AZ Chimney Cakes is serving up a distinctive treat using sweet bread dough.
“The concept is very unique,” explained Kathy Williams, who owns AZ Chimney Cakes at Mesa Riverview with her son, Zaaron Williams, a full-time engineer who runs the business in the evenings and weekends.
“Traditionally, chimney cakes are just hollow cake cylinders. Most recently, probably within the last five to seven years, some of the Eastern European countries have taken Nutella and put that on the outside or inside or both and made it more delightful for tourists,” Williams said.
“It’s very popular. About that same time frame, they thought if they could make it in a cone shape, they could fill it with other things like ice cream.”
While a handful of chimney cake stores exist in the United States, Williams’ is the only one in Arizona.
They opened their first store after Zaaron visited Europe on a business trip four years ago.
“He came across chimney cakes in Prague,” said Williams. “He tried them and could not get them out of his mind.”
They went to work designing and ordering a food trailer in 2017 they’re still operating.
A retired software engineer, Kathy had multiple years of baking experience.
She said they “started out the traditional way like Hungarians, Romanians and people from Slovenia and Bulgaria with the cylinder.”
“We found that Americans aren’t interested in a piece of sweet bread. One day, when we were at an event, I said to Zaaron, ‘You know, I bet it would be really good to try putting fruit or a Bavarian creme inside.’ We tried that and we sold out. And we sold out every time we went out after that.”
Zaaron then suggested making a chimney cake with Oreo creme and the various concoctions grew from there.
“We found that adding strawberries, whipped creme, etc. was very delightful and a very big hit,” Williams explained. “When we opened a brick-and-mortar store, we tried the ice cream concept. Now, we do vanilla and chocolate gelato, the Italian ice cream, soft serve. We added a non-dairy option of the Dole pineapple whip this year. We get asked for non-dairy a lot. So, we have three different kinds of soft serve that can go into the cones.”
Zaaron and Kathy originally created the s’mores with graham cracker on the outside with marshmallows, Nutella and chocolate on the inside. They now call it Vienna because there’s one similar at a chimney cakes store in Vienna.
“We’ve done a lot of research,” Williams said. “We’ve watched what other places have done around the world. We can’t emulate everything but we do our best to try and make the dough very original and authentic.
“I think it really shows in tourists who’ve been to Europe and tried them there. They come to our store and say, ‘Oh my goodness. I didn’t think I’d ever taste this taste again.’ That makes us very proud. We have a lot of Hungarian and Romanian customers throughout the valley who travel to our store. They just can’t believe that someone makes these here.”
The sweet bread dough is wrapped on a spit and baked. The outside caramelizes during the baking process which is 750 degrees.
“As it bakes, we sprinkle sugar on the outside as it caramelizes,” said Williams. “It makes it very sticky on the outside. That allows it to adhere to something to stick to the outside of the cone. So that’s how we get the cinnamon sugar, the coconut, the walnuts to stick to the outside.”
Each cone and cylinder takes seven minutes to make including the baking process of four minutes. But customers don’t have to wait because the shop is “rolling constantly…so we try to minimize the wait.”
The store’s best seller is Barcelona. A big picture of it is on the trailer, front window and inside the store. “People see that and walk in and say, ‘I want that one.’
“It’s a beautiful picture showing vanilla gelato, strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate drizzle on top with a cinnamon sugar cone…People buy with their eyes a lot and if you have something that’s very attractive people will pick that over reading a description.”
After ordering new equipment from Europe, the owners planned on opening in February 2020 at Mesa Riverview but had to delay until mid-May. On their first anniversary coming up, a “big splash” is being planned.