The Audubon Park mainstay is still a family-run business under new ownership.
When Johnson Street Northeast is quiet and the only things moving are the flickering lights on the Hollywood Theater, Audry and Stephanie Botzet are at their busiest with their arms deep in butter and flour.
The two are the mother-daughter team behind Sarah Jane’s Bakery, which they took over last year. While they may be new to the neighborhood, the Botzet family brings a treasure trove of recipes and uses time-tested equipment to make goodies that Northeast Minneapolis residents have come to love for decades.
“We do things here like we do them at home as a family,” Audry said. “We do very small batches. We make things in not much bigger batches than home size.”
Audry, 57, and Stephanie, 30, arrive at the bakery, located near Johnson & 29th, around 8 p.m. to start baking the next day’s pastries. Audry begins with breads, her favorite to make. Stephanie begins with demanding Danish pastry, made from laminated dough that she learned to make from Sarah Jane herself. They move on to cakes and cookies around 1 a.m. The process can take all night, until they open at 5 a.m. The two, with the help of two other bakers, do this Sunday through Thursday and work Friday afternoons.
“Sleeping is a little weird. On weekends it’s hard to do things,” Stephanie said.
The payoff is worth it. Sarah Jane’s, which was founded in 1979, draws a lot of regulars and is a well-known name around its Audubon Park neighborhood.
“It sounds cheesy, but [the best part is] actually seeing people be really excited about the way something tastes or looks,” Stephanie said. “Just the other day, a semi-regular was in talking about how the rhubarb crispies remind him of something that his grandma made, and he’s probably in his 60s. That’s really cool.”
The Botzet family’s passion for baking began with Audry, who grew up in Alexandria, Minnesota. While she was never trained to bake, she became her family’s resident baker around age 12, cooking through a Betty Crocker cookbook. She now has more than two decades of experience baking professionally, including several years with Stephanie at Yum! Kitchen & Bakery in St. Louis Park.
“Food is such a huge part of getting together,” she said.
The family had been looking for a bakery for sale for a couple years before finding Sarah Jane’s, which they had never visited prior to buying the business. The sale came with the longstanding bakery’s equipment — including a roughly century-old oven — and recipes.
The biggest change under the Botzet family has been the switch from shortening to butter. They’ve rolled out homemade fruit fillings over the past year, which have replaced store-bought fillings. Audry wagers that’s why their fruit-filled Danish pastries have become some of their most popular items.
A few things continue as-is, including the hundreds of paczkis, a filled Polish donut customary around Fat Tuesday, expected of the bakery every year. Last year, two days after they were in the building, they sold more than 800 pastries, which the two had never even heard of before. Sarah Jane’s is known for its donuts, they said.
“The donuts we left untouched. They’re really good. We don’t want to mess with them,” Stephanie said.
Many of the recipes baked at Sarah Jane’s give a taste of the Botzet family history.
“Our oatmeal cookie recipe is actually from an old friend who has passed on now, but he would always make me his oatmeal cookies and I loved them. He gave me the recipe and I never tried it until after he died, sadly,” she said.
Others, such as a raspberry-white chocolate cheesecake bar, don’t have years and years behind them. Audry’s youngest daughter made it for her for Valentine’s Day four years ago, and they kept the recipe. Now it’s a family tradition, just as their recipes for banana bread, molasses cookies and brownies, among others, are.
“Most of our products have a story, whether they’ve been around a long time or just started,” Audry said.
While they’re still pretty new to the area, for the two, the pastries still connect with the community.
“It’s pretty old school, most of this stuff. It brings out memories,” Stephanie said.