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Donna's dream 

The secret to this bakery's success is a whole lotta love

It's exciting to find a place you'd never noticed before, walk in, and be immediately welcomed and smiled upon. That's what I experienced when I pulled into the little parking lot on Montgomery Street, just across from Sylvan Terrace, and found Ms. Donna Green mixing up a batch of batter with real butter and eggs.

The friendly feel of the place, the enticing scent of buttery cakes baking, and the family banter between mother and son, Matthew Swanson, made me feel right at home.

I was also delighted to find an old-fashioned caramel cake, thick with rich brown-sugar frosting, under the glass of a nearby cake-stand—I've looked for that cake in bakeries for ages and had finally found my treasure.

I decided then and there I had to know more about this smiling lady and the crew of folks who gather to bake and mix and serve at Donna's Delicious Delights. Her mother, Mary Kennedy, sat at the little table by the door, rolling up plastic forks and knives in napkins, and Wounder Jones was busy putting together orders for Donna's famous crab cakes and thick-cut meatloaf sandwiches—because this friendly place is not just a bakery, but a great lunch and dinner take-out as well.

It seemed every customer who entered knew exactly what they wanted—nobody asked for a menu—and the Shrimp n' Crab Salad was a top contender for dinner at many folks' tables that night!

When you see the beauty of a well-crafted cake, the pale gold of buttery layers, the creamy swirls of icing that calls to the hungry diner and satisfies the eye as well as the taste buds, then you've got to know that whatever comes out of that kitchen will be marvelous, whether it's sweet or savory, topped with pecans and brown sugar or nestled between toasted bread with a side of slaw.

Just when I thought my cup runneth over, Ms. Mary suggested I try the Deviled Crab Cake, and my happiness was complete: absolutely stuffed with real Georgia blue crab meat (and a very little dash of breadcrumbs to keep it together), it was a tasty delight indeed, and had me wanting more before I'd even finished the first one.

While addressing the quality of the cakes, I'm amused and pleased to hear her son Matthew say, "You'll find the best Red Velvet—and any other cake in town—right here. I'm not sayin' that just because she's my Mama! It's really true! Here, try a bit of this caramel cake and tell me what you think!"

Who can resist such an approach? Far be it from me to back away from a forkful of freshly baked caramel-y goodness!

When Donna had a moment between mixing and baking she was happy to tell me her secret: "Fresh ingredients, everything made from scratch, and a whole lotta love!"

That's a winning combination for sure. "I'm doing what I love," she told me, "this was always my dream. Baking is something I got started when I was a little girl, getting my Easy Bake Oven every year, then baking for friends and for high school bake sales. I worked at Gulfstream for over 25 years in avionics, putting together instrument panels for airplanes, but I finally decided to go with my passion, baking."

She smiles, remembering, "A friend was getting rid of one of his old buildings, and Mama heard about and let me know, and there ya go! Here we are, since the summer of 1996!"

Her mother and father (who passed away two years ago) helped her out in the beginning and made it a family kind of venture. Word of her fine cakes started circling 'round the neighborhood, and those seeking the perfect homemade taste (without having to bake it themselves) came crowding through her door.

I asked her if the bakery and lunch items have always coexisted; Donna tells me openly, "When God have me the vision for this place, it included both bakery items and the deli food. The salad recipes are Mama's, the cakes and sweets are my own."

There's a good variety of both sandwiches and salads available, from the usual turkey, ham and roast beef to the famous—and wonderful—Shrimp n' Crab, Tuna, and Mary's delicious chicken or shrimp salad. Choose your bread and your sides—pasta salad or cole slaw, both homemade of course, or chips and peaches, or order the tasty hot wings and deviled crab.

Donna's sweet potato pie is incredible, the filling softly sweet and melting in your mouth, in full size or mini-pies to tuck in your lunch box. The variety changes daily, but certain favorites like Red Velvet, Butter Poundcake, Chocolate Pecan Butter cake or Key Lime are always available, as well as cookies, cupcakes and those luscious mini-sweet potato pies.

Donna's opens at 10 a.m. and is closed Monday and Sunday. So make room for a little fresh-baked blessing in your life —nothing satisfies like something sweet made with a whole lotta love.

Donna's Delicious Delights, 4711 Montgomery St.

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