition to Raynock, Kotran’s husband also helps with Warm Sugar work. Kotran said he assists her at markets and events and sometimes helps her cleans dishes during off times.
The majority of the time, however, it’s just Kotran baking alone in the kitchen. She said her biggest struggle is the lack of adequate time to transport the ingredients to and from the kitchen and finish her prep work.
But these struggles have never stopped her from doing what she loves.
“I’m still learning to balance everything successfully,” Kotran said. “I’ve adapted through getting married, being pregnant and having a baby…so I’ve gone through all those different milestones of life with the business and each time I’ve learned how to adjust to what those things are.”