The great, mostly friendly rivalries of Cincinnati are legendary—Eastside-Westside, Muskies-Bearcats, and of course, the one you can eat—Gold Star-Skyline. Talk to Roger David, CEO of Gold Star, about rivalries, and he’d rather tell you about love. Of chili.
Desiree Vick’s day job counseling people with disabilities is intense and fulfilling. After work and weekends, though, it’s all about the food.
If home is where the heart is, the kitchen is the beating center at least that’s what it’s like at the Spencers’ house in Cincinnati. The kitchen is the center of activity for Naimah and her mother, Vallery.
“In that kitchen I learned so much from her,” Naimah says. “I would do my homework there, share stories about my day. I shed tears in that kitchen. But there was always cooking.”
Naimah has always been enthralled with cooking. It was a passion fueled by her mother and the magic of mealtime. When they went to grocery stores together, Naimah would collect the free recipes they handed out. She even learned to read and write through cooking.
“I would sit next to my mom and write each recipe down,” Naimah says. “I didn’t realize she was just telling me what was on the back of the box. I wrote it anyway. I would say, ‘Mom, I need to save this recipe forever.’”
So it’s no surprise that it was in that kitchen that the online bakery, My Momma’s Kitchen, was born. It happened one day when Vallery decided to make a cake. She and Naimah went through the routine of cooking and sharing stories, but the cake turned out to be something else—dark chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting in the middle and decanted fudge frosting as icing—a three-layer masterpiece.
“As soon as I ate this I thought, ‘What am I doing? I could be a baker. Mom we could do this together!”’ Naimah says.
Vallery hesitated, but Naimah welcomed the challenge. With Naimah’s experience as a 2012 Xavier business graduate majoring in Entrepreneurial Studies, and Vallery’s skills in the kitchen, Naimah knew they could be a success. Together the mother-daughter team dove into the business of baking. And through trial and error, they discovered the best way to ship a cake was in a glass jar. A very small, just-the-right-size-for-dessert kind of jar. Now the Cake-in-a-Jar is their flagship item.
A pack of four begins at $35. “It’s not just a cake in a jar,” Naimah says. “It’s the best-cake-you’ll-eat—in a jar. It’s the best-experience-you’ll-have—in a jar.”
Naimah and Vallery also make cookies, brownies and traditional layer cakes. Working up to 12 or more hours a day, they keep the bakery running. And growing. My Momma’s Kitchen is on Facebook and Etsy as mymommaskitchen, and they’re thinking about bringing the business to local farmers markets and some day opening a real store.
Sometimes they also create baked gifts and wedding favors. Other times it’s just so someone can have a little taste of home. Because at the center of everything is family, home—and a kitchen.
LEARN MORE about My Momma’s Kitchen and buy your own Cake-in-a-Jar at their website.
Bratwurst. Chili. Goetta. Cincinnati, nicknamed Porkopolis, is known for its quirky carnivorous dishes. But what if you live in hog city and don’t eat meat? That’s what Caitlin Bertsch, a 2006 math and sociology graduate, asked herself when she cut animal products from her diet in 2010.
“The switch from non-vegan to vegan was easy because I always loved vegetables and fruit,” says Bertsch. “But when my family and I would get together to eat, it did feel like something was missing. I knew that I wasn’t the only person looking for meat-free alternatives to typical Cincinnati foods.”
Bertsch missed goetta the most, which is a German-American sausage that’s made up of spices, ground beef, pork and steel-cut oats. It’s traditionally served with eggs for breakfast or as a sandwich for lunch and dinner.
So she decided to take matters into her own hands. Literally. Using old family recipes and the Internet, she eventually perfected a vegan goetta recipe. The responses from her family and friends were so encouraging that she went back to the kitchen and set her sights on vegan-izing other dishes, like Cincinnati-style chili and macaroni and cheese. They, too, proved to be palate pleasing.
So in 2011, with the help of instructors from SpringBoard Cincinnati—a class that helps creative entrepreneurs start businesses—she launched Vegan Roots, her own meat-free food business. Bertsch cooks from her kitchen at the Brew House near Eden Park and sends her products to restaurants and markets across Cincinnati. She hopes to expand her business to a storefront and is looking into catering options. Ultimately, she’s glad that a different version of goetta is on the shelves—and on her family’s dinner plates.
The taste of a good craft beer is hard to resist. And cupcakes are too. So it makes sense that the two, if brewed together correctly, could make a perfectly delectable dessert.
At least that’s what Emma Royan and Sarah Kinisky thought when they met over a beer one day after work. So they took their thought to the kitchen, and the outcome was the birth of BrewCakes, a business devoted to the irresistibility of cupcakes made with beer. And so far, their plans of world domination by batter and booze have been working out.
Featuring seasonal and traditional flavors, each cupcake recipe is inspired by a different craft beer and includes a shot of liquor in its filling. Royan and Kinisky even have a special place in their ovens for Xavier fans: The Xavier Blue Velvet cupcake is a red velvet Rivertown Hop Bomber IPA cupcake dyed to a perfect Xavier blue. It’s filled with a white chocolate vodka ganache and topped with a vodka-based vanilla buttercream. Xavier’s blue color, the women say, took them hours to perfect.
Together, Kinisky and Royan—like their beer and cake recipes—forge a formidable business partnership. Royan, who works as a special education teacher at a charter school, draws on her communication skills to control the marketing side. And Kinisky, who works as an accountant for Nestle, uses her background in math to figure the company’s financials.
“You know your job is awesome when your bar tab is a work-related tax deduction,” says Royan.
Emma and Sarah’s Favorite BrewCakes
A chocolate cupcake made with Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Conway Irish Ale. Filled with a chocolate ganache whisky shot and topped off with Baily’s Irish buttercream frosting.
A light pancake cupcake made with Rogue Voodoo Donut beer and filled with homemade alcoholic blueberry jam and a maple syrup float. Topped with maple buttercream frosting and bacon.