Local Bakery Makes Sweet Connection With Pasadena Nonprofits

The concept materialized in Ingrid Kuo’s mind not long after she attended a friend’s birthday party in Pasadena about six years ago. It was at that gathering that the daughter of a successful Nebraska restaurateur literally got her first taste of Nothing Bundt Cakes, a bakery franchise that specializes in — you guessed it — Bundt cakes.
One bite was all Kuo needed to query the founders about opening up a location in Pasadena. Several interviews and one intensive “Bundt camp” later, Kuo did precisely that last March. Her bakery on Lake Avenue has since become a popular choice among Pasadena nonprofits when it comes to the dessert offerings at their largest events of the year.
“It really is all about relationships,” Kuo said while standing behind the counter of her very own business, the realization of a lifelong dream shaped by growing up in the hospitality sector. “Sometimes, I seek them out. Sometimes, they seek me out. If we’re working together and building relationships, that’s really what motivates me.”
Kuo’s Pasadena bakery is one of more than 160 Nothing Bundt Cakes locations in the United States. Permeation into Pasadena’s nonprofit community began before its construction was even completed last spring. Event committee members for Cancer Support Community’s Angel Gala had caught wind that a Nothing Bundt Cakes was opening in town, and reached out to Kuo about providing sweet treats for the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser.
“They were very gracious,” said Kuo. “They really wanted to have us there as their dessert sponsor to help us launch out in a big way.”
Not only did that initial synergy enhance the event for all 360 attendees, it provided Nothing Bundt Cakes with crucial promotion in the early stages of business development. The bakery has gone on to sponsor desserts for Cancer Support Community’s Poker Bowl and Ladies Night Out, events attended by upward of 150 and 235 people, respectively.
“She has been extremely generous to the Cancer Support Community,” said Meg Symes, the organization’s events director.
“She’s as much into the partnership as we are. She’s promoting us in the store whenever we have these events.”
Ensuring that large-scale gatherings run smoothly is nothing new for Kuo, though. She graduated from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration before working eight years as an event planner for Morgan Stanley in New York. After moving to California in 2005 and taking time off to raise four children, Kuo was grateful for the culinary opportunity afforded by Nothing Bundt Cakes during a time when she was seeking further purpose in life.
“I discovered that it was a very good fit for my personality, my values and my aesthetic,” said Kuo, who has always been interested in helping other people.
Since nearly every Pasadena nonprofit shares that same interest, it comes as no surprise that Kuo has fostered relationships with so many of them. She regularly donates her bakery’s Bundt cakes to the food pantry at Friends in Deed, a multifaceted nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of Pasadena’s most vulnerable.
“We are very grateful for small businesses like Nothing Bundt Cakes, and Ingrid has been amazing for Friends in Deed,” said Richard Cheung, the organization’s board president.
“She gets it. Oftentimes, people who have the means don’t donate. Every time I reach out to her, there’s no hesitation. It’s ‘How much do you need?’”
Kuo asked the same question to Nancy Dufford, the executive director of the Pasadena Education Network. All four of Kuo’s children are students in the Pasadena Unified School District, so naturally she wanted to know if there was any way to assist the nonprofit’s efforts in promoting family participation in public education. With savory Bundt cakes involved, a partnership quickly developed and Kuo agreed to sponsor desserts at the organization’s main events.
“We thought it was a win-win for both of us in that it would support our event so that more of the money we raise could go to help the families in the schools,” said Dufford. “Then, she would have an opportunity not only to interact with more parents, [but] they would have an opportunity to find out more about her bakery.”
“Her cakes are so good. … We have run out both years at our event even though seemingly she brought plenty with her. Everybody tries to sneak back and get more than one.”
Behind the scenes for each sponsored event, Kuo must begin preparations at least a month in advance to determine everything from how many cakes will be presented to who will be eating them. She receives essential help from a staff of 13 who are comprised of bakers, frosters, guest service representatives and dishwashers. Kuo always attends the events wearing a smile, standing by the Bundts to provide information about them and her bakery.
“I get to do the lucky work of being in front of the cakes, so I get all the credit when they’ve done all the work,” she joked.
Another nonprofit with which Nothing Bundt Cakes has partnered is the First Tee of Pasadena, a youth development program aimed at instilling life skills and leadership through golf.
“She has the heart of wanting to share what she does with other people,” said First Tee Executive Director Bob Baderian. “She very much wants to help young people.”
Kuo first met Baderian at a Special Olympics luncheon hosted by First Tee. Before long, she was providing chocolate and pumpkin Bundts for similar occasions.
“When I’m at the event, it’s really fun because you see everyone just really coming together to support that cause and just having a fun time,” said Kuo. “Ultimately, that’s what everybody wants to do — to not just support, but also have fun and feel that connection that they’re doing something wonderful for their community.”
As Kuo enters her second year running Nothing Bundt Cakes in Pasadena, she strives to maintain the franchise’s three core values: a servant’s heart, the spirit of a champion and an ability to make genuine connections.
“I really knew that in opening this business … my mission was to just give joy to people in all kinds of ways,” she said, “whether it’s someone who actually pays for the cake and is celebrating a birthday, or if it’s donating cakes for a fundraiser that really needs to build funds to do what they really do well, or to be able to donate cakes to the pantry for Thanksgiving.”
“We’ve just met amazing people in Pasadena. Everyone here is so supportive and enthusiastic.”

Leave a Reply