Chocolate Heaven

Krysti Henderson | Chef/Owner

As a child in South Florida, one of my best friends had a gramma we all called Nonna. This silver-haired, roundish, Italian matriarch enjoyed nothing better than feeding a bunch of busy children anything but instant food.

After breakfast on a Saturday morning, seeing a trussed-up beef roast slathered in butter and herbs, awaiting a slow-roasting session that would last all day (and then later smelling that heavenly aroma wafting through the house), meant only one thing:

I was sooo staying for dinner.

 When I moved to the mountains, the cuisine changed quite a bit. Anything standing still long enough to be floured got fried and there was no such thing as too much butter, especially on a steaming hot biscuit. For us kids, the chance to stomp through our Aunt Mett’s kitchen, attempting to make her pound cake fall, was rarely missed. Since a proper Southern woman would rather die than serve a fallen pound cake, her loss was always our gain, as we giddily devoured the buttery hunks of still-warm pound cake crust, chewy and sweet, reveling in our mission accomplished.

Then adulting happened.

After graduating high school, my parents sold everything and took up a career as missionaries, leaving me 100% responsible for myself. While self-sufficiency was overwhelming at times, I found comfort in the kitchen. As you might imagine, my table filled up quickly with friends, not only desiring a hot meal, but the companionship of enjoying it together. Without any family to lean on, cooking brought family to me.

From the Saturday roasts at Nonna’s house, to a hot biscuit slathered in butter, to the joy of a slab of Aunt Mett’s Pound Cake (even intact, with fresh strawberries, please), those flavors shaped my life into what now has become a passion. A passion beyond just food – or even good food. It’s a passion for flavors that do more than evoke memories, they make memories. It’s creating dishes that bring people together, simply made and simply enjoyed.

So fast forward to life now… just like my matriarchs would have wanted, I met Thomas, who shares my love for food and flavors. With our two girls, we are a family of foodies who simply love to eat. We still truss the roast –and butter is a food group. Flipping through cookbooks is often considered “date night,” especially with our 1947 Joy of Cooking. We have found a church supper to be the perfect proving ground for a new recipe, with no lack of guinea pigs – or honesty. We have a bad habit of finding the right recipe, and then stretching it to its limits. Chocolate Heaven was such a creation. Back in 2000, I came across this chocolatey, fabulous recipe, that, while completely wonderful, was just too snobby for my taste (translation: way too complicated). After some trial, some error and some intentional “re-creation,” I came up with this chocolate fantasy. As has been the story of my life, I was quickly surrounded with family and friends who couldn’t wait to help me with quality control. Seventeen years later, Chocolate Heaven has grown into one of the sweetest things to hit the South since the Caramel Cake…

which, incidentally, we now bake one of those, too.

People ask me all the time if a recipe was passed down or how we began baking the products we bake. We just love food. Banana Bread was a family secret from a sister. Caramel Cake was born out of a craving for pound cake that (oops) got dunked into our brown sugar butter glaze (a very happy accident). Italian Cream has always been a favorite, we’re crazy about anything that includes toasted coconut and cream cheese frosting. As for Coffee Cake, few things warm the soul as well as a buttery hunk of cake ribboned with cinnamon streusel, especially when accompanied with a hot cup of coffee. And those are just a few of the tricks up our sleeve. An archive of “nom-worthy” recipes await their turn to be shared, from dog-eared pages of our cookbook collection, to yellowed magazine clippings to screenshots of “oh my gosh, we HAVE to make that!” One at a time, we’ll begin with the framework, then tweak and taste and share (church supper, anyone?) until we get it just right.

So, there’s a slice of my story. It’s not glamourous or sexy. But it is loaded with butter and memories and we’ve found it delicious so far. We hope you’ll come share a bite with us.

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