For Southern Girl Desserts founder and co-owner Catarah Hampshire, desserts have always conjured up sweet memories.
She recalls her first taste of banana pudding around the age of four in her grandmother’s Florida kitchen. The pudding was not only rich and creamy but it always signaled an important occasion when all family—more than 20 cousins, uncles, siblings—gathered around the table and caught up with each other.
“My Uncle Wayne was in the Marines and that was his favorite dessert and grandmother only made it when he came home,” she said. “He didn’t get to come home a lot — it would be maybe once a year. We would sit around the table and look at him and watch him eat his banana pudding.”
When Hampshire moved to Los Angeles, she landed a job in public relations but found that it was not for her. She struggled to find her passion until one night, she watched the inspirational show, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and found her calling.
“I was missing what was right in front of my face- that was baking,” she said. “I was talking to a friend who said, ‘I would buy your banana pudding from you.’ Then I decided that I’m going to do it. I’ve always been someone who jumps out on a limb and goes for what I want. I wasn’t scared to start a business.”
So, she launched Southern Girl Desserts and all at once, she found her passion and a reconnection to her Southern roots. She would call her grandmothers for recipes and use the old time recipes to create a new red velvet cake and chocolate flavored cupcakes. But she didn’t stop there. Her cupcakes are wildly imaginative concoctions such as sweet potato casserole, fried chicken and waffles and caramel apple pie.
She opened her first shop in 2010 on Pico Boulevard and then two years later Southern Girl Desserts moved to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall.
Her business partner, Shoneji Robison came to Los Angeles to act –But she also could bake and had business sense and Hollywood connections.
After two previous attempts to become cupcake champions, in 2010 and 2011- in 2012, they entered the Cupcake Wars, the Food Network’s hit television show and won for their unique fried chicken and waffles cupcake. They have been featured in People Magazine, US Weekly and most recently, received a commendation from Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas for their service to the community.
Business has been brisk ever since, with lines often forming out the door.
On a recent day at the shop, customers could be heard thanking Hampshire for her and her staff’s Southern hospitality.
“Customers will often come to me and say that our desserts remind them of when they were younger and in the South,” said Hampshire.
Now it is Hampshire’s turn to bring her family to her table. Not only are desserts named after family—like Uncle Leon’s Lemon Cheesecake—but even the Dirt Road Chocolate Cake is named after the path they used to run as children.
“We bake because it makes us happy,” said Hampshire, referring to her and Robison. “Our desserts are a part of the memories that are being created by our customers. That’s what keeps us going.”