One hallmark of a good friendship is the ability to share secrets with one another. And as Catarah Hampshire and Shoneji Robison have proven, it's even better when those secrets include closely guarded family recipes. They've taken these recipes and extrapolated them into a collection of cakes and cupcakes inspired by the flavors they grew up with. Eschewing trendy ingredients such as truffle oil, coffee nibs, or shredded pashminas, they aim to evoke down-home Southern cooking in every dessert. Just the names of the resulting treats?such as chicken & waffle, sweet potato, and peach cobbler?have customers reaching for a glass of sweet tea.
The baking duo have earned themselves plenty of laurels with their homegrown flavors. Eater LA named their seasonal Egg Nog and Sin Pie as one of its "15 Holiday Desserts to Try Right Now" in 2013. In the same year, the pair won Season 8 of Food Network's Cupcake Wars. Their sweet creations have also graced the palates of celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, Denzel Washington, and Nick Cannon. Still, their greatest delight is when a customer tells them, "This is better than my mama's."
When channel 5’s KTLA Morning News Show put out a call for the best desserts in Los Angeles, the city responded. More than 170 entries were submitted, but in the end, it was Charlene’s butter-pecan caramel cheesecake that took the top prize. At The Real Cake Baker, Charlene and her fellow bakers make bliss-inducing cakes out of only real ingredients with names you can pronounce. Bakers whip sugar, butter, and flour into moist buttermilk sweet-potato pies, banana pudding, or old-fashioned stovetop pudding made with real meringue topping. Sugar- and gluten-free pies are also pulled hot from the oven and served along with gourmet coffee and southern-style pralines made with a hint of cognac. Charlene and her staff are so confident in their skills that they offer the Taster’s Guarantee: if a dessert is not to a customer’s liking, they can return the uneaten portion and bakers will replace it with another dessert of equal or lessor value.