There's a new(ish) bakery in town, and for once, the specialty is not cupcakes. Jimella's Bakery, the brainchild of Decatur resident Emily Holden, focuses on cookie sandwiches like Dark Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Meets Peanut Butter, and White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal. For sale at the Decatur Farmers Market every Saturday and the Grant Farmers Market monthly, as well as by special order, Jimella's cookies can also be made into cakes. Other options include salted caramel brownies, lemon tarts, and apple pie cakes. Orders are available for delivery or pickup at the farmers markets, Holden's home in Decatur, or the Village Theatre.
Holden shares her story below.
You used to be in media ad sales. Why did you decide to become a baker?
I have been baking “recreationally” for many years. In fact, my coworkers used to be some of my best taste testers. I knew baking was my true calling when anytime I dropped something sweet off in the office kitchen, it would be gone in an hour. Also, it’s a lot more fun to sling cookies at people than advertising packages! Honestly, making baking a business has been something in the back of my mind for a long time. I didn’t go back to ad sales once my daughter was born in 2012 and decided to make it official in 2013.
You mentioned that Jimella's started with a wedding cake. How did that happen?
One of my best friend’s little sisters was getting married and knew I was a baker. I actually baked cookie sandwiches for her, as she was open to options on the dessert table! Apparently, they were all gobbled up in minutes.
How did you come up with the name Jimella's?
Jimella’s is named after my great grandmother, JimElla. She was the youngest of thirteen and named after her father, James. She was an amazing country cook who would have dinner and dessert ready at a moment’s notice for anyone in a three-county radius. Her meringue pies and chicken and dumplings were seriously the best thing you ever tasted in your life.
What's your background in baking? How do you come up with your ideas and recipes?
Part of my background comes from a love of sweets. Some of my fondest memories growing up were getting to try anything sweet. I never really dabbled in baking myself until my mid-20s, despite there being many great bakers in my extended family.
After I made a cookie cake for a friend’s 25th birthday, I just got obsessed. I am definitely a self-taught baker and continue to learn all the time. My inspiration comes from many resources. For a long time, I pored over baking blogs and cookbooks. However, now I just like to add one cookie sandwich at a time to my repertoire and try to think of something that is both unique and that reminds my customers of tastes they loved as kids. My husband actually came up with the filling on my most popular cookie sandwich. It’s a browned butter snickerdoodle with a dulce de leche filling.
What makes Jimella's different from all of the other mom and pop treat shops out there?
Although I can bake other treats, cookie sandwiches and cookie cakes are my specialty. There is something really nostalgic about a cookie. When you add a complementary filling sandwiched with another cookie, you're thrown back to your childhood. Also, there is such versatility of where they can be served. They’re perfect for showers, birthday parties, office events or just because! It’s a nice alternative to the cupcake and still something that is an individual serving.
Why did you decide to focus on cookies?
Cookies are a great place to start for a baker who doesn’t have classic training. As I really got into baking, I made everything from cheesecakes to tarts to pies. But cookies always held my heart. And once I developed the Peanut Butter Hall and Oatmeal (chewy oatmeal cookies with peanut butter chips with a peanut butter buttercream filling), I knew I wanted to specialize.
Do you have gluten-free, organic and/or vegan options?
I don’t currently offer these items but am working on it. Everything I make is made from scratch in small batches but currently full of the four food groups: butter, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate.
Have you considered a brick and mortar location?
Of course! I would definitely like to have a storefront down the road. However, my daughter Maggie is two, and I really love the flexibility to be at home with her as much as I can. I would eventually love a place that can be a really fun destination for families or dates alike. I have a lot of visions for what it would look like and the experience it would be for customers. I definitely want to grow my presence at other farmers markets and festivals.