January 1, 2013

Waterville baker appreciative of benefits of a blessed life

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Sharalyn Albertson put the finishing touches on a platter of champagne-flavored cupcakes Monday morning inside her new bakery on Silver Street.

click image to enlarge

Sharalyn Albertson stocks a display case with baked goods she and Janet Johnson, left, make, recently at the Blessed Life Bakery in Waterville.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Just two months after opening the Blessed Life Bakery, which specializes in homemade baked goods and custom cakes, Albertson is busy taking orders. The 39-year-old is working from a collection of recipes from her mother, a baker who worked in and owned area restaurants decades ago.

This month she also is starting a series of children's cooking classes, the first of which will be held Jan. 26 and will be based on the Food Network reality show "Cupcake Wars," in which teams of bakers compete to design cupcakes around a theme.

As she bakes and plans, Albertson is reflecting on what she is thankful for and what the bakery has helped her achieve in the last year.

Albertson grew up baking with her mother on Saturday mornings and working at the two restaurants her parents, Richard and Marilyn Higgins, owned -- the Village Embers in Jay and Dick's Bakery in Lincoln.

When her parents died -- her mother in 2010 and her father in 2005 -- Albertson, who ran a day care center at her home in Canaan for 12 years, started baking again.

In less than two years, her sale of pies and cakes at her church and the cooking classes at her day care center were profitable enough for Albertson to consider opening a store.

Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, said Blessed Life is one of 14 new businesses to open in downtown Waterville in 2012.

"I think it's a great sign of the economy growing in the last year," she said. "Silver Street has become sort of a restaurant row, and it's an indication of a nice upturn."

In Waterville, Albertson said she is trying to fill a niche that hasn't been met by others.

"We're not a coffee shop. We have a very limited amount of coffees, but that's because I want the emphasis to be on a bakery where you can come in and sit down. I do pies and cakes just to order and then breads, rolls and other baked goods daily in small batches," Albertson said.

Blessed Life is filled with reminders of Albertson's parents: a rolling pin that was a wedding present, a 1960's photograph of the couple in their kitchen and her mother's collection of nutcrackers, which are on display.

"There's touches of them everywhere," she said.

That includes the recipes, which Albertson keeps in a binder she refers to as "the book."

In January 2010, Albertson said, her mother had been visiting and left the book at her house. In March, when her mother died, Albertson found it in her kitchen and began baking cinnamon rolls for her husband, an electrician at Huhtamaki Packaging, to take to work.

Albertson said that as a girl, one of her jobs at the family restaurant was to serve popovers during the weekend lunch buffet. Today that same type of popover is coming out of the oven at Blessed Life.

The champagne cupcakes are adapted from her mother's cake recipe.

The name of the bakery came from a biblical verse about remembering to be grateful in times of both hardship and happiness, Albertson said. She started the business, which was run at her home before she opened the Silver Street location, around the time her mother died and while her husband was out of work.

"We learned to realize that it didn't matter whether we had things or didn't. We know what it is to have plenty and what it is to have none, and we've learned to be content in both situations," she said.

Janet Johnson, 39, is one of two employees other than Albertson at the bakery. She said that like Albertson, she was a stay-at-home mother before coming to the bakery, where she works three or four days per week. The two women also lost their mothers around the same time and have become good friends, she said.

"She realized that even when she didn't have anything, life was still blessed," Johnson said.

Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com

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