Some people might see a little girl standing at the bus stop with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a bag of Doritos, and a sweet iced tea as a normal preschool occurrence, but Amy Desena sees a new cupcake flavor that she simply can’t wait to procure.
In fact, Desena sees a lot of things every which way she turns, her mind churning out ideas for her newest venture, The Pittston Bakery, so fast that her mouth can barely keep up.
“I go off in my brain, my own little world,” she described. “I have all these ideas and I can’t get them out fast enough.”
The aforementioned flavor combination is actually something Desena partook in while in high school, just one example of how her brain runs wild to push the envelope at the bakery, a place she hopes people of the community can not only visit for sweet treats, but for a great experience.
Desena was born in New York, a crane operator in Manhattan for a number of years until she moved to the area seven years ago with her husband and daughters. She pays attention to the food trends in her former city and brings them here, which is why she started off solely with cake pops at the same location in March of 2013 as the business Dipped. Soon, customers began requesting other things of her, and she realized she could turn the whole thing into a full-blown bakery.
Desena is self-taught, though the knack runs in the family, as her grandmother was a pastry chef. It’s the bevy of cook books with her grandmother’s notations (some in German) that were left behind that inspire Desena.
“You can see what I’m working with here,” she said with a laugh as she pulled out brittle pages with scratchy handwriting on them. “These are from 1929. Look at that word. Does that say ‘burnt’ cake, or is it something German?”
Not that it matters much, as Desena isn’t one to follow recipes anyway.
“Just tell me how to make something,” she said. “I don’t want to read the recipe.”
It may not be the norm in a profession where baking is seen as a precise thing, but it certainly works. The self-proclaimed “impulsive and impatient” Desena loves to fly by the seat of her pants, and in doing so she has put out enormous maple bacon cake pops, savory pepper cookie cupcakes, and brownies with bourbon frosting. The products at the bakery are constantly changing.
These creations not only come from a buzzing mind, but some instances where an original recipe has failed.
“Oh, there are many funny stories of why my cupcake would taste like a dirty banana, but that’s where the spin comes in,” she said of what happens when she shrugs off playing by the rules. “I’d say, ‘OK, let’s mix something that doesn’t belong with that and see what kind of taste we can come up with.’”
Desena has what she calls a “Why not?” which really boils down to her asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“I want to do a red velvet soft pretzel,” she said. “I did a brioche biscuit last week, baked it in a toffee bed, and I thought, ‘Let’s stuff it with something,’ like I wanted something to ooze out of it, like a crème brûlée. I want to take those brownies and sandwich them together, dip them in chocolate, and put them on a stick, have this enormous treat. What could go wrong, really?”
She wishes more people would think that way, especially when it comes to pursuing their dreams.
“Being self-taught, I want to represent that for the people who may be afraid to jump all in or might say, ‘I could never do that,’” she said. “I didn’t know the rules; I just find them out afterwards. And the best part of that is that you only make the mistake once.”
The Pittston Bakery is small and inviting, like stepping into a friend’s living room. The walls are a warm plum color, one of them adorned with a chevron pattern in bronze and white. There’s a small cabinet dedicated to cupcakes (the flavors of which are ever-rotating), another for cookies, and a cold case for confections that need to be chilled. The three lights above the counter have an industrial feel, beaters from a Hobart mixer.
On May 1, construction will begin as Merle Norman, the business next door, is moving and the Pittston Bakery takes over that spot.
“I have huge visions for this place,” Desena said.
The baker is really in it to sell an experience. She’d like an area for consulting with clients, stools at the counter, and a separate space where business lunches or tea parties for little girls can be held. She also aspires to put in a lazy river of donuts.
“With flavored sugars, we’ll shake them on right in front of you,” she said. “That’s what I want to give the people that come in here – an experience. Something to watch, to enjoy.
“I’m here to give back to this community as much as I can. I want to display local art here. I invite people who want to play around with baking to come here and try it. I’m not here for the income – I’m here for the outcome.”