I’ve always been a baker. I loved baking as a child and my mother indulged my interest in it. I was about 10 years old when my father’s mother wrote down her recipe for carrot cake. Big Momma (she was 6′ 3″ tall so I called her Big Momma to distinguish her from my mother’s mother) was a fabulous scratch cook. I grew up spending summers with her in Fort Walton Beach, FL. She was the housekeeper/cook for a family that owned the Ramada Hotel. I got to have the run of the hotel while she worked in their private residence. In addition white families from all over the city would bring food to her house to cook for their parties and events. The palm of her hand was her measuring device. I never learned to cook that way, but I mastered her carrot cake recipe. Also about that same age my mother had a friend that grew huge zucchinis in her garden every year. She knew I liked to bake, so she gave me a zucchini bread recipe and for years when the crop came in I’d bake dozens of loaves of bread. I had two versions, Pineapple Walnut or Raisins. I give mini versions of the carrot cake as Christmas gifts to my family because they love it so much and I have been known to sell a cake or two over the years when really prodded. I bake the bread upon request, but primarily around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
Fast forward to the late 50s Venus. When I moved into my first house in the city I had this notion of going to Findley Market multiple times a week to get fresh meats and produce and cooking meals every evening. I shared this concept with friends and I received great cooking for one cookbooks. That notion faded quickly, cooking for one sucks, but on one occasion I bought zucchini to grill in oven. Instead of grilling it I shredded it and made bread. I didn’t have my normal ingredients for it (pineapple, walnuts or raisins), but I did have tart cherries and chocolate chips and I thought chocolate covered cherries are good, so try it in the bread. I was on to something. I let my friend Carolyn Wallace, owner of The Perfect Brew, try it. She loved it. My friend Maisha tried it and said “girl you need to be selling this” and so the seed was planted. I met Crystal Grace, owner of Cream + Sugar Coffee House, thru catering jobs for Carolyn, so I approached her first. She said yes to carrying it in her shop. That gave me confidence to approach Mom ‘N ‘Em Coffee and Wine, located just a block from my house. They also liked the bread, so for months I had only three customers and sold only the Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread.
I wasn’t making a ton of money, but mentally this endeavor came at the right time. Covid-19 had shut down my consulting business and I had grown weary from the media’s use of the term “essential workers”. I had spent the last 25 years of my life working in the hospitality industry, that had been rendered non-essential. These three businesses, and their genuine love of my bread, made me feel essential again.
Mom ‘N ‘Em lost their pastry vendor and only had my bread to offer their customers. I asked the owner Theresa if they’d consider adding muffins as I knew I could adapt my recipe to that format. She was open to it, so my experimentation began. Knowing that my carrot cake and zucchini breads used the same base ingredients I decided to experiment with carrots also. If I was going to go down the muffin path I wanted to be able to offer a variety. Knowing my base mix was sound, all I needed to do was find the right combination of extras to add, so I Googled zucchini and carrot muffin recipes. I took ideas from several different recipes and was able to create five different variety of muffins and Mom ‘N ‘Em started carrying them. Despite the popularity with their customers, due to finding a new pastry chef that allows them to foster their own brand, Mom ‘N ‘Em decided to stop carrying my muffins, but the exposure led Deeper Roots Coffee to reach to me.
They had temporarily lost their pastry vendor and were in a bind for product. They asked if I could supply their three locations. At the time I owned 4 loaf pans and 4 muffin pans as that was more than enough to service my original three customers. We spoke on a Sunday and I agreed to deliver the next day. I literally baked through the night, finishing at 5:40 am only to need to start delivering at 6:30 am. My product was a hit and they doubled their order for Wednesday. I was able to get more pans, but the increased order still had me up to 4 am baking. My product proved itself worthy of permanent placement even once their pastry vendor came back, so my cottage business was born.
I’m so amazed and proud of what I’ve created. All my life I used bleached flour, but in researching ingredients I learned about the difference between bleached and unbleached and I’ve made the decision to only use King Arthur’s Unbleached All-Purpose flour in my products. It’s more expensive, but I think a better product, worthy of my creations. I’ve been a fan of Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices for years. The recipes I researched listed spices I’ve never cooked with and yet I’m adding them to my muffins. Spices like ginger, cardamom, cloves, allspice, and I get them all from the Colonel. I was buying bulk carrots from the grocery store and Carolyn hooked me onto to Trader Joe’s Organic Carrots of Many Colors. I was not going for “organic”, but I love the visual presentation my carrot muffins have due to the white, yellow, purple, and orange colors their carrots provide.
Since my muffins are really just adaptations of my bread recipe, I call them Bruffins. I highly encourage you to to support Cream + Sugar and Deeper Roots Coffee shops, but you can also order direct.
Where To Find Sista Girl with Skills Bakery Products
All Three Locations: Oakley, Findley Market (Race Street), and 4th Street. Carrying Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread and bruffins.
Located in Evanston.
Carrying Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread Only.
Catering company using primarily Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread for breakfast jobs.