The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Elaine T. Cicora.
Glistening like gems in a jeweler’s showcase, the luscious cakes, tarts and bombs from Hoff’s Bakery have been tempting Heinen’s shoppers since 2009.
That emphasis on restaurant-worthy eye appeal has been a point of pride for the family-owned gourmet bakery, in Malden, Mass., for almost 40 years – ever since the day in 1983 when patriarch and founder Vincent Frattura decided to ditch his plans for a pizza shop in favor of a top-quality, wholesale bakery.
“Vincent was waiting for his pizza ovens to come in, but – like the good Italian businessman he was – in the meantime he decided to use the existing bakery equipment to make a chocolate cake and a carrot cake to sell to local restaurants,” recalls daughter Nicole Frattura, Hoff’s chief administration officer and bakery employee, “since the day I could see over the counter.”
The cakes proved to be a big hit among nearby restaurateurs, and requests for other varieties began to pour in. Soon, Vincent’s plans for a pizza shop were abandoned in favor of quality gourmet desserts.
That focus has never wavered, despite the bakery’s enviable upward trajectory.
While their beauty – glistening fruits, gleaming ganache and creamy mousse fillings – is likely to be the first thing that catches a shopper’s eye, unimpeachable flavor is the ultimate distinction. “The appearance may be the hook,” Nicole acknowledges, “but if it doesn’t taste great, customers won’t come back.” To that end, the company sources top quality – and sometimes local – ingredients for its baked goods, including European chocolate and fresh eggs from New Hampshire farms. Fillings, frostings, ganache and mousse are made fresh in-house, from scratch; and every item is kosher and third-party certified for safety and quality.
In addition, flavor and quality are constantly monitored during a series of internal checkpoints. “We take quality control very seriously, to make sure that what we taste in the factory is what our customers will taste in the store,” Nicole says. “Because our products are shipped frozen, we take extra care to be sure the cake stays moist, the frosting stays tender and the mousse doesn’t shrink. Quality is emphasized throughout, leading to the high-quality finished product that the customer sees in the grocer’s bakery cases.”
After all, the Fratturas know that dessert is meant to be special: “Our products are often bought for celebrations,” Nicole says. “If it isn’t a cake you would be proud to serve to your family, we don’t want it to go out the door!”
While the company’s 7-inch, open-sided cakes – “so customers can see what’s inside” – were Hoff’s original offerings, production has responded to customer demand. “As household sizes have decreased, we’ve found smaller-sized desserts have become more popular,” says Nicole, a trend that has led to items like dessert squares, tiny tarts and an array of gem-like mini bombs, in enticing flavors like Key Lime, chocolate truffle and chocolate peanut butter. Product development is driven by industry research as well as input from top-rated restaurants and grocers. Some items, like Heinen’s “hugely successful” annual Yule log, decorated with red and green poinsettias and dusted with powdered sugar “snow,” even are made specifically for individual vendors. (“They are a really beautiful centerpiece,” adds Nicole.)
In 2016, in the face of double-digit growth, Hoff’s Bakery took possession of a brand-new, 110,000-square-foot facility. “The new space has a very smooth, efficient work flow, and has let us set ourselves up for continued growth,” Nicole says. Today, Hoff’s Bakery produces between 100 and 150 types of baked goods which find their way to restaurants, grocers and food distributors from New England all the way to Texas.
Hoff’s relationship with Heinen’s has been pivotal, and a testament to a shared commitment to quality. “While some of our growth has been due to gaining new customers, most of it has been from growing our business with existing customers,” says Nicole. “And that is great, because we want long, sustained relationships we can build over time – and that has certainly the case with Heinen’s!”
“Believe it or not, our partnership started at a trade show,” Nicole continues. “Heinen’s saw our products and was intrigued by our 7-inch bomb cake; and that’s what helped open the door for us with Heinen’s.”
In fact, Heinen’s went on to become the first grocer outside New England to carry Hoff’s Bakery products, a development that Nicole calls “amazing!”
“Our relationship with Heinen’s feels like a true partnership,” she continues. “There is constant communication with them, including feedback to help us keep growing and developing.”
“We are both family-run companies,” Nicole notes. “And when you are family-run, values like partnership, communication and quality translate into your corporate culture. The way you treat your customers and your vendors is different; you feel connected – whether you are an employee or a customer.”
“It’s that shared way of doing business,” Nicole says, “that has made our two companies a natural fit.”
The next time you visit Heinen’s bakery department, be sure to try these sweet treats from Hoff’s:
Fresh Strawberry Cream Cake (7-inch): Enjoy two layers of moist white cake, filled with pureed strawberries and whipped topping, frosted with white ganache and drizzled with pink ganache.
Chocolate Cream Cake (7-inch): Savor the classic flavors of moist chocolate cake filled with silken chocolate crème and whipped topping, finished with whipped topping rosettes and a chocolate ganache drizzle.
Tiramisu Cake (7-inch): Composed of delicate sponge cake, soaked in espresso and layered with sweet mascarpone mousse, this handsome creation is an Italian-style charmer.
Chocolate Torte (7-inch): Three moist layers of chocolate cake, filled and topped with delicious chocolate fudge frosting, create the ideal choice for the chocolate lover in the family.
Lemoncello Cake (7-inch): Comprising three layers of tender white cake filled with a tart lemon filling, and topped with lemon ganache, this cake is a taste of springtime on a plate.
Salted Caramel Cake (7-inch): Simple but elegant, this indulgent dessert features alternating layers of moist caramel cake, caramel crème and salted caramel mousse.
Mini Chocolate Truffle Bomb: Just right for two (or one; go ahead, we aren’t looking!), this decadent little treat features a moist chocolate cake and silken chocolate mousse inside a tender chocolate ganache shell; a garnish of chocolate curls add that final touch of luxe.
Chocolate Bomb Cake (7-inch): Moist dark-chocolate cake, filled with silken chocolate pudding and chocolate mousse, is completely enrobed in smooth dark-chocolate ganache for the ultimate chocolate indulgence.
Bavarian Fruit Tart (4-inch and 9-inch): Whether as an individual treat or an after-dinner crowd-pleaser, this eye-catching combination of short-dough crust, smooth Bavarian crème, and a mosaic of fresh fruit toppings is bound to be a showstopper.
Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Bomb: Two classic flavors in one, this popular dessert features a moist chocolate cake and peanut-butter filling inside a creamy peanut-butter ganache shell, finished with a chocolate ganache drizzle.
Mini Key Lime Bomb: A tiny taste of the tropics, this refreshing treat features white cake with a citrus cream filling; a coating of citrus ganache and a fringe of toasted coconut add the finishing touches.