Getting to Know: Sam from The Cheesecake Girl

Samantha Strange has based her career around one sweet specialty: cheesecake! After graduating college with a culinary focus and anointing herself The Cheesecake Girl, she’s developed a local brand that you should definitely get to know. You can pick up Sam’s cheesecakes in regular or mini sizes at Smidge and Pinch or The Hills Market, plus you can order treats directly from her online in varieties like jelly donut, Girl Scout cookie, or puppy chow. She also participates in pairing events all over town, where she pairs cheesecake flavors with everything from beer to coffee flights. Read on to learn more about the “girl” in The Cheesecake Girl:

Web: https://www.thecheesecakegirl.com/
Instagram: @thecheesecake.girl
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecheesecakegirl

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

What motivated you to start a cheesecake business? Why cheesecake instead of another dessert?

I really just love cheesecake! So when I decided to minor in culinary in college, I started experimenting and letting friends try out the cheesecake creations. When I moved back to Ohio after college I kept baking for fun, family parties, my parents’ friends’ events and stuff like that. Then it just spiraled out of control into where I’m at today! I couldn’t be more happy with it. We are actually working on adding more desserts to the menu so it won’t be just cheesecake for long!

How did you transition into baking full-time?

It was hard to take the leap. I finally realized it was time when I had to turn orders down. I hated the feeling of telling people I didn’t have time for their orders. So I started looking at The Cheesecake Girl as a full time possibility. I re-launched the website, re-branded everything & went for it!

You bake so many tasty flavors! Where is your favorite place to find inspiration?

Honestly, Pinterest. I love to sit and scroll and see what everyone else is inspired by. I usually find flavor ideas through other recipes. For example, I love Boston Cream Pie, but I’m not The Pie Girl. So I decided to take all my favorite desserts and turn them into cheesecake flavors!

What is (in your opinion) the best variety you’ve ever made?

That’s a tough one because there are so many! One of my go-to flavors is German Chocolate Cheesecake, or Monster Cookie Cheesecake!

How many total cheesecakes do you make a day? I’ve seen your Instagram – those dishes must pile up!

Each day is different! On average I would say we bake around 6 full cheesecakes a day + 8-12 dozen mini cheesecakes a day!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?

Our worst kitchen disaster actually wasn’t my fault (surprisingly) – I had just pulled out 4 dozen mini snickerdoodle cheesecakes from the oven. It was the last order of the day. I put them down on our cooling rack and went to start cleaning up when I heard the crash! An employee in the kitchen I bake out of was rushing by the racks and bumped all 4 dozen upside down on the ground. I literally couldn’t say anything I just stood there trying not to cry. We cleaned everything up and got back to work, that employee brought me a gift card and an apology letter the next day so all is forgiven!

Which local restaurant do you frequent more than any other?

I basically live at the Sunny Street Cafe in Upper Arlington. That’s the kitchen I bake out of and the owners are good friends! You’d think I would get sick of eating there…but I still eat breakfast & lunch there almost every day!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

What is your favorite Columbus-based product?

There are so many fantastic local products! I love Ridiculously Good Salsa though, you can tell how fresh the ingredients are and it’s a great snack!

What is your adult beverage of choice?

Summer Sangria from Powell Village Winery has my heart. But I also would never turn down a Moscow Mule.

Can you share your go-to recipe to cook at home?

With the hours I work I rarely have time to cook at home! I do have a recipe I make every now and then when my friends & family get sick of cheesecake! I went to a Zac Brown Band concert (one of the 10 I’ve been to!) and they do an Eat & Greet instead of a Meet & Greet. The band serves you their favorite foods made by their tour chef and you get to chat with them. It’s really neat. Well they served a bread pudding that actually made me like bread pudding!

Do you have any fun hobbies or talents, other than making wonderful desserts?

Any free time I get is spent on friends, family & being outside with my dog Bo! I collect records as well & love going to concerts!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

Do you have a charity that fans should know about and support?

I’m actually working with Easterseals this year for their Romancing The Grape event! Other than that I usually give leftover cheesecake to fire stations & police departments!

You recently started selling your creations at the Smidge and Pinch storefront in Powell. Can you tell us more about that and what else is coming up for The Cheesecake Girl?

Yes! The store owner, Angie, is fantastic and I have loved being business partners with her! There is always cheesecake available inside her store along with every baking supply & cookie cutter needed. Up next for The Cheesecake Girl is hopefully another storefront! We’ve been working on it but it’s about good timing!

Take a peek at Sam’s website to see a small taste of the flavors she creates: https://www.thecheesecakegirl.com/. You can custom order your own culinary creation with creative crusts, toppings, and fillings. If you’ve tried The Cheesecake Girl, let me know your favorite find in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

*All photos courtesy of The Cheesecake Girl

Want more dessert content? Sam’s cheesecakes are also featured in this post about some of my favorite local chocolate treats, or take a peek at some of the other Baker Babes interview features here.

Getting to Know: Mollie and Kelly of Kittie’s Cakes

The Columbus Culinary Chronicles continue with a feature of one of my favorite bakeries in the city, Kittie’s Cakes. I’ve had an obsession with Kittie’s for a few years now, especially their cupcakes and biscuit breakfast sandwiches. When a second locale opened in Bexley even closer to my house, I was even more hooked on their brand. As a result, I was very interested to learn more about the owners Mollie and Kelly, as well as the pair’s dog Linus.  Give Kittie’s a follow on Instagram (@kittiescakes and @kittiesbexley) or check out Linus’ account for cuteness overload at @linus_the_golden_retriever. Mollie and Kelly met while on tour as professional golfers, and later made the leap to open Kittie’s together. Learn more about this baking duo below, from Mollie’s perspective:

What motivated the two of you to start a bakery? 

We always enjoyed cooking and baking together during our time off from playing on tour. Opening a bakery seemed like something we could take on just the two of us. Or at least we thought!

How did you make transition from professional golf to being a small business owner?
We just kind of jumped right in. The day after my last golf tournament we came home and started experimenting with my mom (Kittie) and grandmother’s recipes. We knew that we wanted to differentiate ourselves by making our baked goods fresh every day and from scratch.

Photo Credit: Kittie’s Cakes

What’s it like working with your significant other?
We love working together! Kelly was my caddie on tour for 5 years and we really worked well together on the golf course. We were able to make it work in the kitchen as well. We really balance each other out and we naturally fit into our different roles in our business. We have a really strong respect for each other which helps from having those petty arguments.

What is your favorite food item on the Kittie’s menu?
That’s a tough question! Kelly’s favorite is our new maple egg sammie and the chocolate chip cookie. My favorite is the cinnamon roll, biscuit & jam, Micky-O [a sandwich cookie] and the peanut butter cookie.

Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?
When we first opened just the two of us, everything seemed like a disaster! We were really struggling trying to make enough baked goods and then wait on customers throughout the day without any employees. We’ve been lucky to not really have any disasters.

What cooking tool can you not live without?
Mollie definitely can’t live without a KitchenAid Mixer. Kelly can’t live without a good offset [spatula] for icing!

Which Columbus establishment do you frequent more than any other?
Man, we have some core places we love to visit! Paulie Gee’s is definitely a visit for us a couple times a month. We really love Rockmill Tavern’s chicken sandwich. The Service Bar has a killer burger! Land-Grant [Brewery] is one of our favorite places to hang out with Linus outside.

What is your favorite locally made product?
Favorite locally made product would be the Bourbon Maple Syrup from Middle West Spirits. Also, the nut butters from Krema are killer too!

What is your adult beverage of choice?
We both love beer and old fashioned’s!

Can you share your go-to recipe to make at home?
Our go-to recipe to make at home is either pizza or pasta.

Do you have a favorite local charity that you love?
We love working with The Humane Society of Columbus.

Photo Credit: Instagram – @linus_the_golden_retriever

Your Golden Retriever Linus is also your brand ambassador. How did you teach him to do so many tricks, like balancing a cupcake on his nose?
Linus is just a really good boy! We worked with him in puppy classes and then Therapy Dog classes for the first year we had him. We like to think all the cupcake tricks just come naturally.

Last winter you opened a new location in Bexley. Are there any plans for further expansion in the works?
Kelly and I talk a lot about expansion and we are both in agreement for now. No more locations for Kittie’s. Kelly and I really love being able to be around our employees and customers. One of the reasons we wanted to open Kittie’s in German Village was to be a part of our community. We are afraid if we opened more locations we’d lose that experience with everyone.

Make sure to follow Kittie’s Cakes on social media to catch up with Mollie, Kelly, and Linus’ bakery adventures. Have an idea for who I should interview next? Shoot an email to caroline[at]columbusculinaryconnection.com and let me know!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Getting to Know: Jana Douglass from Jana Lee’s Bake Shop

One of my absolute favorite things about blogging so far has been connecting with the interesting folks behind the Columbus dining scene. With this new series, I will be getting inside your favorite maker’s minds so we can soak up a little of their greatness. Plus, let’s face it – we are all a little nosy! So without further ado, the launch of the Columbus Culinary Chronicles begins with Jana Lee’s Bake Shop.

You’ve likely seen the pristine cut-out cookies from Jana Douglass on Instagram, presented in themed sets ranging from cheeky sayings, Disney characters, baby showers, and everything in between. Jana has managed to build a following of over 45k in just a few short years, and has some exciting things in her future. Learn more about Jana Lee’s recently launched bridal line (so much monogrammed cuteness!) and how to order your own treats by clicking on her contact info below, then scroll through to get the scoop on the cookie queen.

Web: https://www.janaleesbakeshop.com/
Instagram: @janaleesbakeshop
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janaleesbakeshop/
Twitter: @Jana_Lees

What motivated you to start a cookie-making business and how did you transition into full-time baking?
I was about to graduate from The Ohio State University in December of 2014 without a job lined up. I was feeling uninspired and I picked up cookie decorating as a creative outlet. Let me tell you… they were awful! But I fell in love with the creative process and kept at it. I started posting pictures on my personal Instagram and within 9 months I had created a separate cookie Instagram and had enough business to do it full time.

You bake so many shapes of cookies; how many cookie cutters do you own? How do you keep them all organized?
Wow! I would guess I have about 700 cookie cutters. You would think that would be plenty but every week we get new requests with cutters we do not own! We keep them organized by category on a peg board. Even with all the different shapes and options I would say we still reach for the same basic 20 shapes week after week.

Photo Credit: Jana Lee’s Bake Shop

What is your favorite themed set you’ve ever made?
How am I supposed to choose?! The amazing part of this business is the creativity around it. My favorite sets always end up happening when clients provide the theme and they trust my creative process.

Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?
I was wrapping up a great day in the kitchen and was going to make it home at a normal hour which was pretty rare at the time. I had just finished up 6 dozen purple cookies (which is a difficult color to make) and quickly checked on them before heading out the door. The icing was still wet, not good! I instantly knew I did something wrong… I over whipped the icing!

I had to toss the cookies and start from scratch. My early evening home turned into me leaving the kitchen at 2 in the morning!

You’ve had the opportunity to work with high-profile clients like Draper James. How did this come about and what actions did you take to make it happen?
Honestly, I just ask! I am fairly brand loyal and decided to start reaching out to companies I love and for the most part have had great luck. What’s the worst that can happen?! They say no and you move on.

Which Columbus establishment do you frequent more than any other?
I enjoy my morning walk for coffee to Cafe Brioso downtown. I am addicted to their coffee! It is also a hidden gem for lunch, the turkey pesto sandwich with a lemonade is Ah-Mazing! We enjoy brewing their beans at home as well.

Photo Credit: Jana Lee’s Bake Shop

What is your favorite Columbus-based product?
Lately I have been addicted to Darista Dips! You can always find a container or two of their sweet potato coconut curry hummus in my fridge. The best snack!

What is your favorite adult beverage?
Hendrick’s martini, dry and dirty! You can usually find me sitting at the bar at Hyde Park with one in hand.

Can you share your favorite recipe to cook at home?
To be honest ever since starting a business my home cooking has been a little pathetic. Somedays the only time I spend in the kitchen at home is making bulletproof coffee in the morning. However with fall right around the corner I have been craving soups and chilis. This curried potato soup from Minimalist Baker (talk about a girl crush!) is a staple!

Curried Potato & Lentil Soup (1 Pot!)

Do you have a favorite charity that you would like to promote?
Columbus is great city full of wonderful charities and nonprofits. We personally love working with Ronald McDonald House; kids and cookies are the perfect fit! I encourage everyone to do a little research and get involved in something meaningful to them!

I see that you recently launched a bridal line. Can you tell us more about that and what else is coming up for Jana Lee’s Bake Shop?
Jana Lee’s Bridal Line launched in June! We are thrilled to be included in so many bridal events across the city.
There is a lot happening behind the scenes here, mostly things we can’t share with you just yet! Stay tuned!!

Make sure you follow Jana and see what’s next – fall=lots of Halloween themed deliciousness.

Keep Connected,

Caroline