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Opening Cakery & Coffee House


DragonflyDesserts
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Hi

I've been lurking here for several months, using the posts to educate me as a baker. I am a newly self taught baker. About 15 months ago, I came up with an idea to sell cakes from my home, thinking made from scratch specialty cakes to market to restaurants and locally. I found out that the lady who did all the wedding and birthday cakes around here for the last 30 years (unlicensed) was retiring from it, so I jumped into the decorating end. I bought RLB Cake Bible and Pie and Pastry Bible and a few other books and proceded to learn to decorate cakes, bake pies and cakes with great results. I sell carrot cakes to a few upscale restaurants and make cakes for people in our surrounding area ( I live in a town of about 2000 with a nearby city. Well, I've been very blessed and also very popular :biggrin: , which just amazes me since I am so new at this.

Well, now, my brother has decided to invest in my business and we looked into a commercial kitchen which has a store front. So now, opening August 10, we have Dragonfly Desserts, LLC Cakery & Coffee House. It is a totally cool little place that we have completely renovated and I will continue to sell carrot cakes and market more restaurants, as well, to the best of my ability, sell gourmet desserts out of the front end of the shop. I am hoping to become a unique little place that people from far and wide want to stop in. People like to go on drives to little towns and we are just off the interstate. Well, the thing is, I have no experience in bakery production...not that I want to have a huge line of items. I just want things to be fresh tasting, with out having to bake them at 4 am every morning. Up to this point I have been a homeschooling, stay at home mom with 5, yes 5, kids. I still have to small ones at home. So, I am going to hire one baker to help me and plan to work 8:30 to 3 plus other hours as necessary for getting custom orders done. I want to sell muffins, scones, cookies, brownies, pies, quiche and cakes. I've already copied of the best blueberry muffin recipe from the other thread and the blueberry buckle, that I can't wait to try. I'm not going to have a dozen different flavors of everything, but rotate them weekly. I'm looking for a few unique items and looking for somethings that people may stop in at my shop just to get.

What I really need is tips, from those who work in the pastry profession, and I feel honored just to be able to question and be among the pros on this gullet. I'd love to have culinary degree but am just a simple baker, though I actually know more than my mother through one year of doing this :smile: I need tips on freezing and preparing ahead of time. How long things last....like muffins and scones. Cookies, I know I can freeze the dough and bake as needed and they stay fresh for a few days. Any tips for organizing my kitchen, great computer software for the bakery, etc. Pricing. I know its a little low right now but trying to see what this midwest market will bear. What would you do in your own place?

Thanks for your help!

Edited by DragonflyDesserts (log)

Cheryl Brown

Dragonfly Desserts

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Holy smokes girl!!! You are a glutten for punishment. You've got 5 kids and you're home schooling so you obviously have energy and are organized. Maybe it's different in a small town but I don't know how you'll pull it off. I'm a bit envious though as that would be right up my alley. Maybe some time in the future. Anyways, I wanted to make sure you've read Mel's thread about her first year setting up a bakery. It's a bit different than what you're doing, but if you take some time to read through it you'll get an idea of the situations that can come up.

I did bake for a coffee house for awhile and did all the recipe development, etc. and all I can tell you is customers are very fickle and what sells one day, may not sell the next. We managed to come up with a core of recipes that sold well most of the time and then rotated some other items. Due to a variety of circumstances, mostly money related, they had to close before we really got off the ground but you've got a financial backer so that takes some worry away.

Best wishes!!

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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I had five kids and was single when I was a caterer--and that's not as hard as opening your own place. It's going to take all of your energy and time; do you think that's fair to your kids? Don't take offense, I just remember how hard it was. You may think you can set reasonable hours, but it's not that easy.

Have you thought about just making the cakes without opening your own business? It just seems like a lot.

And if you're new to this, it sounds like there will be a really steep learning curve...

Good luck if you continue with this, and I do hope you have a lot of energy.

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I agree with the other responses, you're in for quite a ride!! It sounds to me like you're doing it though, so what you need is some help in the logistics. (My family has a food business, which includes high-end baking and we've just relocated and are developing new recipes as we speak... so I'm right there with you.)

When I used to sell muffins, I would mix up huge batches and freeze them in 1 L containers. Then I could pull 1-2 L of a few flavours out each afternoon, put them in the cooler and they were ready to bake first thing in the morning.

Cookies, I've done it two ways, but prefer to scoop them, freeze on baking sheets and then keep in plastic containers until ready to bake. Placed on a baking sheet in the morning, 1/2 hour on the counter and they're ready to bake.

For cakes, I always bake up what I call components - the cake part or biscuit rounds. Wrap well and into the freezer. Meringue layers are baked and wrapped well, don't usually freeze them but you can. Then you pull them out and ice them as you need them.

I sell a lot of what we call 'dainties' here. I think some others on here have referred to them as 'pic-ups' - the 1-2 bite desserts. Whenever I have time I make a batch of this or that and stick it in the freezer. The goal is to have a good variety that I can pull out with I get an order for a tray (or in April when I needed 1500 over 3 days, I only had to make a ocuple of things to fill the order).

Eclairs and cream puffs also work well as a do-ahead. They can be frozen and if necessary returned to the oven to crisp up when thawed.

Things in the freezer will last a long time. Do you have a walk-in freezer??

Cheesecakes both freeze well and keep well in a showcase.

I hope some of this helps.

Goodluck!! You have a lot of work ahead of yourself but it sounds like you're on your way.

Edited by Pam R (log)
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I agree with the other responses, you're in for quite a ride!!  It sounds to me like you're doing it though, so what you need is some help in the logistics.  (My family has a food business, which includes high-end baking and we've just relocated and are developing new recipes as we speak... so I'm right there with you.)

I grew up on the restaurant business so I know what it can become, but I'm in this with 3 other people with the same values and it will not take over my family. I won't let it. It is here to serve us, not us be a slave to it. That's why I want to be choosy about my menu, not have a ridiculously huge selection and that's only part of the business. The coffee house will not be run by me and I will have a baking assistant. I definitely want to make money, but not become rich. I started this for a creative outlet as well and if I'm not having fun, then what's the point?

When I used to sell muffins, I would mix up huge batches and freeze them in 1 L containers.  Then I could pull 1-2 L of a few flavours out each afternoon, put them in the cooler and they were ready to bake first thing in the morning.]

I'm glad to here you can freeze muffin dough. I wasn't sure about that!

I sell a lot of what we call 'dainties' here.  I think some others on here have referred to them as 'pic-ups' - the 1-2 bite desserts.  Whenever I have time I make a batch of this or that and stick it in the freezer.  The goal is to have a good variety that I can pull out with I get an order for a tray (or in April when I needed 1500 over 3 days, I only had to make a ocuple of things to fill the order).

I have been definitely thinking about this. Care to share any recipes? :smile:

Things in the freezer will last a long time.  Do you have a walk-in freezer??

No walk in, just to large commercial freezers.

Thanks for your tips! They are greatly appreciated!

Cheryl Brown

Dragonfly Desserts

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I sell a lot of what we call 'dainties' here.  I think some others on here have referred to them as 'pic-ups' - the 1-2 bite desserts.  Whenever I have time I make a batch of this or that and stick it in the freezer.  The goal is to have a good variety that I can pull out with I get an order for a tray (or in April when I needed 1500 over 3 days, I only had to make a ocuple of things to fill the order).

I have been definitely thinking about this. Care to share any recipes? :smile:

I'm happy to. I'm just working on gathering more of them now - our kitchen is under construction so I can't do much (any) testing for a month or two. Honestly, what I generally do is search through tons and tons of cookbooks to get ideas. A lot of recipes have components to them that I like, or have good bases but often need tweaking. I don't have any of my recipes at home right now (all at work) but what type of things are you interested in? For the dainties I do things like: tarts (lemon meringue, pecan, butter, fresh fruit), rum balls, peanut butter chocolate covered cherries (not my favorite thing to do, and not quite my dream dessert to sell, but dammit, people love them), small eclairs, lemon swans (cream puffs with lemon curd/mixed with whipped cream filling, pipe a neck to add), then you can do all kinds of squares - cheesecakes, dense & rich brownies. There are a couple of threads on here that discuss many of these things... take a look at:

Wendy DeBord's foodblog She does amazing stuff. Much fancier than me - but I'm working on that!

Help me design a dessert bar .... has some great suggestions

and of course the pastry and baking forum has tons of information.

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re: walk in vs. commercial freezers

I'm assuming that your freezers work like my walk-ins? Mine are colder that a typical home freezer, so I can keep things in there for months with no harm done, as long as they are well wrapped or packaged.

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Pam - I need freezer space at work (the walkin freezer is small, and there's not a whole lot of room for my stuff in there) and am considering a single door reach in; what brand do you have?

I'm looking at Arctic Air (22 cu ft), Northland (29 cu ft) and maybe a True (but that is a huge leap in price as I would probably get the 35 cu ft two door)- but probably the Northland because it has more capacity in the same footprint as the Arctic Air for only $200 more.

Anyone familiar with these brands for reach-ins?

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Pam - I need freezer space at work (the walkin freezer is small, and there's not a whole lot of room for my stuff in there) and am considering a single door reach in; what brand do you have? 

I've never had a reach-in before. We had a 16x12 foot and an 8x8 foot walk-in. We're planning on getting a 10x20 walk-in put up in our parking lot in the next month or so.

We did however, buy a 2-door reach in from the previous business when we moved in last month. They were only in business for about 8 months... so it seems to be in pretty good shape. I believe it's a True (though I can't swear to that). Since my kitchen isn't up and running yet, I haven't used it for any baking... it's full of frozen beef and poultry for now.. and they're doing well. :wink:

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While we're talking about things that freeze well, I was wondering about puff pastry. I want to make Gale Gand's Lemon Daisies for an upcoming event and was wondering if I could bake and freeze the puff pastry shells ahead of time and then fill with Lemon Cream just before serving. Will the baked puff pastry be soggy when it thaws?

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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Congratulations DragonFlyDesserts on your new venture. I wish you lots of luck and I thought I had energy but you certainly have me topped.

I am just beginning to investigate opening a storefront myself, so your posting is quite timely.

I have just begun my process and unlike you I don't have a financial backer just yet but met with a SBA RM last week to begin the conversations.

I also don't won't a huge array of items to manage right off the top but just a few things. I make birthday cakes, shower cakes etc. Limited cookies and pies but I can do those things as well I just prefer the cake mode.

I have operated my business from my home for the last two years and this year has been a very good year so far. My one corporate client has asked me to take on other locations for them and I will be agreeing to that one day next week once I put in my notice at my fulltime job. But I also plan to approach several other small accounts in case my big account decides to dump me which can happen so I caution you to think of that scenerio as you delve into more corporate clients (restaurants) I am sure I don't need to tell you that because it appears you have the knowledge on that facet.

Again good luck and continue to keep the forum in the loop when time permits. I know it can be difficult, I haven't posted for a while because I have been very busy this summer despite the tremendous heat.

Oh, yes I was overwhelmed by how much people enjoy cake too. It's very interesting in this age of watching your weight, low carb diets etc. :rolleyes:

Edited by celenes (log)

Believe, Laugh, Love

Lydia (aka celenes)

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I'm happy to.  I'm just working on gathering more of them now - our kitchen is under construction so I can't do much (any) testing for a month or two.  Honestly, what I generally do is search through tons and tons of cookbooks to get ideas.  A lot of recipes have components to them that I like, or have good bases but often need tweaking.  I don't have any of my recipes at home right now (all at work) but what type of things are you interested in?  For the dainties I do things like: tarts (lemon meringue, pecan, butter, fresh fruit), rum balls, peanut butter chocolate covered cherries (not my favorite thing to do, and not quite my dream dessert to sell, but dammit, people love them), small eclairs, lemon swans (cream puffs with lemon curd/mixed with whipped cream filling, pipe a neck to add), then you can do all kinds of squares - cheesecakes, dense & rich brownies.  There are a couple of threads on here that discuss many of these things... take a look at:

Wendy DeBord's foodblog She does amazing stuff.  Much fancier than me - but I'm working on that!

Help me design a dessert bar .... has some great suggestions

and of course the pastry and baking forum has tons of information.

Thanks for the link to Wendy's blog. It is great! I love seeing pictures of kitchens and the things they create. It's a great education when you can't get out there yourself.

Cheryl Brown

Dragonfly Desserts

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Congratulations DragonFlyDesserts on your new venture.  I wish you lots of luck and I thought I had energy but you certainly have me topped.

I am just beginning to investigate opening a storefront myself, so your posting is quite timely.

I have just begun my process and unlike you I don't have a financial backer just yet but met with a SBA RM last week to begin the conversations.

I also don't won't a huge array of items to manage right off the top but just a few things. I make birthday cakes, shower cakes etc.  Limited cookies and pies but I can do those things as well I just prefer the cake mode.

I have operated my business from my home for the last two years and this year has been a very good year so far.  My one corporate client has asked me to take on other locations for them and I will be agreeing to that one day next week once I put in my notice at my fulltime job.  But I also plan to approach several other small accounts in case my big account decides to dump me which can happen so I caution you to think of that scenerio as you delve into more corporate clients (restaurants)  I am sure I don't need to tell you that because it appears you have the knowledge on that facet.

Again good luck and continue to keep the forum in the loop when time permits.  I know it can be difficult, I haven't posted for a while because I have been very busy this summer despite the tremendous heat.

Oh, yes I was overwhelmed by how much people enjoy cake too.  It's very interesting in this age of watching your weight, low carb diets etc. :rolleyes:

Thanks Celenes. I figured nothing could be more stessfull than homeschooling. I felt I was running a 3 ring circus :wacko: Though I loved the whole idea of it and what we were doing....wow, is it hard with so many kids! For the past year I've done it while baking cakes....not much sleep! I figure that if I can make a profit and stay with a 40 hour week, I will do great. We have a low overhead and the rent for the building with equipment is only $500 a month. My mom has been in the restaurant biz for 30 years, but she is a one woman show....owning and managing and practically lives it, but she loves it. I just can't wait to create special things for people. There reactions when they see their cake or after they've eaten it is what I love. I think you do have to create enough income though, when you go out on your own with a cake shop that you can hire someone to help, or you will burn out fast. I will not be relying solely on custom cakes to pay the bills, but the corporate accounts and the coffee house. I can't wait to post pictures of the coffee house! It had a low ceiling and ugly walls and counter area and we discovered that it had a tin ceiling with some hidden windows above the 3 large front windows. We gutted the place and painted the ceiling red and had a custom service area built. It's really fun to WOW a small town. We exposed the top windows.

I must add that I did have a financial backer, but we haven't used his $$ yet. That just got the ball rolling. I had a banker that was very interested in my business and he helped us right a business plan, plus got us a line of credit for $25,000, then we presented the plan to the town development committee, who gave us a $5000 grant and $10,000 interest free loan that we don't have to pay back for 18 months. The person we leased the building from even put in central air at no charge :biggrin: How cool is that!

I've joined eGullet just for the purpose of gaining wisdom and experience where I don't have it. Where else can you consult the experts! Thank you so much! I will keep you posted as to how things work out. We open our shop in 10 days! Yikes!

Cheryl Brown

Dragonfly Desserts

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Cheryl and celenes - this thread for sugar Sweet sunshine might be helpful. It's 2 ladies who aren't pasty chefs who started a shop and appear to have been quite successful. They sell cupcakes, cakes and breakfast items and have their pricing listed. They have a limited menu like you both would like. It might give you some ideas.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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I think I just realized something....especially after looking through the "sugar sweet sunshine" site.

Maybe it's a good thing that a lot of people don't know what they're getting into when they open a bakery/cake shop. They're full of good ideas and optimism. You need all the optimism you can get when you open a place. It's a lot of work.

I've been in the biz for so long that I totally know about the pitfalls of it, and that alone, is what keeps me from opening my own shop. Most of my optimism has faded in the harsh face of reality, and my refusal to be "married to my work" (although, as it is, I sort of already am) keeps me where I'm at.

Maybe going into it half-blind is what's needed. 'Cause if everyone had my attitude there wouldn't be any fun indie bakeries at all. :smile:

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What a cute story. Yes the real world is an eye-opening place I know. But I have decided that if I don't step away from Corporate and try my dream I will be more miserable because I didn't. So off I go and as things start to pull together, I hope to have enough time to journalize the opening of Celene's through this forum with pictures but no promises because we all know having time is a commodity itself.

Thanks to all who continue to add their advice, resources and experiences with those of us who haven't been out there for any length of time.

Believe, Laugh, Love

Lydia (aka celenes)

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You definitely need to follow your dream, Celenes. Dreams are never easy or they wouldn't be dreams. I was a little miffed at first with the negative responses. I am not naive, but maybe just naive enough to follow a dream. I think once you become cynical and negative, you've lost it. My cup is always half full. I may get overwhelmed and worried at times but I know that in the end it will turn out all right. (That's truely because I have faith in more than just myself :smile: ) I didn't hire an experienced baker who applied because she was cynical. Had seen places like mine fail. I'd rather struggle teaching someone with a good attitude and a desire to be a part of something than someone whose just there to do the job. Call me a dreamer but even the Bible says that with out a vision, the people will parish. I have great vision and optimism and hope that you do too! God bless you and good luck!

Cheryl Brown

Dragonfly Desserts

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While we're talking about things that freeze well, I was wondering about puff pastry.

I freeze pp. Most often in assembled Napoleons. But I realize that on the savoury side, I also bake off rounds of pp to top chicken pot pies. I haven't had a problem with them thawing. If you freeze them on your own, just wrap them well to freeze.... but thaw unwrapped (unless you're in a humid climate).

Dragonfly, don't be miffed! I think people just want to help. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for cynicism to rear it's ugly head in the food industry. While many people involved love it, there's no question that being in the industry for years (especially as an owner) it can bleed you dry. The hours are crazy, the work physical and often the reward is not what it should be. As an owner, no matter how you plan on spending your time, the fact is that when somebody calls in sick, YOU have to fill in. When one of your dishwashers, bakers, counter persons, servers just stops showing up for work YOU have to cover their job, do your own and find somebody else to replace them. After years of this, you're a little worn down.

Having said that - you have partners and restaurant experience. People to share the load with you and a history in the industry. And I for one can tell you, that if you have a strong desire to do this, and a love for it, there's nothing else for you to do but jump in and do it! You're in for a hell of a ride - just remember to try to enjoy it. When a customer's eyes close as they savour a bite of one of your cakes or a little kid gets chocolate all over their face as they demolish a cookie - remember to enjoy the moment!

Sorry if we upset you earlier - I wish you all the luck in the world.

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I admire those of you have the guts to go forward with your dreams, whatever it may be. :wub: One thing that I have noticed about this site, is that you will get a first-hand view into the world of the food industry. There's no sugar-coating, which can be a good thing. :biggrin: Take this information as part of research. You are equipped with information, good and bad. It's something else to have under your belt going forward. :biggrin: I, for one, have always dreamed (since I was a child) of owning my own business.....not sure just what or if it will ever happen. This site has been instrumental if I were to ever prepare myself for becoming an entrepreneur (in any business). It has given me a diferent look at things. It hasnt shattered my dreams. If anything, it has made me more aware of some of things I need to do for myself, things I might not have thought about otherwise.

The reality is that being a business owner of many businesses, (food related and non-food related), you can experience some of the things that Pam mentioned in her post. Being a business owner of any business is going to be hard work period. And the reality is that the business can fail, but at the same time it can also succeed. Life is about chances. You win some. You lose some. And if things dont work out, as you already know, you wont be the first or the last. You pick yourself up and keep going. I think it is a MUST to go into this with as much research as possible, an open and realistic mind, and a backup plan for all things involved. I am sure your mom is making sure of that. :biggrin:

Just think, if we didnt have entrepreneurs, we wouldnt have been graced with some of the businesses and job opportunities that are available today. :wub:

Be sure to let us know how things go.

Edited by BROWNSUGA (log)
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Cheryl, I really wasn't trying to be negative. But I'm probably one of the few here who has raised five kids, and I know how hard it is to do, even without doing anything else! Of course we follow our dreams, no matter what the outcome. That's what makes people happy, and it's how we learn. But it's never easy, or it wouldn't be a dream.

You mentioned being a novice in your first post, but not the fact that your mother is in the business. That makes a difference, too. And financial backing. And I'm assuming you're married. My own experience was being single and poor with five children. I did make the catering business work for me by keeping overhead low, but there was a day I realized I should be doing something different. It was exhausting.

When you make a post asking questions, it's reasonable to expect people to be honest about the pitfalls instead of glossing over them. How else can you learn from the experience of others?

Edited by Terrasanct (log)
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I do really savor everyones replies here. I know I'm among the professional and experienced. It is scary to look at the realities but I have many things that simplify things for me a bit. Partner and a husband who is a great manager, but believe me, because I've heard my mothers complaints, it just hit me one day that I was in charge....and as Pam R. said, what ever went wrong, I would have to be responsible. :shock: But all my partners, my husband and brother and his wife are dedicated to family and wise business people, so its not just me going out on a limb. The only place I am going out on a limb is to send my 17 month old and 3 1/2 year old to a babysitter for the first time :sad: I am actually going to get a salary, besides any dividends from the profit we hope to make, so I can't go too wrong. This is such a unique thing where I live that the coffee house alone will cover our overhead. I just want to create and bake away. Weeee :biggrin: I'd just like to scream how blessed I am! So, if you don't mind, I will continue to share my progress and let you know how I work things out in my kitchen...love the pics on here, what a great education! I love snapping up the best of recipes. I got my King Arthur white cake recipe here when I'd been struggling to find a moist white cake. I use those for my specialty cakes and then a doctored cake mix with the sour cream for my birthday sheet and wedding cakes. My next experiment is a Tres Leche Cake. I'm hoping it is really good. We have many hispanics in neighboring towns and maybe just one of those niches I can fill.

Thanks all for your comments and advice! :biggrin::biggrin:

Cheryl Brown

Dragonfly Desserts

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Hi Cheryl,

I am new to the board, and I happened upon your postings. I hope your business is doing well. I am from San Salvador, El Salvador (now from Texas!) and I have a recipe for Tres Leches if you still need it. It is super simple, but really tasty. We grew up eating it when I was young and now I make it for my family as well.

Berta

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Berta,

I am not opening a bakery (though I have found this subject very interesting, please continue to share Cheryl!) and I cannot speak for Cheryl, but I would LOVE your Tres Leches recipe, if you are willing to share it! Thanks!

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    • By Janet Taylor
      Ever since Todd talked making cupcakes I have been cupcake crazy. Although, I am not a cake maker but more of a pie person.
      My first dessert that I love that I make is my Coconut Cream Pie w/heavy whipped cream. I don't use low fat anything and probably angioplasties is necessary after this baby.
      My second is Peach Cobbler w/rich vanilla ice cream. I never met a cobbler that I didn't like, but peach is my favorite.
      I don't make these often because I wouldn't be able to get through the front door if I did.
      How about yours?
      .....Janet
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