For some local bakers, the love of creating sweet treats began at a young age.
“I always baked with my mom and grandma when I was younger,” said Jill Takosky. “Just being together in the kitchen, they let me help a lot. And obviously, I liked the results. It’s just kind of calming to follow a recipe and create something beautiful in the end.”
Takosky owns Candle Ready Cakes, 197 Main St. She and her mother, Beth Schrempf, opened the business together a decade ago, but Takosky fully took over this past year.
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Geoff Karnish also found a love of baking at an early age. Karnish and his husband, Alex Arroyo, opened Galena (Ill.) Bakehouse, at 421 S. Main St. in September.
“I used to bake all the time with my mom,” he said. “There was just this spark and curiosity about what happens when you mix flour, sugar, eggs and butter. It could turn into so many different things.
“I’ll also say that I love eating baked goods. I love sugar 100%. And as a kid, I realized, ‘If I bake for the family, I get to eat cupcakes today.’”
Karnish said he never formally went to school for baking, but he worked as a pastry chef in a restaurant when he and Arroyo lived in New York City.
He then took those skills with him when the couple moved to Galena. They initially were inn keepers at Felt Manor for two years before being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They then decided to open up their shop, which offers a variety of “grab and go” homemade items.
Karnish said he loves the creativity that comes with baking, giving him a chance to be artistic with his creations.
“I love the process of it,” he said. “You start with nothing, and then you have a beautiful product.”
At Galena Bakehouse, Karnish said one of the most popular creations is the raspberry cream cheese croissant Danishes. He said that the treats take three to four days to make, as they make and laminate the dough in-house.
Customers also love the bakery’s cinnamon rolls, gluten free items and empanadas. The empanadas are one of Arroyo’s family recipes, Karnish said, and the pair make the dish’s pastry shell and offer breakfast and lunch flavors.
In terms of baking tips, Karnish said learning how to use a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients is a game-changer.
“It can be a little frightening at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy,” he said. “Then there’s more consistency to your recipes.”
Takosky also stressed the benefits of weighing ingredients when making Candle Ready Cakes’ products.
In addition to the business’s menu items, Takosky said she loves finding new items and flavors and experimenting with new recipes.
“That’s really where the fun comes in and you can challenge yourself,” she said.
She uses this creativity while making specialty items for the holidays. For Valentine’s Day this year, she said she will again be making “smash hearts,” or a chocolate shell that must be smashed with a mallet to get to even more treats inside. She also will be making a cake for two, done in the naked style of frosting and topped with flowers and candles.
Takosky added that she saw many people take up baking since the COVID-19 pandemic began, especially by using starters for sourdough bread loaves. She said it’s a hobby she hopes many people continue on with.
“Mentally, it was nice for people to do and focus on,” she said. “They got to step out of their stressful lives. And that’s true with baking just in general. It’s cathartic and relaxing.”
Karnish added that he also got more into baking during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he had more time to focus on the skill. He added that anyone can look up baking hacks or recipes on YouTube or other forms of social media to learn exactly how to create a sweet treat.
“Baking is really having a renaissance right now,” Karnish said. “It used to be thought of as your grandma making a cake or something like that. But people are realizing how fun it is, and it’s fulfilling. It’s really something that you never forget how to do. You can follow a recipe and create something great.”