Food & Drink

Former minister combines passions at Bakery, Blessings & Bookstore

Kathleen Sullivan helps out her daughter Jan Sullivan at Bakery, Blessings & Bookstore @ the Bar. That's a Mississippi mud cake. The recipe for the cake is on Page B4.
Kathleen Sullivan helps out her daughter Jan Sullivan at Bakery, Blessings & Bookstore @ the Bar. That's a Mississippi mud cake. The recipe for the cake is on Page B4. Herald-Leader

Former youth pastor Jan Sullivan has found a tasty way to reach young people.

Two years ago, Sullivan left full-time ministry to open Bakery Blessings & Bookstore @ the Bar in a former drugstore at Harrodsburg and Lane Allen roads.

"I was kinda fed up being in the church, a little bit," she said. "I wasn't reaching the kids that I needed to reach. I would tell the kids to bring their friends, but their friends were already going to church."

Sullivan wanted to find a way to pursue youth ministry outside the walls of the church. She asked God to help her figure out how to do it, and through prayer, she heard God telling her to "use your passions," she said.

"Turns out that I did not realize baking was a passion of mine until the one time I didn't have enough money to buy ingredients to do it, and I cried," she said.

Baking was a way for Sullivan to share her love for others.

"I always gave all my youth counselors goodies for Christmas," she said. "Mom and I had always dreamed to having a place like this for kids to come to hang out, to be safe, and parents know where they are and who they're with."

In November 2011, Sullivan opened the café and decided that before she could begin a youth ministry, she must have the business up and going. She does now, and young people from the neighborhood are coming in, but Sullivan hasn't actively advertised to schools and churches.

"When we were talking with the agent showing us the place, we were discussing what the youth would call it," she said. "We decided that 'Hey, you want to go hang out at the bar?' sounded cooler than 'Hey, do you want to go hang out at the bakery or the bookstore?'"

"I envision in the future doing specialty days and having a 'chocolate bar' where everything is chocolate, a 'cereal bar' where everything is made from cereals," Sullivan said.

Sullivan has found that it doesn't take alcohol to get people to talk about their problems. Just feeling comfortable can be enough. And she's providing a comfortable atmosphere at Bakery Blessings & Bookstore @ the Bar.

"I also try to make sure to introduce people sitting at the bar. So this becomes a place 'where everybody knows your name,' like Cheers," Sullivan said.

She knew she needed more than baked goods to bring in customers, so when she decided to offer lunch, her mother, Kathleen Sullivan, joined her to help prepare the lunch menu. Kathleen is a nurse, and she went back to school at Asbury Theological Seminary to become a pastoral counselor.

Most of the time, the Sullivans divide their duties. "We do everything from scratch," Jan Sullivan said.

The lunch menu features soups (vegetable beef), sandwiches (chicken salad, pimento cheese, ham salad), homemade quiche of the day and freshly made desserts. Kathleen Sullivan makes the pies, with handmade crusts. The butterscotch pie recipe is more than 100 years old. "It was my great aunt's friend's mother's," Jan Sullivan said.

"One of the things that amazes me is that everybody says everything is so good," Jan Sullivan said. "To me it's just normal. I grew up with an amazing cook."

The large open store has space for quiet time with comfortable sofas and chairs; tables for lunch with friends; an area for church groups to meet, and book shelves devoted to local authors. Jan Sullivan is the author of three Christian fiction books for teens: Forever Family, Never Alone and Stand Strong.

"It's reality-based fiction, based on real stories from real teens," she said. "As a youth pastor, I always wanted to get my kids together to share their stories, but space and time were sometimes big obstacles."

"I finally decided to write their 'stories' so that maybe some teen, somewhere else at some other time, who might be going through the same thing, might pick the book up and realize they weren't alone in their struggles. The stories also help teens with ideas on how they can love those who are hurting."


Here is Jan Sullivan's recipe for a favorite cake.

Mississippi mud cake

1 cup softened butter

1¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup sour cream

1 cup chopped pecans


4 ounces heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup softened butter

7 ounces marshmallow cream

Chopped pecans, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9-inch round pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add one egg at a time, and beat well after each.

In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder and soda. Gradually add that to the batter, alternating flour mixture with buttermilk, beating until just combined after each addition. Add sour cream, stirring until combined. Add pecans. Stir until combined.

Put half of batter in each 9-inch pan, making sure same amount is in each. Bake cake for 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean and cake has begun to pull away from side of pan. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out on cooling racks, top side up, until cooled completely.

When cool, assemble cake. Place bottom layer, top up, on cake board. Spread with a layer of caramel sauce. (You can make your own or buy caramel topping in the ice cream section of your grocery store.) Make sure to push it to the edge, because you want it to drip out. Place top layer, top side up, on caramel-covered bottom layer.

To make topping: In a bowl, whip cream. Add sugar to sweeten. Remove from bowl and set aside. Using the same bowl, beat butter and marshmallow cream until smooth. Return whipped cream to bowl, and beat until combined. Spread on top of cake. Garnish with chopped pecans, drizzled chocolate syrup and drizzled caramel. The messier the better.

If you go

Bakery, Blessings & Bookstore @ the Bar

Where: 1999 Harrodsburg Road

Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Call: (859) 554-6044 or go to Jan Sullivan's blog at

Special event: Kenya Turner of Louisville, author of The Little Cupcake Divas, will be at the store 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 10. After the reading, youngsters will decorate cupcakes to take home. The cost is $3.