Valentine's Day is an occasion when some people, among other things, dress up, go to fancy restaurants, and send candy and flowers to loved ones. This year, if you want do something deliciously special for your sweetheart, friends, children or neighbors, order a specialty item from a hometown bakery.
Here, we take a look at four bakeries that reflect the personalities of their owners and the chefs who make all those glorious goodies.
Spoonful of Sugar ... Sweets and Such
18 W. Main St., Mount Sterling
At their day jobs, Dr. Danielle King and Donna Cassidy see people who are ill. On Thursdays, they comfort people with freshly baked bread, croissants, cinnamon rolls, cakes and brownies.
King, who practices internal medicine in Mount Sterling, and Cassidy, her office manager, own Spoonful of Sugar ... Sweets and Such bakery on Main Street. They open the bakery one morning a week, at 8 on Thursdays, and close the minute they sell out.
On the first day they opened in September, there was a line out the door and around the corner. Even in the rain, the people of Mount Sterling will wait their turn patiently to pick up a chocolate croissant, a whoopie pie or a loaf of sourdough bread.
King moved to Mount Sterling in 2002 and fell in love with the building that once was home to Little's Jewelry. It was built in the 1880s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Since the day she saw it, King says, she dreamed of making it into a bakery and coffee shop.
She bought the building in August 2010, and with some help renovated the entire building and the antique neon clock and sign out front. King maintained the integrity of the building, from refinishing the tin ceilings to repurposing the original upstairs doors by turning them into tables.
"During renovation, old medical journals from 1881 were found upstairs, and upon further research, it was discovered the upstairs had once been home to a physician's office. What a coincidence," King said.
When King joined Mount Sterling Clinic, she met Cassidy, a Montgomery County native who has worked as the clinic's office manager for 30 years. They share a love for baking.
"We opened a bakery for two simple reasons," she said. "One: We love to bake. Two: We want to bring something special to our community of Mount Sterling and the downtown area.
"It was with a lot of planning and preparation that helped us take the plunge to open a bakery," King said. "Once the building was completed in December 2011, we started strategizing on ways we could have a bakery and still keep our jobs. As much as we loved to bake at home, we wanted to feel as prepared as possible before opening."
They attended several intensive courses at the French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) in New York City. In July, before opening, they studied at the King Arthur Baking Institute in Vermont. They returned last week from another class at the culinary center.
"We felt we could only be open one day a week to start this new venture," King said. "In the future, we hope to hire employees to help us do some of the baking and be open more often. However, for now we just enjoy the hands-on approach."
Cassidy said, "We just make it work."
The women do some baking Wednesdays and arrive at the bakery at 3 a.m. Thursdays to make pastries.
King said, "We are very lucky to share what we love with the people of Mount Sterling and are overwhelmed by their support. When you watch someone try your food and enjoy it, it is like giving them a piece of yourself."
1039 Industry Rd., Lexington
Martine Holzman is best known for her exquisite wedding cakes — they have been featured in Brides and Southern Bride magazines — but if you need something special to serve before, perhaps, a proposal, her shop is where you'll find it.
Holzman and her husband, Jim, have been making wedding cakes since 1999. They opened a bakery in 2001, and four years ago began making celebration cakes and pastries for walk-in customers. She also makes specialty desserts for restaurants.
Martine grew up in Aubenas, in southern France, where her mother was a chef at a high-end restaurant. "I learned my trade with her," she said. Holzman studied at Aubenas Culinary School and came to the United States 30 years ago with her husband.
She landed in the cake design business "by accident."
"I was a private chef, and people asked me if I would do wedding cakes," she said. "I started part-time, and now it's up to what it is today. We started doing wedding cakes, and it evolved into event and party cakes."
European Delights Bakery
221 E. Brannon Rd., Nicholasville
"It was always my wish to have a little bakery," Elena Maydanovich said.
The dream for something small has blossomed into one of the top pastry shops in Central Kentucky. Maydanovich and her husband, Vladimir, opened European Delights at Brannon Crossing in July 2010.
Within a year from the time she thought about opening a bakery, it happened. "It became so successful in such a short time. I did not have that planned out," she said.
The family came to Central Kentucky six years ago from California. Maydanovich's family is from Ukraine, where they owned a bakery. They also ran a bakery when they immigrated to California. "All my life I've worked in a bakery," she said.
It was natural that the family continue the tradition.
Maydanovich was pregnant with her third child when the bakery opened. It's an ideal business for Maydanovich. She does all the baking — at night.
"I work six or seven hours," said Maydanovich, who manages to get in a little sleep before taking her two oldest children to school. "I'm used to it."
For Valentine's Day, the bakery will have heart-shaped cakes — including red velvet and chocolate ganache with raspberries — and sugar cookies, cake pops and chocolate-covered strawberries. The most popular item is the strawberry cake with white chocolate mousse. Call ahead if you want one of those.
The Midway School Bakery
510 S. Winter St., Midway
Carrie Warmbier has worked almost every job in the kitchen at Holly Hill Inn in Midway, from line cook to pastry chef. Now she's running The Midway School Bakery, which restaurateurs Ouita and Chris Michel opened in July.
"We want the bakery to be a gathering space for our community in a building that holds so much emotion for so many folks in Midway," Ouita Michel said.
"We also needed a dedicated space and some additional equipment for baking. As our business grows we want to continue to make everything by hand, with as many local ingredients as possible, without mixes, frozen dough, gels, stabilizers or flash ovens, just old-fashioned baking techniques."
Years ago, Chris Michel was a pastry chef at Dudley's and at Phil Dunn's Cookshop. "He doesn't do much baking now, but we both love old-fashioned-style baked goods, big cookies with lots of butter, fudgey brownies, yeasty doughnuts. We want to protect and promote old Kentucky recipes, like the chess pie, sweet potato pie, pecan (pie), our butter biscuits, and really nice bread," Ouita Michel said.
Having practically grown up in the Michels' kitchens, Warmbier runs the bakery with the same devotion.
As general manager, she keeps her hands in the dough. "I do a lot of baking. I love the creativity I have here. I can create something this morning and have it on the counter this afternoon," she said. "I love the smell of bread baking. That is gold to me."
The bakery also serves as a commissary for Holly Hill Inn, Wallace Station, Windy Corner Market and Woodford Reserve Distillery.
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.