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The secret to the Enchanted Oven’s souffle-style cheesecakes, loaves of cloudlike shokupan (Japanese milk bread), and, especially, custard cream buns, isn’t a secret at all. It’s the most powerful known force on the planet: a mother’s love.
“I started baking solely for my daughter,” says baker-owner Maki Fairbanks. Born in Hiroshima, Japan, Fairbanks moved to Colorado in the 90s, got married, and gave birth to her daughter, Elissa. Employed as a translator, Fairbanks often traveled to Japan for her work, with young Elissa in tow, where Fairbanks’ mother would babysit. “My mother would give my daughter all those Japanese goodies, and one of the things she was eating every day was the custard cream bun,” says Fairbanks. When they returned to the United States, Elissa wanted more custard cream buns, but Fairbanks couldn’t find them here. So, she started baking them herself.
“I never thought I’d be a baker,” she says. “I failed miserably for years and years and years. My daughter was a good sport; she’d say they were OK, but not like the Japanese buns. I think I failed for 10 years! Then I started studying the science.”
To master the light, fluffy texture of Japanese-style baked goods at Colorado altitude, Fairbanks experimented with different flours, ratios, temperatures, and liquid contents. Little by little, her treats improved, until they were no longer just OK, but phenomenal. Around that same time, she was experiencing health issues that required her to back away from her computer-centric job and find something new. A former gymnast, she started coaching gymnastics, but that gig didn’t pay all the bills. “That’s when the baking came into the picture,” Fairbanks says. “I started doing little bake sales to keep a roof over our head and food on the table.”
Word got around that Fairbanks made killer birthday cakes, and she became a go-to for the local Japanese community. Then, restaurants came calling, like Tokio, Mizu, and Sonoda’s. Fairbanks’ home baking operation got bigger and bigger until she needed more space and people to help keep up with the demand.
She found that space near Broomfield’s Flatirons Mall and opened the Enchanted Bakery in February 2019. “I basically drained everything I had,” she says of opening the bakery. “We had to be very, very frugal. We bought used stuff, and we couldn’t use money for advertising. That’s why many people don’t know about us.”
The Enchanted Oven’s opening menu reflected Fairbanks’ roots—including the custard cream buns that she first made to please her little girl. Sadly, they didn’t sell. Americans aren’t as accustomed to walking into a bakery for buns, and so Fairbanks made adjustments. “Like with sushi, we don’t have a California roll in Japan, but it’s something more comfortable for American people. I said, ‘OK, American people know croissants.’ So I started making croissants to see if they’d sell.”
They sold, and eventually, so did Fairbanks’ cakes, pies, fruit-filled tarts, cookies, red bean donuts, shokupan, and matcha tiramisu. Now, Fairbanks says that her best-selling items are the strawberry-vanilla cake (so popular in Japan at Christmastime that they call it Christmas Cake); the jiggly, souffle-style cheesecakes; and, yes, the custard cream buns that started it all.
As for her now-21-year-old daughter Elissa? She helps mom out, working alongside her at the bakery.