Get to know baker Donna, owner of Bella Donna’s Sweets

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  1. When did you start your business and why?

I started my business in April of 2013.  I had worked for an architectural company for 28 years and retired in December 2011.  I had always baked specialty Italian cookies for the holidays and gave out large platters as gifts.  One of my neighbors took one of my platters on a plane up to Seattle for the holiday and was offered up to $300 for the platter.  She told me I need to sell these. Inspired by my friends and family I started to put things together for a baking business. I went to the San Francisco Baking Institute which gave me a professional foundation for artisan baking and skill set to take my recipes to a different level.  So I turned my passion into a business.

 

  1. Is there a specific product you’re known for making? 

Well I started with the Italian cookies which were my signature.  But then the market manager at the time had one of my pies and she told me I needed to add them to my product line.  So I went through the process to get them added and started selling the pies. They have taken off and are now more popular than the cookies.

 

  1. What is most popular?

The most popular cookie is my cherry thumbprints, biscotti and chocolate truffles.  The most popular pies are apple, strawberry rhubarb, pecan and mixed berry. Although it changes all of the time as I change pie flavors seasonally.  So in summer cherry, peach and stone fruit pies are very popular. 

 

  1. What makes your desserts different from something you can purchase at a supermarket?

Everything I bake is baked fresh.  There are no preservatives, I use fresh ingredients, and make my fillings and dough from scratch.  All of my baked goods also are not as sweet because I use less sugar.



5. Do you source items from the farmers’ market based on season? 

Yes!  I love buying from our farmers when I can.  I think it takes it full circle from the farm to the table.  I also think it is important to support our local farmers and it insures me I am getting the freshest ingredients.

If so, who do you source ingredients from?

Sunny Cal Farms, Smith Farms, C & L Farm and sometimes Black Sheep and Gayton depending on what is in season and who will work with me.


6.   How do you prepare, store, cook your products?

For the farmers market, I usually start on Tuesdays and Wednesdays preparing the dough needed for pies and cookies, laying out my menu, rolling out the pie dough ahead of time and freezing it.  Placing orders and shopping for other ingredients not sourced from the farmers. Thursdays and Fridays are preparing fresh fruit for the pies and baking days for the cookies and pies. All of the cookies are baked first and iced if needed and then packaged.  All of the pies are put together and refrigerated until baked Friday evening and then packaged so they are fresh for the market. 

 

  1. Do you make your baked goods in a professional kitchen or a home kitchen?

I bake in my home kitchen.  I have my Cottage license through the health department.  All of my recipes have to be pre-approved by the health department as well as having all the other pertinent licenses for the business.


8. What do you want your customers to know about you and your products?

Our products are all traditionally homemade with a lot of passion and love.  I love taking the time to make that pie or cookie look pretty and special, something you won’t find in a grocery store. Using only fresh ingredients and all are baked fresh to order with no preservatives.  My husband helps me with the prep, shopping, packaging, setting up etc. So even though I am the baker we are a team and we truly appreciate our customers.


9. Why do you like participating in the Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans Market?

Love the customers first off.  There is much more of a personal gratitude at the OHGFAM versus other farmers markets.  Everyone truly comes to do their weekly shopping and support their local farmers and artisans and enjoy each other’s company.  We love the staff and all of the volunteers. It’s great to be a part of such a community of people who appreciate what you do as a farmer or an artisan.