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Seattle's Erotic Bakery, A Decades-Old Institution, To Close Its Doors

Warning: Some of the language in this story may not be appropriate for young ears.

After 28 years of making people’s bawdy wishes come true with marzipan and cake, a Seattle institution is coming to an end. The Erotic Bakery in the city’s Wallingford neighborhood is taking down its sign and closing its doors at the end of this month.

Awkward Phone Calls Are A Part Of The Business

When you walk into the bakery, it’s hard not to laugh. The small shop is full of adult party favors. Free expired flavored condoms sit near the cash register. Candies bearing X-rated musings sit nearby. And of course, there are the cakes. Well-endowed penises and vaginas rotate in a mirrored display case, waiting for their final destination. 

On a recent day, Kimmie Barnett stood in the store’s kitchen, spatula in hand, turning white frosting into a deep shade of purple. The cake was an order for a bachelorette party.

Male body parts in various shades stand at attention on a shelf nearby. Each is a hand-rolled marzipan (a sweet paste made out of ground almonds and sugar) that will grace the top of a chocolate cupcake.  

A big part of Barnett’s job is walking customers through awkward phone calls.

“[The caller says,] ‘Hello, I’m at work and I need to order a cake.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, do you want me to do the talking for you?’’ said Barnett, adding the callers do want her to do the talking for them. “That actually happens every single day.”

‘We Are The Forefront Of Alternative In Seattle’

Barnett, 52, and her small staff have been hand crafting intimate parts make people laugh and blush since she bought the business from its original owner in 1999.

“We are the forefront of alternative in Seattle in many ways. I think I was the first person who got to say ‘penis,’ ‘breast’ and ‘vagina’ in one sentence and have it actually typed in the Seattle Times. So for some reason, as opposed to other adult stores, we haven’t had never had to have any type of pressure on us because we sell fun,” Barnett said in between laughs, something she does often. 

Even the last digits of the store’s phone number, 6969, are a playful reminder of why you are here.  

'You Cannot Order That From QFC’

When The Erotic Bakery first opened in April 1986, there weren’t many other bakeries like it in the country. It was called Marzi Tarts and the neighbors were not happy. A Wallingford resident was quoted saying she didn’t find the new business “amusing or entertaining.”

Well, a lot of other people did find it amusing and still do today, including a woman named Ashley who drove up from Auburn with her newborn baby in tow to pick up a cake for her husband’s 35th birthday.

“My husband has a fascination with the booty, so I got him a booty cake. You cannot order that from QFC,” she said.

Barnett looked at the marzipan derriere sitting on top of a small white layer cake and suggested a personal message. 

“OK, this is what we’re going to do,. We are going to write, ‘Bottoms up on your birthday!’”

When Customers See The Cake, ‘They Get The Look In Their Eyes’

Barnett loves the reactions these cakes generate, but she said she’s also really proud of the G-rated sweets she and her decorators have made over the years.

“We literally sit here and roll penises all day long and then all of the sudden something unusual will come through and we’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, we can do that. We can handle that!’” she said.

J .P. Patches’ 80th birthday cake came from The Erotic Bakery. So did the Seafair Pirates’ 50th anniversary cake and the cake for the grand opening of the Experience Music Project.

“It was a life-like Jimi Hendrix sculpture. It had the signature EMP kind of swirly tubular things going all over it. Now, Bill Gates might not know this, but I actually made his Christmas cake one year,” said Barnett.

The caterer for Gates’ party placed the order, and Barnett crafted a scene from Santa’s workshop. All of the elves were fully-clothed.

Whether it’s an erotic cake or a cake featuring Spiderman for a child’s birthday, Barnett says her job is about helping people create a moment of joy.

“So when they pick up their cake and they get the look in their eyes, and we call it the look. ‘OH MY GOD THAT’S MY CAKE? Yes. YES!’ They get so excited because they know they are going to take that cake home, and they are going to present it to their loved one or their friend, or the person coming back from the war with the yellow ribbon tied around the boobies, or whatever it is. And they are going think ‘Oh my God, this person thought enough of me to make me this amazing cake,’” she said.

The Decision To Close

Barnett insists business is good. So why bring this all to an end?

“Yeah, I know I’m a Seattle institution,” Barnett said. “However I also have my children to consider.”

She wants to spend more time with her three boys. Two are still in high school and are busy with sports. Barnett is also tired of driving to work in north Seattle from her home in Enumclaw.  

The bakery is taking orders through next Friday and its doors close for good at the end of the month. The very last cake baked in the small kitchen will be for the shop’s farewell party for family and close friends. The decoration on top will be the bakery’s logo, a woman’s naked silhouette wearing a top hat and holding a cake.

But what Barnett is most concerned with is the final lunch she'll share that day with her close-knit staff. What will they have? After thinking for a second, Barnett had the answer: a big, greasy bag of Dick’s deluxe burgers.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.