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    Rachelle Starr estimates that about 300 people shivered in the cold for peanut-butter brownies and soft sugar-cookie bars covered with a thick layer of white icing and sprinkles at the grand opening of Scarlet's Bakery in January. On the Thursday morning I visit the Shelby Park bakery, patrons are drinking coffee and eating pastries. A glass counter displays the offerings — chocolate-dipped sugar cookies, savory and sweet muffins, powdered doughnut holes. Behind the counter, bakers dressed in vivid red chef jackets mix flour, roll dough and frost cupcakes.

    Originally from Clearwater Beach, Florida, Starr, 32, moved to Louisville nine years ago after her husband got a job in town. She worked in marketing and advertising until 2007, when she started Scarlet Hope, a religious organization for women who want to leave the adult-entertainment industry.  Scarlet’s Bakery was a natural extension of the organization because Starr has been baking for most of her life. She learned from her mother, who baked wedding cakes and catered. It wasn’t until about a year ago that, with help from philanthropy investor Access Ventures, Scarlet Hope purchased a run-down building on Oak Street and volunteers began renovating the space.

    Starr wants the bakery to offer opportunities to learn customer service, management and, obviously, baking. And to appreciate the instant gratification of the baking process. In just a few hours, one of the bakers-in-training can turn flour, sugar, butter and eggs into a picture-perfect cookie. The five employees arrive at 5 a.m. to spread sticky brownie batter in sheet pans, bake double-chocolate-cream muffins or press forks into chewy, gluten-free peanut-butter cookies. They continue baking throughout the day, to complete orders (like the $40 box of cupcakes, cookies and macarons they offered for Valentine’s Day) or to get a head start on the next day.

    The menu, a mix of family recipes and local and seasonal items, includes Scarlet’s signature soft sugar cookie with pecans and a maraschino cherry. Head pastry chef Kenna Nelson, formerly of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, crafted the recipe for the bakery’s gooey cinnamon rolls, which are hand-rolled daily and smeared with cream-cheese icing. Bacon Cheddar chive muffins always sell out. Available on weekends: baked pretzels topped with crispy cheese and stuffed with jalapeños and Cheddar, plus Monte Cristos dusted with powdered sugar and filled with salty ham, melted Swiss cheese and raspberry jam.

    “Ultimately we want to serve Louisville’s sweetest treats,” Starr says. “But the sweeter part for us is that we get to employ women.”

    Scarlet's Bakery
    741 Oak St.

    Author: Jenny Keifer

    Image: Chris Witzke  

    This article originally appeared in the March issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, click here. 


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