One of Fredericton’s best-loved bakeries, Monkeycakes, provided a painstakingly crafted giant cake for The Great Trail’s “New Brunswick 100% Connection” event on October 15, 2016. It’s all a part of what Monkeycakes founder Jonathan Ramirez describes as an ongoing effort to support and give back to the community that has supported his business so much.
Giant cake created as a three-dimensional landscape
For an appetizer, Monkeycakes dished up almost 200 mini cupcakes. The treats were well received, especially by participants of the Family Fun Runs on the Trail organized by The Running Room, who had worked up a serious appetite.
The main event cake was served next. Mr. Ramirez wanted the cake to be a true representation of The Great Trail’s four-season, multi-use nature. “We have the trail rivers, hills, the Hopewell Rocks, trees, and all kinds of little figures doing different activities made out of fondant paste. We have a guy on a snowmobile, a horse rider, a skier, a cyclist and a runner.”
“We’ve also got fir trees, summer foliage, and autumn colours that represent in a small way what you will see on The Great Trail at any given time.”
The crafting of the cake and accompanying cupcakes was intensive. Monkeycakes had six cake artists working on the job, who worked most of the day and evening before the event. Mr. Ramirez estimated that approximately 20-30 hours of finely skilled work went into the cake production alone.
Monkeycakes: Started with love, now a Fredericton success story
Mr. Ramirez passionately described the events leading to the founding of Monkeycakes in Fredericton five years ago. First, and most important, he fell in love with a girl; his wife and working partner, Natalie, a California native who moved to Maritime Canada to be with Jonathan. The couple celebrated their 22nd anniversary on September 1st, 2016.
Mr. Ramirez also originally hailed from California. His family owned established restaurants in San Diego since the 1930s - some of which are still popular go-tos for Mexican food in the city. Young Jonathan got his start in the culinary arts early, making salsa when he was six. His father owned a construction business, and after spending some time there when he was older, he decided he was far more at home in the kitchen. When he first moved to Canada, Jonathan had a successful food truck for seven years, and then owned and operated a small restaurant. During that time, he and Natalie often travelled on weekend trips to New York City to indulge in its Big City life, including its burgeoning cupcake bakery scene started by the now famous Magnolia Bakery. He believed that a bakery like that could work in Fredericton.
The starting point for Monkeycakes came six years ago when Mr. Ramirez signed up to establish a mission in Guatemala to help students build a coffee shop, which would provide them with a much needed source of income. The trip was expensive, so to offset costs Jonathan and Natalie undertook a Facebook fundraiser out of their house. After news spread of the delicious cupcakes, the fundraiser sprang to life. Within a few months the couple successfully raised thousands of dollars for the charitable mission by selling cupcakes.
Monkeycakes - a hometown bakery with a conscience
The mission to Guatemala didn’t just establish Mr. Ramirez as Fredericton’s cupcake master, it exposed him to the day to day struggles faced by Guatamala’s citizens. “A lot of the things we think we need are really just wants,” Jonathan said of his new perspective born from the mission. When the couple returned to Canada they decided Monkeycakes would be a company with a conscience and give back to the community. Since then, Monkeycakes has dedicated several days when the entire sales proceeds are donated to specific, local community charities and groups. The gift has come back to Monkeycakes. “When people see that you invest in the community, they invest in you.”
Monkeycakes is now a robust enterprise, and features a decorating studio for the public, its own coffee blends, and a spot to host parties for kids. Jonathan attributes the firm’s continuing success to the strong community support he’s received from the people and businesses of Fredericton.
The Great Trail cake creation to be featured on upcoming reality show
Since the couple’s initial Facebook fundraiser Mr. Ramirez’s social media prowess has carried on at Monkeycakes. He initially recorded short videos of staff being silly, and when Monkeycakes launched a new cookie or flavour. The effort has resulted in over 6,000 followers for Monkeycakes on Facebook, and that’s just the start – it’s also landed the firm a reality show.
Natalie and Jonathan posted a video of themselves singing a song from Frozen, and Disney retweeted it. Predictably Monkeycakes social media presence exploded from there. The tweet also got a like from Cake Boss in New Jersey, generating orders for Moneycakes from around the world. Recently, Rogers Communications approached Moneycakes for a Canadian reality TV show pilot, which will soon premier on a Rogers-owned channel in Canada. Monkeycakes will announce the program’s air date on its social media channels in early 2017. The icing? One of the show’s upcoming nine episodes will feature the creation of the cake for The Great Trail.