Alexis’s Cakery in Ramona brings a personal touch to its dessert creations

Alexis Henshaw is used to helping others celebrate special occasions. But Veterans Day this year was a celebratory day for her.

The former Navy officer turned first-class cake maker has just received the news that the county has approved the shack’s license, which will allow her to bake from home.

A Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations license allowed Ramona residents to open Alexis’ Cakery on November 10.

“There’s no better way to celebrate Veterans Day this weekend than with that license,” said Henshaw, who served nearly nine years in the Navy. “For now, I’m happy and content baking in my kitchen.”

It was actually a reopening – Henshaw originally opened Alexis’ Cakery in 2014 while in Japan. She ran the company for the year and a half that she lived on the Sasebo Naval Base, selling custom or specialty cakes along with muffins, French macaroons, and hand-rolled pastries. Her forte was making cakes for weddings, retirements, birthdays, and celebrations.

“I’ve been so busy, but the beauty of it is that no jobs are the same, everyone’s cake and event are different,” she said. “I get to be a part of so many special occasions. Everyone takes pictures of their wedding cakes and I get to be a little part of their day.”

For Henshaw, owning a cake company isn’t just about the baking. It’s also about getting to know her clients and incorporating their personalities and preferences into her one-of-a-kind creations.

“It’s a very personal thing to be invited to,” said Henshaw, 44. “I love being able to grow people’s dreams by making a cake.”

Some of the big projects she has taken on are wedding cakes. Before starting in the kitchen, the Henshaw usually conducts a consultation with the bride and groom, sometimes including other members of the bridal party and family. From there, you ask them to describe themselves and share what they love to do. Then they talk about flavors and designs and schedule a cake tasting.

Details like wedding themes and indoor versus outdoor settings are important to Henshaw so she can incorporate personal touches into each cake.

“It gets exciting because they’re excited,” Henshaw said of her clients. “I feed the enthusiasm of others and I just want to reciprocate. It’s not just a job but it’s about providing something for a special occasion. Everyone’s occasions are important and they are important to me.”

Alexis Henshaw served as a Navy officer first class and her husband, Donald, is a retired Navy lieutenant.

(Courtesy of Alexis Henshaw)

Henshaw, who is married to retired Navy SEAL Donald Henshaw, completed a black wedding cake for residents Ramona Garrett and Christine Ware.

The Wears chose a Victorian fall festival/Sleepy Hollow-meets-South theme for their Oct. 29 wedding, which took place at Ramona Church.

Christine Ware, a Navy veteran who met Henshaw at a Veterans of Foreign Wars event. When she found out Henshaw was starting a bakery and had tasted some of her cakes before, she hired Henshaw to make a cake for her wedding.

“It was absolutely the most beautiful cake I’d ever seen, so I knew I could count on it to make my cake for the most important day of my life,” Ware said. “I also really wanted to support friends and family businesses, so that worked in my view.”

The couple wanted a cake to make a statement, and black was one of the primary colors for their wedding, so an elegant black cake would fit the bill.

Krystine and Garrett Wear celebrated their Oct. 29 wedding with an elaborate black cake made by Alexis Henshaw.

Krystine and Garrett Wear celebrated their Oct. 29 wedding with an elaborate black cake made by Alexis Henshaw.

(courtesy Christine Ware)

Weir said Henshaw was “absolutely amazing” at listening to what he wanted and delivering at their request. One of the fun parts of the process, she said, was the cake tasting. Henshaw asked for their best flavors, then pitched different textures and styles before letting the couple choose what they thought would go with their theme. The end result was a beautiful, delicious red and chocolate with blueberry cake, Ware said.

“Not only was the cake the best cake I’ve ever had, but the process was easy and it was like working with family,” she said.

This cake was made to reflect a Wears Victorian/Sleepy Hollow meets Southern style fall festival wedding theme.

This cake was made to reflect a Wears Victorian/Sleepy Hollow meets Southern style fall festival wedding theme.

(Courtesy of Alexis Henshaw)

With the home-baking company, Henshaw said she can create orders that are more customized, unlike those at commercial bakeries.

“When you choose a home baker, you can have something special,” she said. “Each piping dog can have a pink bow. The custom work allows you a lot of flexibility in the product you receive. (Other bakeries) serve their purpose. In a pinch, you can choose something and it will be great, but it’s not as personal as when you go through my home bakery.

Sometimes her creations can be small works of art, like the rustic Highland cow cake she made for her grand opening Oct. 14 at Rustic Interiors in Ramona.

“They were so cute you didn’t want to eat them,” Henshaw said.

Designed for Rustic Interiors, these Highland Cow Cupcake Toppers are a home decor store mascot.

Designed for Rustic Interiors, these Highland Cow Cupcake Toppers are a home decor store mascot.

(Courtesy of Alexis Henshaw)

Carrie Bryant, co-owner of Rustic Interiors, who runs the home décor store with Andrea Delgado, still has one of those cow cakes in her fridge.

“I feel so happy when I open the fridge and he looks at me,” Bryant said.

I’ve known Bryant Henshaw for years, through Pop Warner and VFW activities, and have previously sampled their cakes and pastries. Bryant said she knows Henshaw’s products are delicious and her personality and integrity are top notch.

“I am obsessed with Highland cows and they are the mascot of Rustic Interiors,” Bryant said. “I came across a picture of cows in the Highlands and asked, ‘Could you please make them for me?'” And they turned out to be better than expected.

“They were injured,” she added.

Alexis' Cakery prepared cherry pie cups and brownie bites at Rustic Interiors' grand opening Oct. 14 in Ramona.

Alexis’ Cakery prepared cherry pie cups and brownie bites at Rustic Interiors’ grand opening Oct. 14 in Ramona.

(courtesy of Carey Bryant)

Henshaw joined the Navy in 1996 right after graduating from Buffalo High School in Buffalo, Missouri in 1996 because she wanted to travel and experience other cultures. She also grew up in a military family — her mom, Karen Welch, was in the US Army.

As her three children were older, Henshaw began to consider using her GI Bill. So, while her husband was on errand ashore in Nebraska, she decided it would be a good time to go back to school and catch up on one of her passions, baking and pastry-making.

“I got into the mindset that this is the career path I want to take,” she said. “For me, taking the baking and pastry route was what called me the most. Then we went back to Japan and I had to do it.”

In 2010, Henshaw went to culinary school at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Neb. She received a diploma in Baking and Pastry and an Associate of Fine Arts degree from Community College in 2013.

Being a home baker fit in with the itinerant military lifestyle, she said, and she could have flexible hours to be available to her kids — Tyler, 15; Brandon, 19; and Hailey, 22. In addition, she said baking enables her to do something she loves while bringing joy to others.

After leaving Japan in 2015, Henshaw decided to transfer to Ramona where Healy could participate in the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) at Ramona High School. They were also seeking the same kind of small-town environment they had experienced in Nebraska and Japan.

When she first arrived in Ramona, Henshaw wasn’t very confident that she could immediately restart the baking business because she didn’t know many people in town. But soon she and her husband, Donald, became active at Ramona VFW Post 3783 and grew their community connections.

Alexis Henshaw served as the Ramona VFW Post Leader for three years, from July 2017 to July 2020. Next year, starting in June, she will serve as the VFW District Leader for the entire San Diego County. Henshaw also worked for a few years as an assistant loan officer at H5 Financial in Ramona.

“Getting involved in the community has helped me build friendships and make connections,” said Henshaw, who received numerous responses to her November 10 Facebook announcement of reopening Alexis Cakery. “That’s the beauty of Ramona. Once you participate, this community opens its arms to you and wants you to be successful.”

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