CIA-trained chefs accommodate the community sweet tooth
For Charlotte and Robby Tanner, the Great Reset let them turn their careers in kitchens into their own bakery. The couple left jobs at Western North Carolina’s top resorts to open Sugarcane & Shepherd Desserts in Fletcher.
“I always knew I wanted to be a chef of some kind, so culinary school, for me, was something that I’d always dreamed of,” says Charlotte, who met Robby at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
“I’m from Florida originally, and there was a culinary magnet program attached to my high school,” says Robby. He took classes for all four years of his high-school career. “We were heavily recruited by all of the top culinary schools in the country, and I picked CIA because it’s regarded as the Harvard of culinary schools,” he notes.
After school, Robby took a job at the Omni Grove Park Inn, so the couple relocated to the Asheville area, where Charlotte joined a pastry team at Biltmore Estate in 2016. She left her job around the same time Robby was furloughed by the Grove Park during the early days of COVID.
“We needed some way to make income, so I started baking out of our house for friends and coworkers, and it went over really well,” recalls Charlotte. “We created an online site so we could ship nationwide, and we got such a positive response from that, I thought we could turn it into a full-time business.”
By 2021, they’d signed a lease and opened Sugarcane & Shepherd Desserts. “I had a service dog named Raviolee [for four years], a German Shepherd,” she explains. “He changed my life. I suffer from PTSD, and I never really felt like I was strong enough to do something like this, but Raviolee gave me the strength to believe in myself. So I felt it was fitting to name the business after him.”
Sadly, Raviolee passed away suddenly from an intestinal torsion this past Christmas. But Charlotte hopes the bakery will serve as a proper tribute to him.
“We take a lot of pride in our quality,” says Robby. “We don’t cheap out on ingredients. We use Ghirardelli Chocolate, we use Valrhona cocoa powder; we will pay a little extra to get a superior product. We also don’t keep anything frozen, so most everything you get is made the day of or the day before so that it’s as fresh as it can possibly be. Our freezer is basically just for frozen fruits.”
“We don’t believe in pre-made products,” agrees Charlotte. Fresh cupcakes, cookies, cheesecakes, and scones fill the display counter, but she notes that isn’t all they make. “I think what makes us different is the custom orders that we do. We try to accommodate as many people as we can, but we obviously can’t have everything that we do in the cases at all times. But if someone comes in and wants something specific, we can make it for them by the next day. We also do a lot of gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, or vegan options.
“Basically, I want to make things for the people who feel like they don’t get to eat anything sweet.”
But those custom orders can get tricky, like the time someone asked her to make a Swedish Princess Cake. “The first time I made it was the day after Raviolee passed away. I was super stressed,” says Charlotte. Princess Cakes were first made for mid-20th-century royal children and are famously complicated. The Scandinavian dessert consists of alternate layers of airy sponge cake, creme patisserie, raspberry jam, and a thick, domed layer of whipped cream; the cake is then covered with a blanket of marzipan for a silky, domed top.
“Honestly, I failed at it,” confesses Charlotte, who gave the cake to the “super understanding” customer for free. “But this past summer, I got a request for another one, and me and [my assistant] did it, and it turned out perfectly.”
She reflects, “It was one of those full-circle moments … I always wanted the chance to prove that I could do it, and I did.”
Sugarcane & Shepherd Desserts, 5585 Hendersonville Road, Fletcher. Open Wednesday through Saturday, 11am-7pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm. 828-318-4108. www.sugarcaneandshepherddesserts.com. (Also find the bakery on Instagram and Facebook).