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Baking Up A Story

I’ve loved to bake for as long as I can remember. Two childhood memories exist at the very close edges of my baked-good memory. First, I recall whipping up an absolutely frightful sponge cake, covered in a thick, sugary, artificially-dyed red glaze, baked in a heart-shaped pan for my mother. She consumed it with gusto, complementing my efforts all the while, although I feel, with somewhat certainty, that my concoction went down like a ton of bricks, and probably tasted like them, too.

Secondly, with a much higher degree of success, I made a pecan pie. I used a pre-made Mrs. Smith’s pie crust and packed my pie with plenty of dark Karo corn syrup. It was sublime. I recall with absolute clarity impatiently waiting for it to cool. For whatever reason, I’d put it on top of the washing machine in our porch/laundry room. I kept returning again and again, yearning for it to cool to the touch so that we could all dig in.

As I’ve aged, I’ve tried my hand at all manor of baked goods. From wedding cakes to yeast breads, brownies to cookies and so much more, if it’s a baked good, I’m a fan. I’ve even channeled this affection into employment in the past, working in the production bakery kitchen of a large natural foods store and baking cakes, pies, crepes, and other baked goods when serving as manager of a local bed and breakfast. I also worked in a bakery in college, where I first developed a fine love and appreciation for challah, pain du chocolat, fresh croissants, biscotti, and much, much more.

Some passions never die. I recently read that Julia Child said that “you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” I adore baking. When we travel, I always want to visit the confectioners and pastry shops and bread bakers. I want to ogle the cupcakes, sample the macarons, smell the salted caramels. I pine for an artisanal donut shop in my town. Fortunately, I have an active metabolism and a high degree of self-restraint, otherwise my devotion could morph into a liability instead of an asset.

And so, it is with great enthusiasm, that I get to tell you today that I will once again be taking up whisk, mixing bowl, and oven mitt and baking professionally! My uber talented friend Jodi Rhoden and her adorable, retro, all-natural southern-style cake shop Short Street Cakes will be graciously adding me to their ranks beginning next week. Not content to simply bake some of the best wedding, special occasion, and cupcakes in town, Jodi is also embarking on a soon-to-be announced project with Lark Books (my publisher). She’s a hard-working mom (4 year-old Jasper is super cute) with a wicked palate. She’s also a total fashion plate (she can work retro dresses with unstoppable flair!) equipped with a quick wit, a hearty laugh, and some great tattoos.

I’ll be working part-time, dabbling in all facets of the shop, from baking and decorating to running the front of the store, gathering locally-sourced ingredients from area farmers, and picking up supplies as needed. I’d wanted a bit of outside of the home work ever since completing the manuscript for my fourth book (“Keeping Bees”, Lark 2011) three weeks ago. However, after working from home exclusively for almost two years, I’ve become rather particular about what I’d like to do. Over a year ago, I’d taken Jodi a resume. Then, rather auspiciously this past Friday afternoon, she rang me up, mentioning some upcoming vacancies at the shop and wondering if I’d like to come on board.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to get back into the kitchen. While I’m always canning, culturing, whipping, or stirring something at home (for leisure as well as for the book series), it’s another beast entirely to be in a bona fide kitchen, making cakes. CAKES! Could there be a more happiness-inducing vocation? Not only are you and your patrons on a sugar high, but you’re creating edible memories, paying delicious homage to life’s moments.

I can’t wait. And, if you’re in Asheville, come by and show Jodi and the crew some love. The cupcakes are always fresh, the coffee is stellar, and the staff is ready to see you, myself included!

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