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Buttercream-loving baker wins Oakland County honors

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published April 10, 2017

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ROYAL OAK — Brooke Wilson Vitale’s love for baking goes beyond buttercream.

She began her admiration for baked goods as a teen creating recipes from scratch while blogging her way through the process.

Vitale fondly mixed ingredients and flavors to hone her passion and connect with her late grandmother.

Her blog is no longer online, but her craft and grandmother’s legacy are vibrantly shining at Vitale’s two Love & Buttercream locations in Royal Oak and Birmingham.

Vitale, 29, opened her first location in 2012 in Royal Oak after attending Michigan State University for business, pastry school and working in the food industry in Chicago doing restaurant brand development and innovations.

Vitale said she knew she wanted to return to Michigan and hone her craft after developing a business plan and recipes.

Vitale’s love and dedication for baking and business were the driving reasons she was named the winner of the Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 Under 40 Class of 2017.

Contest organizers said Vitale is the youngest recipient of the annual distinction, which has been awarded for the past six years by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. As the winner, Vitale introduced Patterson during the annual State of the County address Feb. 8.

“It’s a really big honor,” Vitale said. “I was really surprised and very flattered, and it is a very cool thing for our whole team to be recognized for what we have done in the last couple of years. It’s a good testament for all of the hard work that we have all put in.”

Vitale said it meant a lot just to be nominated with such an accomplished group of people.

“There are so many talented and amazing people in the 40 Under 40,” she said. “It is really an honor to be surrounded by people that I look up to and admire greatly in the Metro Detroit area.”

Other honorees included Dr. Richard Chalmers, director of family medicine residency at McLaren Macomb Hospital; Berkley City Manager Matthew Baumgarten; Jessica Knapik, Walsh College program analyst; and 52-4 District Court Judge Maureen McGinnis.

Contest organizers said nearly 400 applications and nominations were reviewed by a panel of judges, looking for the top 40 young professionals and thought leaders who live or work in Oakland County.

Organizers said the 40 honorees chosen achieved excellence in their field and contributed to the quality of life in their communities. 

“Brooke is an excellent choice,” Patterson said in a statement. “She is creative, thoughtful, has an incredible business sense and is precisely the kind of young leader we want to keep in Oakland County.”

Love & Buttercream began with three employees — including Vitale — and has grown into the two locations staffing nearly 40 employees.

Vitale said what makes her bakeries unique is that everything is baked from scratch.

It’s often a time-consuming and laborious process that she wouldn’t trade, although she said that sometimes she finds that she needs to explain the taste that accompanies only using fresh ingredients and no mixes, oils and preservatives.

“We are one of few in the area that makes everything from scratch,” she said. “That is something that we are really proud of and something our entire team is very passionate about — providing the best product to our customer.”

Both locations specialize in cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pastries and macaroons.

Vitale is quick to pass all of her success on to her employees, including the two she started with.

“I got really, really lucky that I found two people that were just as passionate as I was about making my dream a reality,” she said. “And I continue to be lucky with the girls that still continue to work with me today. It’s definitely a team-built business. The initial idea was mine, but what Love & Buttercream is today is a culmination of our entire team’s ideas, best practices and creativity.”

Katie Zara was Vitale’s first employee and now works at the Birmingham location as her right-hand woman.

“She just has a really driven personality,” Zara said, discussing Vitale’s success. “When she wants to do something, there is no stopping her.”

Zara said she loves working there because of Vitale, and because she has done so much throughout the years, from baking and decorating to paperwork.

“I think everyone here is so behind it,” Zara said. “Everyone wants it to succeed. Everyone believes in the product and what it stands for.”

Vitale changes the bakery’s menu seasonally and features special holiday menus throughout the year, but she always carries her grandmother’s lemon bars.

“She was my biggest inspiration in life, so it is pretty cool to have a piece of her in the shop everyday,” Vitale said. “I think it is a way to feel reconnected with her. She was kind of a second mother. A lot of my inspiration for a lot of stuff that we do is focused on her and my relationship with her.”

Vitale lives in Royal Oak with her husband and 1-year-old son.

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