Baked with love
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When you enjoy a delicious dessert from A Sweet Success Bakery, knowing that 100 percent of the proceeds are going to a great local non-profit is just icing on the cake.
Sanctuary House was founded by members of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Guilford County) to provide support and rehabilitation services for adults in the community with mental illness. The organization currently serves around 200 members who have a history of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression.
In addition to hosting support meetings for members Sanctuary House works with individuals who want to build the confidence needed to enter the workforce.
Back in 2008, Maya Aliff was working with Sanctuary House in Greensboro and trying to start a new business that would help fund the non-profit while providing opportunities for job skills training to interested members.
After Aliff held a bake sale, several members at Sanctuary House expressed interest in working in food service.
Because Aliff had an interest in baking, she decided to spearhead the creation of A Sweet Success Bakery.
The bakery works one-on-one with members as they learn the kitchen skills needed to create the dozens of cakes, cookies, bars and pies on the menu.
“A lot of members “” when they first express an interest in baking “” we have them start at Sanctuary House where they can make lunch and other things, and eventually they graduate to over here (the bakery),” Aliff said.
The bakery is located near downtown in a small, wedding-cake white house that is soaked with the smell of warm sugar and butter. The kitchen is highly organized with charts of orders and instructions on the wall. With the help of about five regular members, A Sweet Success bakes about 75 cakes, pies and trays of cookies and bars each week.
Members of Sanctuary House often arrive at the bakery with different skill sets.
“For some members you can just hand them a recipe, and they run with it,” Aliff said. “Others might need more one-on-one assistance.”
A few members have attended cake-decorating classes at local Michael’s Craft Stores and are able to help create cute fondant pieces for specialty cakes.
The most popular items from the bakery include the strawberry layer cake, which is made with a cream cheese pound cake separated by layers of homemade whipped cream and topped with ruby red fondant strawberries.
But the indulgent “Serendipity” bars are the ultimate crowd pleasers.
“It has a shortbread base, a chocolate truffle center, and an oatmeal topping,” Aliff said. “It reminds me of a chocolate pecan pie bar. It’s really rich but people just love it.”
Aliff’s favorite dessert is the seasonal pumpkin chocolate chip cake with a chocolate chip infused spice cake base and cream cheese icing. The cake is a popular order in the fall along with the bakery’s carrot cake.
As members at the bakery whip, blend, bake and frost their sweet creations, they are able to build a sense of purpose and self-worth that is often denied to people with mental illness. A few members have been able to use their experience at A Sweet Success to find other food service jobs in the community. Aliff said that two members had found jobs at local college cafeterias, another was employed at Burger King and one former member had been inspired to go back to school and is currently pursuing a culinary degree at Guilford Technical Community College.
Aliff smiled as she recounted some of these success stories.
“I had always worked in special needs ever since I was an undergraduate at UNCG,” Aliff said. “I just knew this is what I was going to do.”
The bakery is also continuing to expand. Right now it still operates as a wholesale business, but some of its products are carried at The Green Bean and the Harris Teeter in Friendly Shopping Center. The creations are instantly noticeable for their bright and festive decorations and recognizably homemade icing.
“To see it grow to where it is today is really exciting,” Aliff said. “I never imagined that we would be over at the Harris Teeter.”
Even though the cookies at A Sweet Success are perfectly chewy and the bars are irresistibly gooey, the sweetest thing this bakery provides is the gift of independence for extraordinary adults in our community. !
You can purchase baked goods from A Sweet Success Bakery at Green Bean coffee house on 341 S. Elm St. in downtown Greensboro, or at Harris Teeter grocery store in The Shops at Friendly Center in Greensboro. To place an order directly from the bakery call 336-215- 8239 at least 40 hours in advance.