Local woman spreads holiday cheer through sweets
Lauren Parker remembers standing in her grandmother’s kitchen as a little girl, tying an apron around her waist and making chocolate oatmeal cookies.
“My grandmother’s are out of this world,” Parker says.
She grew up in a family of confectionary royalty. Her nanny, Mary Jones, is known as the dessert queen. Her mawmaw, Priscilla Loyd, is known as the sourdough queen. Parker aims to carry on the tradition of baking delicious treats and sharing them with her family and friends.
“My whole family cooks, so I was destined,” she says, “I had to do something. I couldn’t let down the family name.”
While Parker grew up in her grandmothers’ kitchens watching them bake breads and other sweets, she credits her mother, Christel Jones, with her passion for baking and decorating cakes.
“My mom is the reason I got into baking,” she says.
When Parker was growing up, she remembers her mother, who took cake decorating classes at Northeast Alabama Community College, baking her birthday cakes.
“I’m the artistic one in the family, and her taking classes is what got me into it,” she says.
Parker’s desire to bake for others soon turned into a business and inspired her to start Cakes by Lauren Ashley about 10 years ago.
She sells intricate, delicious wedding and birthday cakes, but during the holiday season, the kitchen in her Skyline home is filled with all the ingredients she needs to make all the sugary delicacies requested by her customers.
“Our community is super small, so word spread fast about my baking,” she says.
Soon, Parker received requests to bake desserts for Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings. Just last year, using her aunt’s recipe, she made a batch of tea cakes
— buttery, thin and flaky cookies — for a church dinner. Before she knew it, people were ordering them. She made nearly 200 tea cakes before the end of the season.
“I enjoy doing it,” she says. “It helps people.”
Making a List
Organizing and gathering the ingredients for a marathon of baking may sound like a daunting task to some, but after several years, Parker has it figured out.
“I just take it day by day,” she says. She tracks sales, makes a checklist, and uses two planners to help her keep up with everything.
Parker has her process down to a science, knowing how long she needs to make each item and in what order. With the volume of orders, she has no choice but to be organized and timely.
Managing time comes naturally to Parker, as she is a mother of seven children, ranging in ages from 2 to 10 years old.
“My daughter Aly is 7, and she likes to help me in the kitchen. She’s about the age I was when I started helping my mother and grandmothers,” she says.
Parker also recruits help from her husband, Tyler.
Typically, she has about 12 dozen pies due the week of Thanksgiving and about a dozen banana or coconut cream puddings. Red velvet cakes are a customer favorite, and she usually makes about two dozen of those.
“It’s actually my dad’s favorite. My mom has had the recipe since she was a teenager, so she passed it on to me,” she says. Pumpkin rolls are Parker’s favorite item to make, followed by buttermilk pie and sticky buns.
During the holiday season, Parker estimates using 12 pounds of butter, 2 gallons of buttermilk, 25 pounds of flour, 6 pounds of sugar and at least 8 dozen eggs.
Her eggs come from the 40 chickens she raises on her property, and she dreams of having her own dairy cow. “I don’t buy eggs unless my chickens are being lazy,” she says.
Her trusty sidekick, a red KitchenAid stand mixer fondly named Sherlene, mixes the batters and dough needed to fill the orders. Parker says she finally gave in and purchased Sherlene after the motor blew out of six handheld mixers.
“I make everything superfresh,” she says, “My last-minute orders will still be warm when I deliver them. But, if they know me, they already know where I live and will pick up their order. I do get nervous delivering, though. I drive like a granny. I won’t hit over 40 mph.”
But whether she delivers an order or the customer picks up an order, she greets them with a smile.
“I love to make people happy. It’s a contagious thing with me,” she says. “I love to see people smile and see their face light up. Just makes me happy to do stuff for other people. I show my love with my baking.”
Does she ever get tired of having delicious baked treats around the house?
“No, never,” she says with a smile.
During one holiday baking season, Parker estimates she will use:
- 12 pounds of butter
- 2 gallons of buttermilk
- 25 pounds of flour
- 6 pounds of sugar
- 8 dozen eggs