Driving north along Burnet Road, away from Austin’s downtown epicenter of small, local businesses, one can begin to feel lost in the middle of franchises and empty construction. However, nestled in a newly built, caramel-colored shopping center is Lick It Bite It Or Both, a local bakery with a unique spin on dessert, serving cake and ice cream merged together as one instead of complimentary to one another.
Although it is easy to overlook the bakery, especially with The Domain located closely to the left, Lick It Bite It Or Both should not be dismissed.
As you enter through the door, the sweet aroma of warm vanilla sugar instantly brings a welcoming touch to the powder-blue-and-chocolate-brown-themed bakery. A wall of cupcake liners decorated in colorful magic markers by past customers add a whimsical contrast to the delicate cupcakes showcased in chic, glass pedestals.
Though there is subtleness to the bakery, from the minimally decorated cupcakes to the clean decor, what makes it lively and personable is owner Jace Robinson.
Before starting Lick It Bite It Or Both, Robinson tried his hand at a variety of occupations.
“I had 5 million jobs before I decided to open this,” Robinson said.
From acting to real estate to working for a cable access network, Robinson was a man of many trades. While working a summer job at a bakery in Las Vegas, though, Robinson found that he loved the instant gratification he got from seeing people come in, giving them their cupcakes and knowing they were happy when they left.
It wasn’t until about five years after moving back to Texas, where he was born, and tasting cupcakes around Austin that the concept of Lick It Bite It Or Both dawned on Robinson.
“I loved something from every single one of [those bakeries],” he said, “but I found myself getting some to go and going home and eating it with a little ice cream and I thought, ‘I wonder why nobody does cake and ice cream.’”
After researching the originality of his idea and spending six months to create a business plan, Robinson opened Lick It Bite It Or Both in March.
“I can not tell you how scared I was opening up this store, thinking nobody would order ‘Both,’ that I would explain the ‘Both’ option and they would be like, ‘Oh, okay, well I just want some ice cream,’ or, ‘Oh, I’m just here for a cupcake,’” Robinson said.
However, the concept quickly caught on, and Robinson said that moments like convincing a group of fraternity members to try the ice cream-cupcake fusion make the long, laborious days when nearly every store he visits is out of the 50-pound bags of flour worth it.
When Robinson says he’s emotionally attached to every square inch of his bakery, it’s believable. His face lights up and his greenish-blue eyes radiate when he begins talking about the bakery, soon becoming overwhelmed with tears when speaking about the acceptance of his idea. His commitment to the bakery is visible, quite literally, as the sparkling edible glitter used on his desserts is speckled on his face and clothes.
With edible glitter overrunning the bakery, on mats and in the hallway, Robinson said it is inevitable that by the end of the night, at least one employee is humming, whistling or singing “Love Shack.”
“I go to the grocery store at 11 o’clock at night after I get out of this bakery, and people look at me like I am a stripper because I have edible glitter all over my face,” he said, leaning forward as if telling a secret, then letting out a hysterical laugh.
Even though Robinson owns a bakery, he said he never went to culinary school and he’s not a chef, but he is a cook. Everything he knows about the kitchen he learned from being in the kitchen with family members such as his grandmother, who he refers to as his “Yaya,” and his mother.
The recipe he uses for his lemon cream cupcake is his mother’s lemon pound-cake recipe, only with half the sour cream and flour for a fluffier taste. The bakery’s red velvet and carrot cake is his Yaya’s recipe. What makes his Yaya’s carrot cake recipe special, though, is that instead of using raw carrots, the recipe calls for steamed carrots. Her theory is that since the steamed carrots are already full of moisture — when the batter is cooking under heat — the carrots sweat, leaving the cake extra moist.
When it comes to the ingredients, Robinson said, the bakery tries to use only the best, including European chocolate and natural extracts. He said he can cheap out on granulated sugar, peanut butter and food coloring, but he would sacrifice a limb for high-quality ingredients such as powdered sugar and flower.
The details Robinson put into his cupcakes pays off in the end. The cupcakes are soft and dense, with a perfect hint of sweetness from the lightly whipped butter cream. Even the Italian cream cupcake, a flavor that’s often overwhelmingly sweet, had a refined hint of coconut and vanilla.
Among the 14 flavors, the standouts were the red velvet and the chocolate chocolate cupcake. Simple recipes with no extra pizzazz, the red velvet and the chocolate chocolate were rich, decadent and satisfying. Reasonably priced at $2.50, it’s tempting to try more than just one. Even though Robinson’s cupcakes are great on their own, customers should venture to try one with ice cream. The vibrant, unnatural colors of some flavors may be a turn-off, but a scoop of the custard-style ice cream paired with a cupcake is harmonious.
Despite the quick rise to local bakery success, Robinson said he doesn’t want Lick It Bite It Or Both to expand and that he wants to maintain the small and local feel.
“I don’t know if I want to get too big,” he said. “I kind of like it being one store for now.”