PALM AIRE — On any given day, you can find Sylvia Parker leaning over a mixing bowl, gleefully blending a glob of cream cheese to perfection with just the right mix of sugar, eggs and other key ingredients.
For a crust, she presses by hand a mixture of graham crackers and butter with such tenderness the task makes her smile just thinking about it.
“My passion is for cheesecake,” she says. “It’s a happy feeling when I’m there making the cake. As I’m baking the cake, I’m actually talking to the cheesecake, telling it, ‘You’ve got to (turn out great).’ I pray over every cake that I make. I want them to be heavenly for the customer.”
And although the experience is heavenly for Parker, owner of Sylvia’s Heavenly Cheesecakes, she saves the cake’s taste for her customers, friends and family. Parker steers clear of tasting her cheesecakes, which are so fluffy the slices nearly lose their shape. Sometimes, she’ll taste a bit of the silky cream-like mixture before it goes into the oven, but she never tastes the finished product.
Because, as much as Parker loves making cheesecakes, she hates the taste.
“I don’t like cream cheese,” she says with a shrug.
Parker waves a finger toward her former sister-in-law and business partner, Andrea Parker, who sits across the living room.
“I get repeating customers and that’s my taste test over there,” Sylvia Parker says, grinning.
In fact the customers — particularly their reaction to her cheesecakes — are her sole motivation.
“It makes me want to do it more,” she says.
Sylvia Parker’s love for baking cheesecakes began in 1999 when she started making cheesecakes for her husband. At the time, she didn’t realize her friends and coworkers had a healthy appetite for that particular dessert as well.
But a close friend loved Sylvia Parker’s cakes and suggested she turn them into a business venture. Eventually, she began bringing in samples to the office where she worked, distributing them to patients. The feedback was tremendous, and soon, Parker latched onto her friend’s idea.
“Once the people put them in their mouths, they said how creamy, light and fluffy there are,” she said. “It makes me want to do it more.”
Sylvia Parker says the secret ingredients her mom, a chef, told her back when she started baking have been the keys to her success.
“That’s what makes it so heavenly,” she says of her cheesecakes.
Over the years, Sylvia Parker has expanded her business to include cheesecakes of all varieties, including blueberry, chocolate swirl, apple crisp, peanut butter cup, key lime and mango strawberry swirl among others. Her special “fantasy cheesecake” allows customers to pick their crust and filling in whatever combination they desire.
“It’s whatever you dream up,” she says.
Sylvia Parker pulled Andrea Parker into her business about two years ago because of her artistic eye and cake-decorating skills. Andrea Parker bakes and decorates regular cakes for weddings and other events as well.
“We’re like four hands on the same body,” Andrea Parker says of their time in the kitchen. “We work together. I don’t know if it makes (the time) go by faster, but it definitely makes it more fun.”
The women hope to have even more fun working together in the year ahead. Sometime in 2010, Sylvia Parker hopes to open a dessert café she plans to name Trinity’s Café. Guests could come to sip coffee and feast on cheesecake and other desserts.
“Why not expand?” she asks. “Why keep it to yourself? Let everybody else enjoy it.”
Sylvia Parker said she hopes to open a second location — a restaurant — in a few years, as well.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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