I’m always so excited to share every new, Featured Baker with you in my attempt to share their stories with the world. After all, this was the seed that started this whole blog. There are incredibly gifted home bakers all over the world that deserve recognition and discovery of their talents. It is truly my pleasure to bring you Featured Baker, Ashley Voorhees, of Allen, Texas. She is not only a phenomenally talented baker, but an exceptionally giving person who pours herself into her community. A community that is truly blessed to have her.
Ashley is a wife, homeschooling mom of three kids and owner of Bearcat Bakery, affectionately named after their cat, Bear. Ashley’s love of baking started young when she would accompany her mom to the grocery store. While her mom shopped, she would admire everything in the bakery, looking through the cake books and gazing at all the “pretty cakes”. These are memories she holds dear and recalls how happy they made her. If only she knew then how special baking would become.
Falling in Love with Baking
When Ashley’s two boys started school, Ashley started working as a cashier at a bakery. This is where she started getting exposure to dipping sugar cookies; she loved it. She then moved on to another bakery, focusing on breadmaking. Ashley quickly learned that baking bread was not nearly as fun as cakes and cookies. But the cake decorator there shared some decorating knowledge with her that made it worth her while. When she voiced to her employer, “I want to be a cake decorator”, they told her she needed a certification from a pastry school. Going to pastry school wasn’t in the cards for Ashey at the time, but that wouldn’t stop her.
For her son’s birthday, she thought “I’m going to try my hand at baking a cake”. Soon, family and friends were requesting cakes and her husband encouraged her to start a business. Bearcat Bakery was born! However, Ashley was lacking confidence in her skills and couldn’t imagine someone wanting to pay for one of her cakes. And then, there was the incident at the Dollar Tree; yes, the Dollar Tree.
Ashley made a small birthday cake for her daughter and had it sitting in her lap in the Dollar Tree parking lot, while her husband ran in for balloons. A woman in the parking lot saw the cake and said “I love that cake! I need one just like it! Where did you get it?” Numbers were exchanged and this experience gave Ashley the confidence she needed to kickstart her business. Here is a picture of the infamous cake that started it all!
Falling in Love with Cookies
While Ashley’s love of cakes started her business, she thought she’d give cookies a try, “They were a disaster! My 2-year-old could’ve done a better job”, Ashley giggled. But she hunkered down, practiced for a few months, devouring YouTube videos and blogs to self-teach herself how to decorate cookies. Soon after, she nailed some “peach” cookies at a special customer’s request, posted some pics on Facebook and the orders started rolling in.
Now Ashley is baking or doing something for her business every day, which really focuses on custom cookie orders and holiday cookie sales. When she gets a request for a cake, she now usually refers them to local cake decorators so she can focus on her cookies. One of Ashley’s specialties is birthday DIY cake kits. “I have different themes; dinosaurs, unicorns, mermaids, farm animals” and her clients know they can count on her to make an event special.
Falling in Love with the Science
Something very admirable about Ashley is her appreciation for the science of baking and the ingredients she uses. While some bakers prefer to just follow a recipe, Ashley believes that it’s critical to learn about your ingredients, how they work and how they interact. That way, “if something happens, you know how to correct it”. And one of my favorite quotes from our interview, “If you know your ingredients, you can create magic”.
Ashley also always freezes her cookies after baking, before decorating, “I don’t know what happens in the freezer, but it is something magical”. Ashley has done comprehensive taste tests and her cookies stay softer for days longer when they’ve been frozen as a part of her process. “I get rave reviews!” This is one part where Ashley does not know the science behind the magic, but it is working for her and her customers!
Community over competition
Ashley loves supporting her community and that love is being reciprocated ten-fold. She been known donate to PTA groups, silent auctions, firehouses, police stations and schools. She also regularly refers clients to other local bakeries to support them when she’s too busy. In return for her generosity, she’s already been invited to be a vendor at the community “USA Celebration” which is a 4-hour, 4th of July event in Allen, which draws up to 150,000 visitors!
Recently, the town of Allen experienced a snowstorm, which is quite crippling for them. An 18-year-old Vet Tech in their community chose to spend the night at the Veterinary clinic she works at to ensure the heat stayed on and the animals were safe. When Ashley learned of this touching act, she found a way, on top of overwhelming Valentine’s orders and sleepless nights to fill orders, to decorate and deliver special dog-themed cookies to this young gal to thank her for her service to the community.
But it doesn’t stop there, and this is where Ashley made me cry. Last year, there was a local family with a 3-year-old son who was battling cancer. The mother started a non-profit to provide counseling to families going through cancer. When Ashley learned of this, she organized a fantastic community event to fundraise for the family and non-profit. “Ladies Night Out” was a huge success and she is already leading efforts for the 2nd annual event to take place this September, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. “I sold out of cookies in two hours, and we raised so much money, we were able to help 3 different families!”
The love and heart that Ashley has for others and her community moved me to tears, especially as a mom of a child with cancer. “There’s no better cause for me; I’m going to do anything possible to put a smile on somebody’s face every day.” Her “community over competition” mindset is true to her core and they are lucky to have her.
What does the future hold for Bearcat bakery?
Allen, TX is currently rebuilding their downtown area in an entire revitalization effort. Ashley and her husband have big plans to open Bearcat’s Bakery & Bistro before the end of 2024. Her husband is an amazing cook, “you want to eat the air when he’s cooking”, Ashley gushed. They are very excited for the bakery to go commercial to be able to ship nationwide and to be an established member of their new downtown.
Ashley is also creating a Dallas/Fort Worth-wide bakery directory. “We are stronger together” and “my job is to make my clients happy” are two reasons Ashley is excited to continue to build relationships with what many would consider competition. Community over competition wins again.
So Much to Learn from Ashley
Normally, I include advice our featured bakers have for new bakers, and while Ashley did share some advice, it is very-much intertwined in the experiences she has shared with us so far. She’s always willing to share her recipes to help other bakers, connect with local moms for opportunities to support the community, and do anything to ensure her customers are delighted. “Life is so much more enjoyable when you put effort into others”, is a quote that resonated deeply with me. I hope Bearcat’s Bakery & Bistro is ridiculously successful; Ashley and her family deserve it. Oh, and something else you can count on, there will be browned butter. “I find any excuse to put browned butter in”, Ashley shared. So, get ready Allen, TX, your new downtown will be bustling once people experience Ashley’s hospitality, love and browned butter.
To connect with Ashley, you can visit her website HERE or contact her via the following ways. I encourage you to follow her social media to see more of her amazing work. In the meantime, enjoy this gallery of Ashley’s creations!
Never miss a new recipe, decorating technique or Featured Baker story! For more inspiration and to see our previous talented Featured Bakers, visit HERE!
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