Charlita Varner: Making Holidays and Every Day Sweeter

What are your fondest holiday memories? More than likely, a dessert or two made by loving hands brings back thoughts of spending special times with family and friends. Capturing the celebratory spirit of those occasions is the passion behind the sweets served at Buttersweet Bakery in Hapeville, GA.

“It makes me feel good when I provide something that is appealing and pleasing to my customers,” says Charlita Varner, baker and co-owner of Buttersweet. “I know that I have been a part of their celebration, whether it’s a birthday, a marriage, a shower or baby christening. I’m connected with them.”

Varner’s bakery features seasonal favorites such as Peppermint Brownies, White Chocolate Bread Pudding and Pumpkin Roulade Cake when customers stop in during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Her mission, however, is giving people “a buttersweet experience” whenever they visit. “If they come into the bakery, I can guarantee that they are going to have a pleasant experience because we are truly happy that they stopped by to see us.”

The bakery, located near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, opened in January of 2007 with rental incentives from the city of Hapeville. Varner decided to pursue her childhood hobby of baking after losing a job in child development. The Fisk University graduate with a psychology degree now puts her energies into creating happiness with fresh, homemade cookies, cakes, pies and other desserts.

“The most popular would be the pound cake, key lime cupcakes, brownies and chocolate chip cookies,” says Varner. The baker started experimenting as a 10-year-old girl with an Easy-Bake Oven. She now creates some of her memorable desserts by adapting recipes from relatives and friends.

“The brownies have an intense chocolate flavor. They are very moist and chock full of walnuts and chocolate,” says Buttersweet’s co-owner. “The pound cakes, we call Grandma Cakes because they have that sugary crust on top. They are very moist and the butter and cream cheese flavors are very prominent.”

Varner’s husband Darrell Calhoun co-owns the bakery and helps out when he is not at his full-time job as a news producer. Friends have also contributed to Buttersweet’s growth. Personal chef Michelle Rogers helped the couple add homemade soups and sandwiches to the menu this year. The bakery also sells loose teas and natural honey provided by a friend’s online business, Vernell Mosley’s Sweet Tea Factory.

Nearly 30 of Buttersweet’s business is in custom-made cakes. Varner meets with clients and gets a solid grasp of the event, preferences and colors that will inspire a unique creation. She does not like to make the same cake twice and prides herself in making her customers feel “they can always trust us to do the best that we can do for their celebration.”

Varner believes “a spiritual-God thing” has been an important ingredient in the success of her bakery from the beginning. Bon Appetit Magazine featured Buttersweet’s  Key Lime Cupcakes in a “Best of the Bakeshops” article the year after the shop opened. The recipe also appears in Bon Appetit Desserts Cookbook. Buttersweet received five stars from tripadvisor.com and was ranked 7 of 23 best restaurants in Hapeville.

At the moment, the owners’ 14-year-old daughter Emma Rose tries her hand at baking but considers it a lot of work. Nevertheless, Varner’s long-term dream is for Buttersweet to be serving up “happiness” for many holidays to come. Her wish is for customers to be repeating her motto, “Have a buttersweet day,” a hundred years from now.

If you are in the Atlanta area, stop by Buttersweet Bakery at 625 N. Central Avenue in Hapeville, GA. Go to www.buttersweetbakery.com for more information or call 404.767.9884.

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The joy of cooking became a part of her life when Phyllis was a child learning her way around the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. Her retirement from a demanding career in broadcast news has given her time to write about African-American chefs and restaurant owners as well as other black professionals succeeding in the travel and wine industries. Phyllis still loves to cook and try out new recipes.