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Two Harbors woman makes sweets her business

Julie Bugner does it all: sugar cookie bars, Norwegian treat Kransekake, cakes that mimic a scene from Minecraft, and her specialty, French macarons.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
Julie Bugner smiles while completing a transaction at a farmers market June 25 in Two Harbors.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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TWO HARBORS — Julie Bugner’s treat list is stacked.

Sugar cookie bars, banana breads, Norwegian treat Kransekake and cakes that mimic a scene from Minecraft. She’s even behind macaron flavors, from cake batter, to coffee bean, to cookie butter.

Out of all the goods she makes on her Two Harbors homestead, “80% of the time, it’s macarons,” Bugner said.

After 10-plus years in the culinary industry, Bugner operates Two Harbors Baker , in which she crafts homemade desserts, breads and more out of the North Shore homestead she shares with her husband and two children.

Her family has been an integral part of her background in the kitchen — from helping her mom make Christmas cookies, and making and canning applesauce to encouragement from her cousin to go to culinary school; and learning about pastries, baking and macarons while working at a French restaurant in the south suburbs of Chicago alongside her cousin’s wife.

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“I love what I do. … I work my hardest to make something that will bring smiles to peoples faces. That is what brings me the most joy,” she said.

Bugner took time to share about troubleshooting recipes, the key to cooking with tots at home and her secret ingredient.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
Julie Bugner arranges bags of macarons for sale.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: What’s your favorite dessert to eat? Make? Watch others enjoy?

A: My favorite dessert to eat is cheesecake and key lime pie. Those two go hand-in-hand for me.

My favorite dessert to make is French macarons. I love all the endless flavors and color combinations I can make.

My favorite dessert I love to watch others enjoy are probably my cakes because I spend so much time and work really hard to avoid making one cake the exact same as another.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
Pastries, including red velvet muffins, created by Julie Bugner.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: Any lessons from the kitchen that translate into other areas of life?

A: I work from home with an almost 3-year-old and an almost 1-year-old. Having patience with my baked goods/pastries, especially French macarons, helps me learn to also be patient with my little ones.

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Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
A cake created by Julie Bugner, the pastry chef behind Two Harbors Baker.
Contributed / Julie Bugner

Q: Name your go-to cooking scenario.

A: My favorite time of day to start in the kitchen is as early as I can.

I always have music on, it usually ends up being country, Christian or folk music.

Being solo in the kitchen is rare for me since I am a full-time, stay-at-home mom and business owner, but during nap time, I am the most efficient.

I’ll never forget being in the kitchen baking with my mom, some of my best memories. I’d take my mom in the kitchen as my helper any day.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
A customer holds a strawberry shortbread cookie and cash to pay Julie Bugner at the farmers market June 25 in Two Harbors.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: You’ve been working in a kitchen in some capacity for many years. Does struggling with a new recipe happen for you at this point?

A: Struggling with old recipes still happens more than I’d like!

Recently, some products I use have been out of stock and I’ll have to try different brands of butter, powdered sugar, pistachio butters or extracts. Something little like the brand of butter alters the way a recipe I’ve been making for years will come out.

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Different brands of powdered sugar will sometimes make a buttercream grainy or separate. Different brands of almond flour will have more or less oil in them, or will be more coarse than another which will alter how a recipe turns out.

If a recipe doesn’t turn out how I’d hoped, I’ll adjust it until I get a finished product I like.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
Julie Bugner sells farm fresh eggs at the farmers market in Two Harbors.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: Describe your homestead. How do you incorporate where you live with what you bake?

A: It’s a small operation that we’ve grown each year. We have 50-plus laying hens and a few roosters. We also have a huge garden.

I incorporate into all my baked goods our eggs as well as produce from our garden: garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, jalapenos, carrots, zucchini and pumpkins.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
Homemade Oreo cookies created by Julie Bugner.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: When do you know a recipe’s right where you want it?

A: To be honest, I never really know. Just when I think I have created a perfect recipe, it comes out slightly different than the last time I made it. That’s how baking is though. It’s so finicky and exact that the littlest things can alter how the entire recipe turns out.

Q: What’s your secret ingredient?

A: Prayer and music and positivity!

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
Julie Bugner created these macarons for sale in Two Harbors.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: Your work has a light and bright aesthetic: swirled macaron colors, cupcakes with bees on top, Rice Krispies with blush sprinkles. Tell us a little about your design process.

A: I try to create something appealing to my daughter. She loves colorful things, especially tie-dye. If she loves it, I know most will, too.

I believe we all have a little kid in us, and so I try to create things that every kid would love and think is fun because I know others will, too, even grown-ups.

Q: What’s next for Two Harbors Baker?

A: Continue to grow, build and learn. My ultimate goal is to build a commercial kitchen on our property, so I could eventually wholesale to others in our community.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
Jane Dauphin, left, of Two Harbors, shares a red velvet muffin created by Julie Bugner with her daughter, Isabelle Dauphin, 19, of Two Harbors.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: What’s your guilty pleasure?

A: Frosting and graham crackers — a childhood staple compliments of my then-babysitter. I make it for myself every now and then, but it’s never as good as my babysitter’s.

Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
A cake created by Julie Bugner, the pastry chef behind Two Harbors Baker.
Contributed / Julie Bugner

Q: Tips for others who may want to learn how to bake?

A: Never give up.

I’ve been there, where I feel like I should give up, but I remind myself baking is a science and the reasons why something might not turn out are endless. It could be the temperature of your kitchen, the humidity, your oven temperature, the fans in your oven or the type of pan you use.

Even the best chefs mess up from time to time, and the only way to get better is to make mistakes, so you can learn from them.

Just never give up, keep trying, and positive attitudes and confidence in the kitchen make all the difference.

    Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
    A cake created by Julie Bugner, the pastry chef behind Two Harbors Baker.
    Contributed / Julie Bugner
    Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
    A cake created by Julie Bugner, the pastry chef behind Two Harbors Baker.
    Contributed / Julie Bugner
    Cakes pastries and cookies for sale at farmers market outdoor venue
    A cake created by Julie Bugner, the pastry chef behind Two Harbors Baker.
    Contributed / Julie Bugner
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    She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

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