Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

Home Bakery Story


For Chesapeake's Rick Windley, having his own 'made-from-scratch' bakery is a dream come true

by Kathy Van Mullekom

The Windley Family, from right to left: Rick and Beverly Windley and their daughters Donna Lovett and Sherry Johnson. (Daughter Anita Jones wasn't present for this photo.)  Photo by Richard Copeland

The Windley Family, from right to left: Rick and Beverly Windley and their daughters Donna Lovett and Sherry Johnson. (Daughter Anita Jones wasn't present for this photo.) Photo by Richard Copeland

November is Frederick (Rick) Windley's favorite time of the year because it's the season for the aroma of sweet potato pies baking in the oven.
"I love the holidays," Rick smiles. "I love the smell of baked goods, and my wife spoils me with her pies."

A few of those pies are reserved for Rick, but most of his wife's baked goods are meant for customers.

Rick, his wife, Beverly, and their daughter, Donna, operate the Home Bakery, a year-old specialty cake, pie, and pudding business they run from their Chesapeake home and an off-site commercial kitchen. Beverly is responsible for pies and puddings, while Rick creates layer cakes and cupcakes. "Everything is made from scratch, using the best and freshest ingredients available," Rick says.

"I remember when I was a child, my mother, grandmother and aunt were always cooking, especially during fall revivals at the church," the 69-year-old baker recalls. "In the 1960s and 1970s, we had revivals during the week, but the Sunday before the revival, the men would put up tables, and members would bring food for all the people coming. I was always fascinated by the food they prepared-especially the cakes and pies. Even as a teen, I would make birthday cakes for my family. They were box cakes at the time, but it was fun."

As a young man, Rick continued cooking cakes for family members, friends, and special church occasions.  
Rick and Beverly met in 1972 and were engaged in 1975. They married in 1976, and soon their family grew to include four daughters: Sherry Johnson, 45; Kensza Hamilton, 41; Anita Jones, 40; and Donna Lovett, 38. They have 13 grandchildren, ages 5 to 21, and one great-grandchild, age 2.
After Rick graduated from an apprenticeship at Newport News Shipbuilding in 1978, the shipyard went on strike a year later. Small checks from the shipyard union strike fund helped support his young family, but he joined the naval reserves to bring in additional income. In 1980, Rick joined the Navy and began a career that spanned 20 years.

While working and raising a family, he kept the same dream in the back of his mind: having his own bakery business. He visited bakeries wherever he went and always enjoyed learning how different bakers did what they did. "When we went overseas, I found a French pastry shop or an Italian bakery," he reminisces. "I always found them so I could watch exactly how they did things."

After retiring from the Navy in 2000, Rick went to St. Leo University and soon took a position with the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Recently, when he retired as a boiler-maker supervisor, he decided it was time to make his dream come true. "In my third career, it was time to open my bakery business," he says.  

"If you order it,
we're happy to make it.
Homemade is what makes the difference.
 The words 'made from scratch'
define my cakes."  
                                                    -Rick Windley 

Three of his four daughters live nearby and help Rick as needed. Daughter Donna, who went to Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh and works at Baker's Crust, assists with cakes. Anita does banana puddings, while Sherry does Rice Crispy treats. (His daughter Kensza lives in Georgia.)

Rick is happiest when making cakes-any kind of cake a person wants. "I just have a knack for doing them," he says.

His most intricate cake was one called a Naked Cake. The multi-tier wedding cake was made with no frosting, just a light glaze between layers and fruit embellishments such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. "It was a delicious cake. People broke their necks to get some of that cake," he says, laughing.

For his best blueberry-lemon cake, Rick uses the zest of two lemons, which adds richness without too much tartness. Blueberries and sugar are cooked into a glaze that is strained and spread between the layers. "It's the lemon juice that makes the cake so flavorful," he points out.

When Rick, an assistant pastor at Alpha & Omega Baptist Fellowship, shows up at church with his signature chocolate cake, the congregation knows they are in for a real treat.  

His love for baking and eating chocolate cake goes back to his military days when a couple in France invited him and a few other sailors to dinner at their home. When the cook brought out the appetizers, Rick and a buddy looked at the small portions and, thinking that was dinner, "pigged out."

"I had never had a meal served in courses," he laughs. "We were stuffed by the time the main course was over. Then they brought out a chocolate cake that was so moist you could have cut it with a feather. When I tasted it, I promised myself I would make that chocolate cake one day."

Rick is proud to say his chocolate cake is moist, too, and he owes its richness and moistness to Hershey powdered cocoa and a cup of Maxwell House coffee. "The slight taste of coffee makes it rich and moist," he explains. "I've tried other chocolate powders, and it has to be Hershey, nothing else."

When Rick isn't mixing cake batter or frosting, he helps Beverly with pies. He is always amazed at how his wife always makes the perfect pie by adding a pinch of this and a teaspoon of that. "I'm an engineer who is precise and measures everything out," he says. "Beverly teases me about setting everything out on the table and having everything measured in cups, but that's how I do it."

Now that Rick's career is focused on bringing delicious desserts to his customers, he is constantly adding new recipes to his baking repertoire. On a recent trip to Louisiana, he discovered two particularly yummy ones: White Chocolate Bread Pudding and Four Layer Delight.

This baker's philosophy regarding customer service is simple and straightforward: "If you order it, we're happy to make it. Homemade is what makes the difference. The words `made from scratch' define my cakes."  

Does Rick ever tire of hauling around 25-and-50-pound bags of flour and sugar and carefully measuring ingredients? "Never, ever," he grins. "My bakery is my dream come true!"

Home Bakery

Chesapeake, VA 23322