The old adage “When one door closes, another opens” helps illustrate the story behind the “Future Home of Jenny Cakes at the Lake Bakery” sign now standing tall on Lizard Creek Road, adjacent to the Gazette-Observer office and before (heading east) Lake Gaston Jet Ski and Powersports.
The nickname “Jenny Cakes” belongs to Jennifer Harlow and the doors to her farmhouse-themed bakery building are slated to be open in the spring of 2021, though she has already been baking around the lake under the Jenny Cakes at the Lake name, most recently under a pop-up tent during the East Coast Watersports Championship at AF Wake.
There, her blue iced sugar cookies in the shape of waves were a big hit with youth riders.
“I’ve met all these really nice people here,” Harlow said. “It’s been really nice to meet all of them and get good feedback. I’m really excited.”
Hailing from Cary, N.C., Harlow had been visiting Lake Gaston much of her life before COVID-19 prompted a permanent move.
Her family has had a lake home in the Stonehouse Creek area for the last 15 years. They’ve been visiting the area for even longer.
“It’s our safe haven,” Harlow said. “And when the pandemic hit, I lost my job in Raleigh and my parents decided to work from home for the rest of the year. So the three of us moved up here full-time. I sold my house in Durham.
“It seemed like the perfect opportunity. I had all this free time now without my job in corporate catering to focus on my dream. I’ve always, always, always wanted to have a bakery at the lake.”
Her maternal great-grandparents are native to Italy - It's a cooking family. Harlow learned cooking and baking from her mother and intently watched her grandmother make wedding cakes.
She earned the “Jenny Cakes” moniker from an early age and the name seemed a natural fit for the bakery.
“I wanted to do it in honor of them,” Harlow said, “because they taught me how to bake and gave me the inspiration to open my own shop.”
Harlow emphasized it is a family-owned shop; her parents Marty and Annemarie will be helping out. A family photo on the new website jennycakesatthelake.net also features her sister Tori, an optometrist in the Charlotte area who wouldn’t miss making the trip for the grand opening.
With a baking and pastry degree from Johnson and Wales University, Harlow brings more than 12 years of experience in the food service industry.
Harlow said, “From (college), I worked at a bunch of different resorts in South Carolina; the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head and Wild Dunes Resort in Charleston at their bakeries. And from there, I managed cupcake shops for about five years.”
Harlow said her speciality is cupcakes. Jenny Cakes at the Lake will have a variety of offerings, however. “So we’ll have fresh bread and pastries, doughnuts, dessert - a little bit of everything,” she said, “and then we’re hoping to get a beer and wine license as well and sell exclusively (Rosemont of Virginia) wine.”
In addition to the sweets, think afternoon charcuterie board-style snacks.
Lake Gaston Coffee Company will also be supplying the coffee.
Harlow hopes to be open by Memorial Day. In the meantime, she’s working from home doing special orders and birthday and wedding cakes.
On Saturday, she’ll be at the Fall Market at Airle Place in Littleton from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. selling cupcakes, cookies and mini pies.
As for the future Lizard Creek shop, Harlow said, “My whole family is involved in it and I couldn’t have done it without them and the support of friends and relatives... I’m really excited to get started and be part of the community.”