FORT GREENE — The line typically starts to form at 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning outside Cake Man Raven on Fulton Street as hundreds of locals carry out a holiday tradition of serving the baker's red velvet cake alongside turkey, gravy and stuffing at their tables.
But this year marks the last time cake lovers will get to line up outside his store before dawn, because Raven Dennis III, known to most as Cake Man Raven, says he will be closing his 12-year-old storefront at 708 Fulton St. on Monday, Nov. 26, leaving locals to get their sweet comfort-food fix elsewhere.
“I am beyond sad to see the cake shop go,” said Dennis, who first opened his cake shop in Harlem before moving to Fort Greene. “I cannot imagine how I will feel when I turn the lights out for the last time.”
Dennis said the time has come to move on and focus on other goals, like his pastry and culinary arts television show, which he said is currently in talks with two networks, and his new special events company and bakery school.
Both ventures are based in a studio space on Atlantic Avenue in East New York where he houses "Cakeville USA." He has done the majority of baking there over the years, transporting cakes daily to Fort Greene.
“Cakeville USA is the future of my brand,” Dennis said. “The possibilities are endless.”
Dennis' talents have always allowed him broad possibilities. He was 9 when he baked for the first time in Lynchburg, S.C., where his grandmother taught him to make coconut pie on Nov. 22, 1981. He went on to sell those pies to his school principal who lavished praise on him and ignited his lifelong passion for baking.
“I remember the date because it changed everything for me,” he said. “It will be 31 years ago this Thanksgiving.”
Since then Dennis has baked for luminaries including Bill Cosby, Spike Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, 50 Cent, Rihanna and Mariah Carey — to name a few. He holds the Guinness Book World Record for the world's largest sculptured cake, which he made in Brooklyn. He served comfort cake on the street outside his bakery after 9/11 and opened his shop by candlelight after Hurricane Sandy.
More importantly, he has made wedding, birthday and funeral cakes during the moments of sadness and celebration in neighbors' lives for more than two decades.
For now, Cake Man Raven plans to open at 4 a.m. sharp on Thanksgiving day with regular business hours leading up to his closing gala reception on Monday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. The night comes complete with a red carpet and of course, red velvet cake.
If locals really get red velvet-flavored cravings, they need not fret. Dennis will still be taking phone orders at 917-202-7273.