HOOKSETT, NH – A few years ago Lisa Lucciano woke up one morning, turned to her husband, Don, and said she was going to open a bakery.
“What are you going to call it?” he asked.
“The Cake Fairy,” she answered. For years, her husband had always given his daughter small gifts saying they were from the Leprechaun Fairy, or the Hay Fairy (they have horses) or the Grain Fairy. Thus, the Cake Fairy was a natural fit.
Lucciano intended to fulfill her dream of owning a bakery. She didn’t want to be one of those people who said, “I wish I would have.”
So, on May 1, 2016 – a Sunday – she had a grand opening for The Cake Fairy, 114 Londonderry Turnpike, in a strip mall that then included a gun shop and a cake decorating school/candy shop.
Only in New Hampshire, can you buy a gun, candy and pastry all in one stop. “We laughed a lot about that,” she said.
Nearly six years later, Lucciano says she wakes up loving each day and what she is doing.
Operating a bakery has been her dream since she was a 15-year-old. Born in Worcester, Mass., and raised in Holden, Mass., her mother, Dr. Ursula “Grammy” Shea, was the one who got her started. Lucciano said her mother took a cake decorating class and, one day, Lucciano, eyeing the frosting, asked if she could play with it.
“I started making roses,” she said. She had taken no lessons but it turned out she was a natural. “They were really pretty,” she said.
Soon she had a side business making cakes for friends of her mother’s, about 10 a week selling for $6 each. Around the same time, the family opened a breakfast and lunch restaurant called Toscano’s in Jefferson, Mass. Always an early riser, Lucciano would get up at 5 a.m. and, with her father, head to the restaurant to get things started for the day. Then it would be off to school.
Her cake prowess resulted in her being asked, at the age of 17, to make centerpiece cakes for the Worcester Art Museum’s bi-centennial celebration. Originally, the request was for about 10 to 12 eight-inch cakes, but she ended up baking 41 cakes. Her mother allowed her to take a day off from school so she could complete the order. She decorated them with red roses and blue forget-me-nots resembling a Colonial flag.
Lucciano knew what she wanted to do after high school: Open a bakery. This time her mother put the kibosh on that. She was to go to college.
So Lucciano went to Framingham State College where she earned a degree in food and nutrition. From 1993-2006, she was director of the school lunch program for the city of Framingham school system serving 6,500 students.
At that time, she said, the lunch program had reached rock bottom with the same food being served as in the 1950s including turkey fricassee, tuna casserole and, for juice, ZaRex, a sweet fruit syrup mixed with water or soda. She changed the program completely by providing nutritious meals, including fresh fruit, and, at the high school level, a food court with an Italian section, deli and salad bar.
The percentage of kids getting school lunches increased from 26 percent to 65 percent, she said.
Lucciano turned to her family for time-tested recipes – her mother, aunt, grandparents, a cousin – when deciding on what to sell in the bakery. She tweaked the recipes, making them her own.
Everything is made from scratch with the best ingredients possible, she said.
Her whoopie pie recipe was one her mother received at her bridal shower in 1954. She said those attending were asked to bring a recipe and all were then compiled in a book. That recipe, she said, is probably more than 100 years old since the woman who provided it was in her 40s.
She said her mother’s mother couldn’t cook to save her soul, but she baked the best brownies and that’s the recipe she uses. The coffee cake is a true New York-style, she said, because the recipe is one from her dad’s cousin who lives in Putnam Valley, NY. “I changed it a little bit,” she said.
Topping the list of best-sellers are her whoopie pies, cheesecakes and eclairs (a favorite of this writer’s; the pastry cream – which Lucciano makes – is to die for.) Each of the offerings gets a sprinkling of candy stars; everything needs a little fairy dust, after all.
The bakery makes cakes to order, but, Lucciano says, the store is not a custom cake shop, that is, they don’t do cakes with fondant.
The bakery was doing well until COVID-19 almost did it in. The shop closed from March 15, 2020, and opened Aug. 12, 2020, for take-out only. Her husband Don, who owns My Home Contracting in Deerfield, put a window in the front door so that items could be passed through to customers who mainly ordered online.
The shop fully reopened on June 5, 2021.
Lucciano said what is equally important to her, besides high quality and taste, is presentation. Items are placed in sturdy boxes with supports so that when they are brought home they are in as pristine a condition as possible.
If they know an order is being brought as a gift or for an event somewhere, they will tie it up in a colorful tulle bow – your choice of color.
At Christmas, Lucciano said packages were decked out in green and red tulle bows. “Everything was just so pretty,” she said. One customer who picked up an order later texted the shop saying that seeing the festively decorated boxes brought back memories of an old-fashioned bakery and much happiness.
It brought her and her staff much pleasure since, around the holidays, they put in long days, sometimes working until 1 or 2 a.m. preparing the baked goods.
That hard work paid off when there was a long line of customers out the door, along the treeline and up to By-Pass 28 waiting to pick up their Christmas orders. Lucciano laughed as she recalled people cheering as one staffer helped bring out festively decorated packages for a customer and telling them, “See! See! You, too, can have this.”
The Cake Fairy is open Wednesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.