HOW IT ALL BEGAN......

When I was a young mother of 4, I was always looking for ways to do things to save money. I participated in various craft/holiday events where I would sell handcrafted items to bring in some extra family funds, and even sold some items in consignment shops. Eventually I decided to take some classes in cake decorating so that I would be able to create fancier birthday cakes for my four children when those special days rolled around. I enrolled in a class taught by a woman who was an expert in cakes and cake decorating. During the course I learned a lot of the basics of cake decorating and combined this knowledge with the skills I had learned through the years about how to bake a moist cake. Using skills I learned in class, I created some fun cakes for my family and for special holidays, and found I was enjoying this form of creativity.

The idea came to me - would I be able to use my cake decorating skills as a way to generate some income? At one of the final cake decorating classes, I approached the instructor to ask her whether she thought I had enough cake decorating talent to do miscellaneous cakes and possibly wedding cakes. If so, I was thinking I could start a side job baking for others and contribute to our family budget instead of earning funds from selling crafts and puppets in craft/holiday events. My instructor assured me that I did have some natural talents in cake decorating, and that a wedding cake was just several cakes put together (I soon learned it was a little more than that). She also offered to “walk” me through my first cake if I was able to find someone willing to let me create that dream cake for her special day.

My husband, Dallas gave me $1000 to go out to buy some supplies (cake pans, parchment paper, etc). A friend at church said I could make her cake for her. Back then, wedding cakes had lots of swags and frosting roses on them and she chose that design. Several years earlier while we were living in The Dalles, Oregon, Dallas’ brother had taught me how to make frosting roses and rosebuds, and my cake decorating classes had included making roses and other flowers, so those were easy for me to create. With basic supplies, new skills from my classes, and a bride willing to be my “first”, in August of 1974 in Bellevue, Washington, I created my first wedding cake using a butter cream frosting recipe I had learned from my mother. The cake design included lots of swags and roses and was a success. I was on my way to a new adventure.

 

 

At first, cake orders came here and there for birthday and anniversary cakes, but as the months went forward, my name began to spread around and more orders came my way including wedding cake orders. From frosting roses and rosebuds, to more advanced filigree and lace pieces made out of royal frosting, the designs eventually became more intricate. I soon found that baking out of our kitchen was not the best and I needed more room. I also realized I needed to be properly licensed. We were in unincorporated King County at the time, so “cottage industries” were legal. However, I would have to create a separate kitchen to work in for my orders. In 1985 we decided we would remodel a portion of our downstairs to create an area for the bakery. My brother-in-law (an architect) drew up the plans, and a contractor was hired. I was able to get some commercial equipment from a man who was frustrated with the failure of his bakery business. This cut the cost considerably for the tables, mixers, etc. I also needed cabinets and we were able to use some old cabinets left from the remodel of our upstairs family kitchen to complete the bakery. My business expanded more each year, and soon I was approached by a dear friend who convinced me that I should be catering along with making cakes, opening another whole world of opportunities. Sharon’s Catering and Cakes became a reality.

In August of 1988 my oldest son, David, married a beautiful young woman from Guatemala and, of course, I volunteered to make their wedding cake. I was looking for something very special to make for them and had come across a recipe for a torted cake with a white chocolate frosting. The butter cream frosting recipe I was using was good, but had some drawbacks, and I was looking for something else. I made up a sample of the white chocolate frosting and the cake. It was very good and the frosting was particularly different and delicious. I used the recipe for the David and Dinorah’s wedding cake, and it was enjoyed by our guests who also remarked that the frosting was quite exceptional. It was very buttery with a delightful smooth texture. At one point during the reception, I overhead a conversation about the frosting. Dinorah, David’s new wife, was remarking how buttery the frosting was, and that perhaps frosting leftovers should be saved so that they could use it to butter their toast. (Dinorah had come from a very poor family and was extremely frugal.) I had also noticed that the frosting was really very buttery, which was the result of the 1 to 1 ratio of butter to white chocolate. I decided I liked the texture, of the frosting, but that perhaps I could make it taste more like white chocolate than butter, so I began experimenting. By the time I was done, I had created my own wonderful frosting.

 

 

When brides would come for “tasting appointments” we would provide 3-4 samples of cakes along with our 2 frostings – butter cream and white chocolate – and different filling combinations so that they could determine their favorites for their wedding cakes. It wasn’t long before the dominant choice was the white chocolate frosting. Soon we stopped offering the original butter cream frosting and all of our cake orders came with our “White Chocolate Frosting”. I was always asked to share my recipe, but the recipe was never shared with ANYONE – not even my husband or my daughter, who worked with me for years. It was my trademark. The use of white chocolate also opened the door to a whole new world of decorating including bows and delicate draping pieces of white chocolate. Other bakeries were using fondant to create those images, but we found the white chocolate had the advantage of being delicious to eat, also, and we could create similar results.

 

 

After making 5000+ wedding cakes, and an unknown number of birthday, anniversary, and novelty cakes, I finally retired in 2012, mostly due to physical and emotional exhaustion from the stress of 20 years of catering and 38 years of creating cakes. I had developed high anxiety levels which took over my life, keeping me from doing anything except going to one doctor after another trying to find out what was wrong with me. I felt horrible and I was nauseated all the time. My body ached, and the smallest request to participate in something would stimulate my already overactive state of anxiety into a higher level which would include sending my blood pressure soaring. Medical doctors only wanted to hand me prescriptions (with side effects) to “solve” my issues. I leaned toward finding solutions through Alternative Medicine techniques and tried almost everything I could. I had to learn and understand that stress and anxiety were actually the underlying causes of the aches and pains I was experiencing. I was blessed to have some wonderful naturopaths who helped me the most, and I spent the next 6+ years learning how to recover physically and emotionally. It was a very slow, painful process. I had gone from a person who had been on the go all the time, and involved in just about everything, to a person who spent most of my days in the recliner, watching the clock for the time to pass until my next appointment. I didn’t even go to the grocery store to go shopping. I did, however, go on daily walks and attended church as regularly as possible. I knew inside that my religion and faith in God was going to be a main part of my healing.

I always had a dream that I would someday publish my own cookbook in order to share recipes we had used in catering. I had actually started the project several times, only to push it aside since it was “too much” for me to handle at the time. From our 20 years of catering, I had also created many valuable charts and information lists showing quantities to purchase when catering, etc. I didn’t want any of this information to be lost, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2018 when I was starting to feel more like my “old self” again, that I finally decided it was time for this dream to come true. I began organizing my books of recipes and putting them into correct formats. This was quite a challenge, as I had several recipe files in my bakery, as well as in our family kitchen, and several old startups of my files on the computer. I also discovered that some of my old files were no longer accessible as program upgrades had made the files unreadable. I plunged head with the goal that I would be able to complete my task and give recipe books to all my children and grandchildren in December – several months away.

The further into my project I got, the more I wondered how on earth I would be able to finish this task. I chose a publisher and found I had to use specific computer programs compatible to their system. Since I wanted the recipes formatted my way, and not in the standard cookbook style, I had to follow a “Press Ready” program, which forced me to learn how to use the Word program I had chosen. This was totally foreign to me and I was trying to do the entire project in secret. Only my husband knew what I was attempting. The reason for this was that I had failed in the past when I had attempted the cookbook, and if I failed again, I would only be disappointing myself and not friends or family. I met a lovely young woman at church who was familiar with the Word program I had chosen, and she agreed to help me get through some of the basic set up procedures I would need to learn. A friend who had worked in editing for a major magazine helped me with formatting.

Trying to understand the Word program involved a steep learning curve that was very frustrating and stressful at times. When I first started the cookbook project, I had thought it would be easily accomplished by Christmas and I would have my books done and printed in time, but soon found that this was a totally ridiculous expectation. I had to give myself more breathing room. If I had learned one thing during the last 6 years it was that creating more anxiety and allowing it to rule me only put me on a road to nowhere. At Christmas, gifts to our family members were plaques with a special message on them: “Choose to be Happy in the Hard” and a note that the plaques were Phase 1 of the gift and that Phase 2 would be available in the Spring.

The holiday season passed, and I had another goal to get things published by February, as the company I had chosen had a special coupon I could take advantage of. I soon realized that this was not going to happen either, so I chose to aim for the April coupon and set that as my new goal. As the project started nearing completion, I realized that the many talents of my wonderful children and grandchildren could be helpful if I utilized them. My granddaughter had degrees in Design. I needed to get my website back up. Other family members had advanced knowledge of computer skills that I needed.

We made an announcement to our family members that Phase 2 was coming and what it was to be. The announcement also included that the cookbook would contain the recipe and step-by-step instructions for making my White Chocolate Frosting! The excitement we created spurred me along to completion. I also began utilizing some of those “family” talents. Our website was recreated, I learned about how to market using things like Facebook, and artwork was completed for the cover and personal pages in the book. Family members helped preview recipes, and they gave their suggestions of how to make the recipe instructions clearer.

On April 17, 2019, PDF copies were sent to the printer and after receiving a proof from them, I sent in my signed approval and the book was finally submitted for printing. After working on this project for 8 months, the cookbook was finally becoming a reality.

Here it is now – in print, and here we are – a retired couple starting on a new adventure! It is our hope that the recipes and information we have in this cookbook will be enjoyed by you and be useful for planning events in your life.

 

Our catering was based on providing good, homemade quality food. We didn’t use fancy names for our menu items. Our menus consisted of things that were recognizable and tasted delicious! I didn’t go to any fancy school to learn French cookery (although I do admire those who have gone this route and are able to produce wonderful things). My schooling was family oriented and used the principles of logic and common sense.

The pictures you see on our website are original prints from the events we catered, hence they are not the digitally perfect pictures you see in cookbooks these days. A suggestion was given that I recreate the items and take new “professional looking” pictures, but the decision was made that although not perfect, the pictures were vintage and historical and made their own statement. You might even recognize something from your own event that we catered, or find a picture of your wedding cake in our wedding cake gallery.

Thank you to all who have made and continue to make our lives such a rich experience! Enjoy!