PANAMA CITY BEACH — I caught up with Renee Schaarschmidt on Tuesday at her bakery and café, where the aroma of home-cooked lunches beckoned visitors.
Customers at Fatty Patty’s Cakes & Café, 948 Thomas Drive, were overflowing into the recently added dining area next door.
“We opened up and added new seating overflow for the restaurant in September. Now this side is just a bakery,” Renee said. “If you’re decorating cakes, you need some room.”
With a separate kitchen just for baking, Renee also is doing wedding cakes again.
“This is the biggest engagement season,” said Renee, who has been recognized for her award-winning cake design, including the WeddingWire 2010 Bride’s Choice Awards.
I passed from one adjoining side of the café to the other, with the smells of breakfast and lunch lingering. But I forgot all about the stuffed pork chop and lima bean special when Renee pulled a hot almond pound cake out of the oven.
Fatty Patty’s is selling sweet breads, $5.95 each, for the holidays. Other loaves include pumpkin and banana nut. The Christmas Cookie Tree, $7, continues to be a big-seller.
“Last year, we went through 50 trees,” said Renee, as she was showing off her latest one. “We could not bake enough cookies last year. I could not begin to guess how many we made. We ran out daily.”
More trees already were in the works.
“The trees are so time-consuming, a good two days, because of the drying time on the icing so nothing slides,” Renee said.
Her daughter, Kerstin Schaarschmidt, was busy plating a fresh tray of Christmas cookies in the kitchen, living up to her nickname, “Keebler.”
One of the soft Cranberry Orange cookies broke, but luckily, I was there to pick up the pieces. (Trays range from $5 to $15 and can be customized.)
“I like the no-bake, and we make homemade peanut brittle and divinity and homemade fudge,” said Kerstin, who grew up helping her mother and grandmother bake, “especially during the holidays.”
The Schaarschmidts are happy to make their family favorites for customers, and Renee also likes to give baked goods and cookies as gifts to family and friends. “It’s an easy gift to give,” she said. “Everybody likes sweets.”
It’s even easier if you can call ahead and just pick them up from Fatty Patty’s.
“We just started on the first. It takes a little while when you are making it from scratch,” Renee said. “For one whole day, we just made batters and the whole next day we baked. It’s rewarding.”
She shared the recipe she uses for Cranberry Lace cookies, which includes Georgia pecans.
“It’s real buttery,” Renee said. “They are really good because you can make them ahead and put them in the refrigerator and slice off and bake them. When you run low, you can just throw them in the oven and bake them.”
The cookie was a little crisp, then chewy, before it melted in my mouth. The nutty flavor and brittle-like quality made it …
“It’s addictive isn’t it?” said Renee, finishing my thought.
1 cup butter, softened
2¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
¼ cup dried cranberries
In a large bowl, cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in corn syrup. Gradually beat in the flour and mix well. Fold in pecans and cranberries. Shape dough into two 6-inch logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill for at least two hours or until firm.
Unwrap and cut into ¼-inch slices. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased foil-lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes or until center and edges are browned and lacy. Allow cookies to cool completely before carefully removing from foil.
Christmas orders — cookies, holiday cakes and pies, and meal side dishes — will be taken through Dec. 20.Call Fatty Patty’s at 236-9276; email email@example.com; or visit Fatty Patty’s Cakes & Café on Facebook or at FattyPattys.com.