L ucky Cakes is an odd name for a business whose best-selling product is pie. The story behind it is one of accidental success.
Derek Toms, after a 10-year career in environmental management for the National Park Service in Arizona, decided to return home to Kansas City and turn his hobby, baking, into a business. His dad’s name was Lucky, and Toms was known as Little Luck when he was a kid.
Toms started out selling cupcakes, scones and specialty cakes out of his home in Waldo at nearby farmers markets. Then one day a longtime family friend wanted to deliver something special to his grandmother, who was moving into a nursing home. When Toms learned the grandmother had always made rhubarb pie, he made a batch of rhubarb-cream cheese hand pies.
A hand pie is a single-serving-sized double-crust short pastry with a fruit or custard filling. Toms uses fresh local fruit when it is in season. He also makes savory versions such as spinach and artichoke and breakfast pies with eggs.
Then Toms played around with different fillings, including brandy-peach, cherry-bourbon and pecan with J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City whiskey.
Demand for the hand pies was instant and overwhelming, Toms says. “It was a big surprise, because I did it on a whim. I can’t go anywhere now without people asking me about the hand pies.”
The company also sells a full range of cookies and breads. Toms’ wife, Jessica Toms, handles the business and marketing end of the family endeavor.
At Crows Coffee at 51st and Main streets, the pies sell out quickly, especially Crows’ signature flavor, blackberry cardamom. When asked what time is best to come in to be sure of nabbing one, an earnest server replies, “before 7:30 (a.m.)” — the coffee shop opens at 6 a.m. daily.
The hand pies offer finger-food ease and portability combined with the nostalgic appeal of grandma’s baking.
▪ Lucky Cakes, 816-912-8087, luckycakeskc.com; hand pies sold at Crows Coffee, 304 E. 51st St. Lucky Cakes hand pies ($3 each) are also sold at the Waldo farmers market and eight other locations (see website). And you can special order them by the dozen.