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“Life is Short. Eat Dessert First.” – Toy Ann’s Sweeterie

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured

Published on February 12, 2020 with No Comments

By Lee Lyons

The sign says “Life is Short. Eat Dessert First.” And with all the enticing cupcakes and cookies at Toy Ann’s Sweeterie in Valparaiso, most people won’t need to be invited twice to choose dessert before anything else.

A “sweeterie” for those who are wondering, is a bakery with a modern, tearoom/coffee shop twist. The baked goods are treats, both beautiful and delicious. The décor is a big part of the attraction as well: light and cheery, from bright pistachio-ice cream colors on the walls and furniture, to a friendly elephant painting in the restroom.

“Cheery” also describes owner and baker, Toy Ann Runk, whose big smile tells you she is doing what she loves best: baking sweet treats with a creative flair.

“I’ve been baking since I was about 10 years old,” she explains. “My grandmother taught me, letting me bake with her.” For years Toy Ann baked in her certified kitchen at home and took her creations to markets and fairs. Two years ago, she opened the Sweeterie, which enabled her to expand her offerings and provide a number of services like parties and a sit-down space for customers to enjoy their selections.

Toy Ann’s daughters Cassidy and Callie bake too, decorating the Sweeterie’s fabulous made-to-order cakes with an artistic and unique touch.

Cassidy no longer lives in the area but resumes her creative decorating duties when she visits several times a year. Sixteen-year-old Callie does the custom cake decorating now, carrying on the family tradition.

“We make cakes for just about any occasion,” says Toy Ann. “People bring in pictures or flowers or color guides to show us what they want on their cakes. It’s a big part of our business and a delight for me to do.”

Toy Ann’s mother, Beverly, helps out in the shop, doing everything except the baking. “I don’t bake,” she laughs. “It skipped a generation.”

In addition to the custom cakes, the Sweeterie offers a wide range of cookies and cupcakes all lined up in an enticing glass case, tempting customers and offering the impossible choice of whether to pick chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies or a pineapple upside down cake or German chocolate-frosted cupcake. There’s also bread pudding, hand pies, and fruit pies made with real fruit boiled down for filling rather than canned.

Toy Ann takes great pride in making everything from scratch, from the all-butter frostings to the pie doughs and fruit fillings. It’s one of the things that keeps customers coming back—the taste of home-made, made-with-pride baking that cannot be achieved with mass-produced baking.

But the Sweeterie’s most popular item, according to Toy Ann, isn’t a sweet treat at all, but their hand-made chicken pot pies. With all-butter pastry and chicken filling (also made from scratch in her shop kitchen), the 5-inch, deep dish pot pies have such a devoted following that they have to be reserved in advance.

“I make about a hundred pot pies a week but people always want more,” says Toy Ann, grinning with pleasure. You have to get on a list.”

The Sweeterie also hosts children’s parties on Monday through Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The kids get to decorate their own cupcakes and eat as many treats as their mothers will allow.

Adults can hold small parties too, feasting on some of the 50 plus kinds of cupcakes the Sweeterie offers including their special group of “After Hours” cupcakes which feature a variety of liquor-based frostings for those over 21.

All parties need to be reserved in advance.

For those who simply want a place to sit in friendly ambiance while enjoying a treat or two, there’s a selection of organic tea, coffee, or ice water. The hard part is always choosing among the many treats available.

To reserve pot pies or book a party or a custom cake, call Toy Ann at 219-921-9055 or visit the Sweeterie at 200 Billings St., Valparaiso. They are open Tuesday thru Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays. For a look at some of the treats available, visit them on Facebook at toyannssweeterie.

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