By Elizabeth Tettleton Mason
As Oxford grows, so does its citizen’s appetite. We crave southern home cookin’ as much as we do New York style pizza and Beard-level cuisine, but only recently have Oxonians been able to truly get their sweet tooth cravings fulfilled.
Bremma’s Cakery and Confections was created from the passion of Oxford-local Brooke (née Mardis) Ferguson and the kitchen of Fergndan’s Wood Fired Pizza (owned by John, Laurabeth, William, Daniel, and Emma Ferguson). This cakery wasn’t baked in a day, but through several strategic, and patient moves by the team, Bremma’s has hit the sweet spot here in Oxford.
Every Christmas, Laurabeth Ferguson and her sister, Kerri Tettleton (my mother) would get together to make our family recipe of sugar cookies. There were six cousins, including myself, and we all had various preferences on our annual Christmas cookie creations. By the time I was 20, every December we were making about 10-14 batches – roughly 28-30 dozen cookies.
Some of us heavily spackled our cookies with the Wilton decorator frosting and sugar crystals, while others delicately smoothed out the surface with hot water and a level knife to make artful designs. There was a systematic process for rolling, cutting, baking, cooling, frosting, sprinkling, and storing the cookies. Every surface in the house was covered. Many of our friends made requests for a dozen or two, and we’d gift them out like gold to the lucky few who made the cut.
The recipe for our family sugar cookies was one which my mom found in a magazine and tweaked to her liking and is a uniquely soft sugar cookie. It is the recipe that is used in the Bremma’s cakery today, with a few adjustments to make them more ‘level’ for decorating.
“At Christmas every year my sister and I would talk about opening a bakery,” said Laurabeth. “I’d wanted to do it for years, but it wasn’t in my wheelhouse. Brooke coming on board brought that possibility to life.”
Brooke Ferguson is the creative you’ll never see, as she is usually found in the back of the bakery, fastidiously working, and guiding every creation that goes out the door. She pours her heart into her work, and what she creates is not simply sugar and flour in the form of a caricature or replica of a Pinterest photo. Each recipe in the pastry case is distinctly hers, each special order is an opportunity for Brooke to create art.
How do I know? I have a personal connection to this bakery – Laurabeth is my mother’s sister, making her children my cousins and Brooke my cousin by marriage. Brooke made my wedding cake – and she may never forgive me for sharing this – she painstakingly spent hours hand-painting gold sequins in an art-deco design on navy-black fondant (I’m not a white-cake kind of gal). A year later, it was shockingly delicious and well worth saving through the two moves it endured until our 1-year anniversary. Although I have personal, firsthand experience with the Bremma’s team, I can also attest to the quality and unique offerings they have brought to Oxford. This year, they created the ‘birthday’ cakes for the University of Mississippi’s 175th anniversary celebration. But let’s head back to the origin story of Bremma’s.
In February 2017, Brooke was deep into her Junior year of the Culinary Arts studies program at the Mississippi University for Women when she began work as one of the first non-family employees of Fergndan’s. At this point, it was still only a food truck with no brick-and-mortar restaurant. Now a fixture in the Oxford community, Fergndan’s Woodfired Pizza is located on Highway 30 and operates two food trucks for large events and catering.
Nearly every day Brooke showed up to work on the food truck with a new dessert – the first she brought was an Oreo Cheesecake. Laurabeth asked Brooke if she baked every day, and Brooke explained baking was how she relaxed, and it was one of the things she did nearly every night after work. Laurabeth soon realized Brooke’s true passion for pastries, and she told her, “’One Day, we will start a bakery, and you can help us get there if you hang on with us. Just let us get our feet under us with the restaurant.’”
“It was invaluable to have had Brooke with us from the start,” said Laurabeth. “She was able to see the restaurant’s metamorphosis, so she understands us and our mindset and why we do what we do and the reasons for the way we do it.”
Brooke and Laurabeth had trouble deciding whether to bring desserts into the restaurant or launch the bakery first. In the end, starting small made sense.
“We were just dipping our toes into it,” said Laurabeth. “It was a complete diversion from Fergndan’s, so we were dividing our time and energy, as well as wanted to see what people would buy and at what price.”
They started with classics like peanut butter, chocolate chip, and sugar cookies, then brought in Brooke’s unique cheesecake recipe in multiple flavors and formats. Later they added cupcakes, baby bundt cakes, and their very-popular cake bites. Before long, they had requests for birthday cakes and wedding cakes.
Laurabeth struck a deal with Brooke: She would handle the people, the front of house, and let Brooke do what she does best and had always dreamed of doing – her creative work through baking.
The formula was working. The orders kept coming, as word spread on its own of the newest bakery on the block, tucked away into the family pizza joint in the renovated house on HWY 30. In February 2019 they launched Bremma’s as its stand-alone brand from Fergndan’s.
The Ferguson’s two food business ventures – Fergndan’s and Bremma’s – have been a family affair from the start.
While the businesses were growing, so was the Ferguson family. Brooke married into the family in June 2021, becoming sister-in-law to her best friend, Emma.
“Emma and I became best friends working on the food truck,” said Brooke. “After work we’d go back to her house and bake. Sometimes while items were baking in the oven, we’d watch TV. We had a Pinterest board that we named ‘Bremma’s’ where we stored our baking recipes and design ideas (a portmanteau of their names, Brooke and Emma). Basically, Bremma’s was around before the bakery.”
By early 2022, the Ferguson team knew it was time for a major change. They were quickly running out of dry and refrigeration storage, prep counter space and room in the front display case and storage for pre-orders.
“The opportunity to grow presented itself at the perfect time,” said Laurabeth. “We were turning down orders because we could not keep growing in the Fergndan’s kitchen.”
In late summer 2022, Kelli Smith Russell and Cole Russell, owners of The Cakery, gave Bremma’s a call. Ready to retreat to full-time mom life as she welcomed twins to her growing family, Kelli was looking for a local person to take over her business and inquired if Bremma’s was interested in buying them out. Excited for their next chapter, Bremma’s took over The Cakery in mid-August 2022, and managed their orders and The Cakery’s order commitments on the first Ole Miss home football game weekend of the season.
On Easter weekend of 2023, Bremma’s doubled in size by demolishing the wall next door and completing a massive renovation of the now two-location space on the strip adjacent to Larson’s Cash Saver. With more staff and space than ever, Laurabeth and Brooke are already thinking about the future.
“My focus today is having enough day-to-day staff to handle the nuts and bolts so Brooke can focus on the creative side,” said Laurabeth.
Brooke echoed that sentiment, “Once we get our footing better, and are not worried about the cases being filled every morning, I’d like to do more creative things like a ‘theme of the month’ or something beyond whatever the closest holiday is right then. I want to get our customers excited to see what we are doing next each month!”
The team has an interest in expanding into the wholesale market, starting with their best-selling cheesecakes. “I’d love to see Bremma’s cheesecakes in other businesses!” said Brooke. We have no doubt she will see that dream come true.
You can expect exciting things from Bremma’s for the holidays, as it is one of Brooke’s favorite times of year. Of course, you can call in special orders, but you can expect to see holiday flavors like raspberry white chocolate, caramel apple, and pumpkin spice cheesecakes, chocolate peppermint cakes, and gingerbread and sugar cookie cookie-kits for making with your kiddos at home. Holiday breakfast items are also a specialty with Bremma’s, such as their house recipe cinnamon rolls, muffins, and scones.
For the latest holiday menu, visit their site at bremmasbakery.com.