Amazing Bakes: Red Bay woman finds sweet success with home-based bakery
For Red Bay’s Glenda Timbs, it all started in high school.
“I saw a girl do a decorated cake, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Timbs said. It’s been a few years since her love of baking was first inspired, but Timbs has now made her dream job a reality with Amazing Bakes.
Timbs operates Amazing Bakes in Red Bay under Alabama’s Cottage Food Law. According to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, home-based chefs and bakers can sell certain products directly to consumers after passing a food safety course. The Cottage Food Law went into effect in June 2014.
“I do it as I can fit it in my schedule,” explained Timbs, who has a day job at a local plant. “It challenges me creatively. It’s like a meditation to me. It’s nothing for me to start a cake at nine or 10 o’clock at night, and it’s one of the things that I love.”
When Timbs was first honing her baking interest and skills as a high school student, she found she could pursue her passion through taking a home economics course at the Tishomingo Vocational Center – her family lived in Belmont at the time, having moved there from Cleveland, Ohio, when Timbs was 10. It was in this home ec class that Timbs said she began to develop the foundation of what would one day become her home-based bakery.
“We started off with the basics of cooking – how to be safe and prepare foods that were sanitary for people to eat,” Timbs explained. From there, she and her fellow students advanced into using kitchen equipment, each lesson building on the one before. “Every week we cooked one meal a week for the faculty. As we grew, we started learning the fun things like cake decorating.” She found the class “really taught us from the ground up” – and not just about cooking. “The teacher there – you learned how to cook, and at the same time she taught you how to budget and how to figure the cost of your meals and things like that,” Timbs said.
She still leans on the principles she first learned in that high school course as she prices out her ingredients and products to make her growing bakery financially successful. “It’s very humbling to think you learned that back in high school, and you’re still able to carry it over into today’s home business and the economics of your home.”
Throughout the years Timbs said she has been the go-to baker for family events – and she finally found she was ready to take that next step. Amazing Bakes launched in 2018 and is registered with the state, county and city under the Cottage Food Law. With Amazing Bakes up and running, Timbs is living out the dream that was inspired in her teens.
“This could be my stepping stone to retirement,” said Timbs. For now, as a cottage baker, she operates completely out of her home, using her own residential oven, refrigerator and other facilities; one day, however, she said she envisions owning a small hometown bakery where she can sell cake by the slice and other treats, maybe with a cup of coffee – the kind of place she loves to visit on vacation.
“At every turn, I’m a one-person operation,” said Timbs, “but the support from the people around me has just been wonderful. That’s what it takes for you to make it. If I didn’t have that support, then I couldn’t have my business.”
Timbs’ “amazing bakes” include everything from cookies and confections to cupcakes and tiered wedding cakes. She also takes pride in her artisan caramel turtles. Depending on the orders placed, she said she tries to space out work to give every creation the time and attention it deserves.
“One day I might make icing and mix colors. I like to bake cakes the day before … If I bake cookies, I have to bake those four days ahead because the icing has to harden,” she explained.
The year 2020 brought a challenge for Timbs, as it did for so many. She put Amazing Bakes on hold for about four months during the pandemic before resuming just before the holidays. Despite the way 2020 impacted her bottom line, Timbs said she has still seen a respectable profit from her burgeoning business – and more importantly, she’s laying the groundwork for long-term success.
“The first five years, I recognized I would have to buy a lot of equipment – cookie cutters, specific tools for decorating or pans to bake on or shaped pans,” Timbs said. “These five years, I’m really working on getting my repeat customers and grabbing new customers. When I retire – and that’s a ways off – and I have a storefront, people will welcome that.” Timbs said although the pandemic has threatened small businesses like hers, she has confidence in her business’s future. “People will always have celebrations. Even with the COVID, the way we celebrate changes, but you adapt to change with it.
“I love the fact that a lot of people like to support small business,” she added. “The people of Red Bay – a lot them call me the Cake Lady. They support me.”
Timbs’ own favorite treat is her red velvet cake with a cream cheese-flavored buttercream. Incorporating unique flavors is a cornerstone for Timbs, with tastes like maple, rum, coffee, orange and coconut making an appearance among her sweet treats. “I love when people tell me I have a really good-tasting cake,” she said.
Among her favorite cakes she has created were a flamingo cake with ruffles, complete with candy flamingos – pastel blue and pink on the inside, filled with candy that burst out upon the first slice – and a small wedding cake with ruffles and crosses that was “nothing majorly elaborate. Just simple. I really enjoyed that.”
Of course, tiered cakes remind Timbs of one of her very first baking efforts – a 25th anniversary cake she made for her parents when she was in high school. She and her siblings pooled a portion of their snack money over the course of several weeks to purchase the supplies that were needed. “I did a three-tiered wedding cake to surprise our parents,” she said. “We managed to pull it off … It’s one of the best memories I have.” Her three siblings are, to this day, “my most avid supporters.”
Under the Cottage Food Law, all of Timbs’ creations must pass directly from her hands into the customers’, and all of her deliveries must take place in Alabama. She does most of her hand deliveries on Saturdays, with the majority of her customer base situated in Red Bay but also spreading out toward Russellville and Hamilton.
As she continues to grow her business, Timbs said she is focused on meeting her customers’ needs by supplying a superior product and, especially, by expanding her offerings to serve people with special dietary needs, from diabetics to those on a keto diet or who have gluten sensitivities. “There’s a lot of room to grow.”