Tradition. Great grandma, known as "Gama," came from Germany decades ago, but was still around to astound and inspire a little great-granddaughter named Ashley.
From that old Hotpoint oven emerged rich golden pound cakes, fresh fruit baked in delicate pastries, cupcakes and buttery cookies by the dozens.
Warm afternoons spent filtering flour though an old tin sifter with a red wood handle, creating fluffy mounds of egg whites by hand with an iron beater that gave out a grating sound when you turned the wheel on the side, listening to the clacking of metal paddles, adding sugar a little at a time with ancient tin measuring spoons.
Those kinds of memories stay snuggled inside the heart and soul, giving a small child comfort and maybe the beginnings of some big ideas...
Ashley Stokes never forgot those sweet afternoons. She worked at Siciliano’s pizza joint for 11 years, starting at age 16, put herself through college to earn a degree in Business Management, all the while planning, searching for her heart’s desire.
The job paid well, but she didn’t want to be a bartender/waitress forever.
It’s been said by the very wise that if you do what you love, you will prosper—and she loved to bake. For four and a half years she practiced her art on friends and neighbors, supplying birthday cakes, party platters of chunky cookies or pies and cakes made from recipes passed down from Gama to grandmother to mom, Dee Rountree.
People loved her home-made goodies and started to ask where they could get more.
Mom & daughter made a decision. It was time to take that family tradition of baking to a higher level, and Flirt with Desserts was born, arriving in January this year on Wilmington Island’s Johnny Mercer Boulevard.
Tucked away in a little shopping center on the west side of the street, just past Publix, it may be a bit hard to find—of the four people I asked, though, each one of them knew exactly what I was inquiring about. Word gets around, it seems.
You walk into a surprisingly roomy space surrounded by delicate celadon green walls, a set of café tables, and yes, there to your right sits the old Hotpoint oven, saved from Gama’s back porch. Shelves above it hold a few precious kitchen tools her skilled hands once wielded to produce those luscious baked goods, then there stretches a long white case, littered with colorful confetti and tray after tray of home-baked treats.
It’s difficult to know what to pick first, and the decision wavers between a lemon pound cake lavished in white glaze under a glass dome, or the tempting cupcakes with their topknot of toasted coconut.
Cassie Brewer, Ashley’s good and faithful friend, will help you out—just ask for an old-fashioned pink bakery box to store your choices.
The décor is spare, being so newly hatched, but the homey touches are apparent everywhere, from the group of well-used aprons hanging behind the counter, to the hand-knitted ‘muffins’, made by Ashley’s sister, that nestle against a sign by the register: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first!”
The kitchen and prep area are in full view and all is pristine, well-swept and organized as a good kitchen should be. Ashley smiles as she helps a trio of ladies select the details of a proposed wedding cake, skillfully handling each question, then offers a suggestion that pleases them all—“Why not try a sample of some of our cakes and make your decision that way?” Who could resist?
A nice surprise is the hand-made ice-cream, created from an old recipe in Cassie’s family—no eggs, just rich cream, natural sugar and loads of whatever fresh fruit is in season. Containers are $4.50 for 8 oz of real ice-cream, with 12-16 flavors offered each week. Kids will love the “Smurf,” vanilla ice-cream colored blue and swirled with marshmallow bits.
Those among us who long for the old days of Baskin-Robbins will be pleased to find Pistachio, a top seller here. Combine it with the wonderful Pistachio Butter Cookies and you have an outstanding dessert.
Right now Georgia Peach is the local favorite, lush with chunks of juicy peaches. But when the summer ends, so does this special treat, so get there while you can!
Cassie earned her degree as a Pastry Chef and practiced her craft in high-end restaurants like The Sapphire Grill; along with her family recipes and a natural inventiveness, she brings an extra zing to the weekly selections: my top choice is the espresso cupcake, but do try her Key Lime Pie, which she spent years perfecting, or dare to bring home a box of her Maple-Bacon Cupcakes.
Chocolate-lovers will sing her praises when they bite into the huge S’Mores Brownie—I know I did!
Besides the tempting array of sweets you can also find rich, baked quiches offered for breakfast and sausage-cheese muffins, excellent with a cuppa joe. The Breakfast Turtle, a baked pastry somewhat reminiscent of the Polish ‘kolache’, is stuffed with eggs and cheese and makes a great take-it-to-go breakfast delicacy.