Menia Chester is a little hesitant to discuss the details of her new bakery, Desserts By Latrell (581 Edgewood Ave., 678-705-3409, www.dessertsbylatrell.com). When asked if she could tell me about the ingredients in her strawberry cake, Chester simply said, "No." How about the type of chocolate she uses in her chocolate frosting? She'd rather not say.
Nothing sketchy is afoot, however. Chester grew up baking with her grandmother and aunt and most of the recipes she uses come from her family. Although it is frustrating to glean so little during an interview, my inner cook finds her steadfast guardianship of family recipes endearing. And it's family that appears to be the driving force behind Desserts by Latrell. Chester – who lent her middle name to the establishment – tries to make the tiny bakeshop feel like you're in a grandmother's living room, a place where you can play checkers with friends and have something sweet with a cup of coffee.
Latrell's offers a handful of classic, no-frills desserts that actually taste like something your grandmother would bake – assuming she's Southern, of course. Miniature versions of "Grandma's pecan pie" ($1.95) have a flaky crust made with vegetable shortening and a gooey pecan-laced filling that avoids toothache-inducing sweetness. While there is little real strawberry flavor in the neon pink strawberry cake ($3.95/slice and $35/cake), it's flavorful and has an equally bright cream cheese frosting as airy as the layers of cake. A slice of yellow cake with a chocolate buttercream icing ($3.95/slice and $35/cake) is not overwhelmingly sweet or heavy, making it dangerously easy to devour. The peach cobbler ($2.50) – featuring fresh, canned or frozen peaches depending on the time of year – is undoubtedly the most popular item. I've called ahead to make sure it was there and arrived shortly after only to find it sold out. No wonder Chester won't tell me the recipe.