Ms. Lou’s sweet success

Published 6:13 pm Saturday, November 22, 2008

Louira Hambright is a serial nocturnal baker. Long after the “open” sign is turned off at Lou’s Bakery, Hambright stays behind to perfect the recipes that are her livelihood.

“I can bake all night, and I don’t realize I’ve baked all night until I look out the window and see daylight,” Hambright said. “I guess you can say I have a passion for it.”

Since opening Lou’s Bakery on the sweetest day of the year, Feb. 14, Hambright has become a local celebrity of sorts. Her culinary chops have been featured in Southern Living, and she travels to Birmingham every Wednesday to sell her wares at Linn Park, where downtown workers flock to a blue tent stocked with lemon pound cake, caramel cake, and the customer favorite, rum cake.

“I sell more rum cakes than I do any other cake,” Hambright said. “I wanted to get that recipe just right, and when my customers got that look on their face and made that noise like they took a small bite of heaven, I knew I got it right. I said, ‘That’s it!’”

During the summer months, Hambright has a table at the Pepper Place Saturday Market in Birmingham. Without her traveling bakery, Hambright said it would be nearly impossible for the Alabaster shop to stay afloat.

Hambright moved the bakery from Greensboro to Alabaster in an effort to boost business. The word of mouth has been an answered prayer.

“You should see the smiles on their faces,” Hambright said of her loyal customers. “A lot of them say, ‘I haven’t had that since grandma used to make it.”

Hambright began baking when she could barely see over the kitchen counter. Then, she wanted to reap the accolades of the most important man in her life.

“My Daddy said everything I baked was good, and I knew it wasn’t, but he said it was,” Hambright said. “I guess I baked to pleased him.”

Baking became a solace as Hambright grew older.

As a single mother, she sold her cakes out of her house while holding down a full–time job.

“Baking is like therapy for me. It calms me down,” she said. “I’ve never had a job that makes me more satisfied than this.”

Hambright is now taking orders for the holiday season, and her handwritten list is already a few pages long.

“You need to order a month ahead,” she advises. “If not, you have to get whatever I have left.”