Student bakers view their art as not only a hobby but an act of endearment


Freshman Molly O’Meara has a common childhood memory with many grandchildren around the world: baking with grandma.

“I think [the first thing I baked] was my grandma’s chocolate chip cookies,” Molly said. “I was probably six [years old].” 

When it comes to baking, apron strings pull on the heartstrings for many. Baking with grandma and giving treats to loved ones, neighbors, teammates, and co-workers are common favorite memories of those who dabble in baking.

Special education teacher Vicki Felton, for example, can also recount cooking with grandma as a pleasant childhood experience.

“I remember being less than five [years old] and watching my grandma make Christmas cookies, especially these special ones that I still cannot do,” Felton said. “They have a light dough and were deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar, and [they were] one of my favorites that she made.” 

Baking with grandma is also a standout memory for freshman Paige Harvesoort.

“My grandma lives in Wisconsin, and every time we’d go there, we’d have to bake a pumpkin pie,” Paige said. “It didn’t matter if it was fall, winter, spring, or summer. We’ve been going there since I was four or five. We only go there three or four times a year, but that’s my favorite memory; we [bake a pumpkin pie] every time. We never let our parents come into the kitchen. We would be super secretive about it.”

For many bakers, their treats are given as an act of love to friends and family—the best baking compliment Molly has ever received was when she replicated her grandma’s cookie recipe; the compliment came from her oldest brother, senior Aidan O’Meara.

Baking, as an expression of friendship and respect, is cherished as an act of giving for Felton as well. For her, she has found it to be an appreciated gift to receive amongst many staff members. 

“I usually bring in my cinnamon pretzels with white chocolate drizzle to all the support staff and my co-teachers at Christmas,” Felton said. “Everyone tells me that they look forward to them every year.”

Baking also goes so far as to bond staff members through important events in their lives. A former staffer’s sister baked Felton’s wedding cake, and that cake goes down in history as one of the best baked goods Felton has ever tasted.

“[The cakes are] amazing,” Felton said. “They’re absolutely fabulous.”

These bakers have created their unique memories in addition to that of grandma’s teaching. Paige fondly remembers a memory from sixth grade where she had to tackle a substitutional recipe.

“I had a huge crush on a kid in sixth grade,” Paige said. “He could not eat eggs, so I went through the extra effort to make him one egg-free cupcake out of an entire batch, and then I [ended up having] to make a whole other batch to make him one cupcake.”

These bakers do not shy away from a challenge, such as substitutions like those in order to impress a special someone. Felton has successfully crafted a cheesecake in an instant pot, and Paige has made a cake so complex and so tall that it took her the entirety of a weekend. 

Paige’s cake became not only a decorating project, as she has an eye for creativity, but also a layering process; at first, she baked two layers for this cake. However, when realizing it wasn’t tall enough for her liking, she went back to square one and baked another two layers.

“I made this cake for our second quarantine in December, and it was really cool and clean,” Paige said. “I don’t want to say it looked professional because I’m not that good, but it looked pretty good and tasted good too. It had trees on the top, so I took ice cream cones and put frosting around them to look like pine trees.”

Not only is baking a hobby or career for many, but it also serves as a source of entertainment for many Americans. Nailed It, on Netflix, is a fan favorite amongst Paige and Felton; both these bakers find this show entertaining because it highlights the blunders of baking.

Unfortunately, these bakers live not without their own baking mishaps. 

“[My biggest baking mistake is] accidentally using baking soda instead of baking powder,” Felton said. “It changes the whole texture and leavening aspect of your recipe.” 

Baking is a form of art, and a precise one because of all its specific measurements; many bakers, experienced and inexperienced, learn from their own mistakes.

“[My biggest baking mistake was when] I was at a friend’s house,” Molly said. “I put [one] cup of [an ingredient] instead of a teaspoon, which is kind of big.”

And for those who cannot bake, look to these experts to where to buy the best baked goods in town. Paige points in the direction of Nonna’s in Ada, and Felton has two favorite spots if she wants a treat and is not in her kitchen.

“Salted Cupcake makes amazing cupcakes.” Felton said, “They are on thirty-second street in Kentwood. Also, the place in the Downtown Market right when you walk in [is one of my favorites too].”

For those trying to find desiring, delectable desserts, the best place may be one’s personal kitchen. It may be a sister, a mother, a father, grandparents, or even friends serving baked goods—regardless of who it may be, fresh treats may be a cure through the cold, and especially in the O’Meara household: home of not one but two capable bakers. 

“[My dad is more of a baker than a cooker],” Molly said. “My [favorite] baked good I’ve [ever] tasted was probably zucchini bread he made.”

Creating items of confectionery, and sharing them, for many bakers is not about money. Not one of these three bakers has sold their goods or fantasized about a career in the culinary industry; these three creators view their work as a hobbyist act of affection.

“I like being able to share yummy food with [staff members],” Felton said. “That’s one of my love languages—cooking and baking for others. If I take the time to [bake for you], then it means you’re important to me or [you’re] in my life in some way because I want to share that with you.”