The secret of the enchanted oven soufflé-style cheesecakes, shokupan (Japanese milk bread) buns and, most importantly, custard buns, is no secret at all. It is the most powerful known force on the planet: the love of a mother.
“I started cooking only for my daughter”, explains the 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 work, accompanied by young Elissa, where Fairbanks’ mother babysat the children. “My mom used to give my daughter all these Japanese treats, and one of the things she ate every day was the custard bun,” Fairbanks says. When they got back to the States, Elissa wanted more custard buns, but Fairbanks couldn’t find them here. So she started cooking them herself.
“I never thought I would be a baker,” she says. “I failed miserably for years and years and years. My daughter was a good sportswoman; she said they were OK, but not like Japanese buns. I think I failed for 10 years! Then I started to study science.
To master the light, fluffy texture of Japanese-style baked goods at Colorado’s altitude, Fairbanks experimented with different flours, proportions, temperatures and liquid contents. Gradually, her treats got better, until they weren’t just okay, but phenomenal. Around the same time, she was experiencing health issues that forced her to abandon 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 baking came into the picture,” says Fairbanks. “I started doing little bake sales to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.”
Word spread that Fairbanks made killer birthday cakes, and it became a go-to for the local Japanese community. Then the restaurants came calling, like Tokyo, mizuand Sonoda’s. The Fairbanks home bakery operation grew bigger and bigger until it needed more space and more people to keep up with demand.
She found this space near the Flatirons shopping center in Broomfield and opened the Enchanted Bakery in February 2019. “I basically gutted everything I had,” she says of opening the bakery. “We had to be very, very frugal. We were buying used items and we couldn’t use the money to advertise. That’s why a lot of people don’t know about us.
The Enchanted Oven’s opening menu reflected Fairbanks roots, including the custard buns she first baked to please her granddaughter. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell. Americans aren’t as used to walking into a bakery for buns, and so Fairbanks made some adjustments. “As with sushi, we don’t have California roll in Japan, but it’s something more comfortable for Americans. I said, ‘OK, Americans know croissants.’ So I started making croissants to see if they would sell.
They sold out, and eventually, Fairbanks cakes, pies, fruit pies, cookies, red bean fritters, shokupan, and matcha tiramisu. Now, Fairbanks says its top-selling items are strawberry-vanilla cake (so popular in Japan at Christmas that they call it Christmas Cake); juicy soufflé-style cheesecakes; and, yes, the custard buns that started it all.
As for his daughter Elissa, now 21? She helps Mom, working alongside her in the bakery.