Future bakery owner, 13, stirs up holiday recipes

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

SHALLOTTE—Cinnamon pecans are tucked in the oven, while visions of chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies and English toffee dance in Catherine Cheatham’s head.

At 13, the Shallotte Middle School seventh-grader already knows what she wants to be when she grows up. She wants to own her bakery—Butterbean’s Bakery, to be precise—since she already has a name for it.

For now, she’s getting in lots of preparation and practice as she bakes for her family and teachers for the holidays.

In October, Catherine caught the attention of Paula Deen when the Southern cooking queen took part in a scholarship fundraiser at Brunswick Community College. During a VIP luncheon, Catherine handed one of her Butterbean’s Bakery business cards to Deen, who told the 13-year-old she was going to be a “real winner.”

Besides Deen, Catherine’s other, lifelong cooking inspiration is “my Mimi”—her grandmother, Sandra Hamilton, who attended the luncheon as well. Hamilton is the mother of Catherine’s mom, Cindy Cheatham.

“My whole family has been cooking for a while,” Catherine said, adding her 94-year-old great-grandmother, Gummy, who lives in Raleigh and still bakes, is an inspiration, too.

“I guess I inherited it from her and my mom,” she said, adding even her uncle cooks.

“I started cooking one day and I’ve loved it ever since,” she said.

“I really started baking a lot more often either last year or two years ago,” she said.

Cindy suggested her daughter open her own bakery.

“I was like, hmm, we can try that and I can see if it will get me somewhere in the future,” Catherine said.

They decided to use her nickname, “Butterbean,” for the future bakery’s name.

“My sister’s [nickname is] Sweet Potato,” Catherine said of her 19-year-old sister, Elizabeth. “I don’t know why we got vegetables [nicknames].”

She got started baking “cakes for the cleaners”—her parents’ business, Shallotte Cleaners.

“I would get bored at home in the summer and I would just start cooking and I made a cake this summer,” Catherine said—a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and white icing and raspberries on the side.

“I guess everyone enjoyed it,” said Catherine, who also draws inspiration from her favorite baking shows, “Ultimate Cake Off,” “Cupcake Wars” and “Cake Boss.”

“I watch that all the time, even if I’ve already seen it before,” she said.


Holiday baking

Speaking with the authority of a cooking-show host, “Right now I have some cinnamon-glazed pecans in the oven,” Catherine said, adding they were inspired by some they sampled at the mall.

“We tried it out one night, we ate it, and it was really good,” she said. “We ate the whole pound. We had to go to Zumba the next day.”

“We did, didn’t we?” Cindy Cheatham laughed.

“And then,” Catherine continued, “we’re also going to be making some chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, and they’re going to be in a cup and I’m going to give them to my teachers. They’re going to have a little name-tag on there and it’s going to say, ‘Serve with milk.’ And then we’re also going to be making some Memaw’s toffee” from Paula Deen’s magazine.

Catherine said she got the cookie recipe from a Southern Living Christmas book. She also gets recipes from Melon Corsini, a local caterer who has worked with Catherine in her own kitchen.

As for her bakery, Catherine hopes to get more focused on opening it next summer at a table in front of her dad Alan Cheatham’s cleaners.

“Whatever the laws allow,” her mom said.

“My trademark is really going to be cupcakes, is going to be the main thing of my bakery,” Catherine said. “I’m also going to have some pies in there and cakes.”

For the holidays, she’ll make holiday-flavored cupcakes like red velvet topped with cream-cheese frosting and green-tinted coconut.

At Thanksgiving, when she visited her Nana in Raleigh, “I made a pumpkin pie all by myself and I helped her make two chocolate pies,” Catherine said. “And also a lemon pie. I know how to make meringue, so we went ahead and did some meringue on there.”

She also made coconut-cream pie for her dad’s birthday, a difficult recipe because it must constantly stirred, Cindy said.

“Sometimes I’ll be, like, Mom, can I take a break? You stir for a while,” Catherine said.

But she really doesn’t mind, Cindy said, adding her daughter even cleans up the kitchen when she’s done.

“I want to eventually get to making fondant cakes,” said Catherine, who enjoys playing tennis and going to dance class at Brunswick School of Dance and Dance Connection when she isn’t baking.

This is the first year for her to bake holiday treats for her teachers.

For her family during the holidays, she said she’ll probably bake more pies—coconut cream, pecan and chocolate chess.

As she plans her future bakery and outlines her holiday baking plans, “I just want to teach kids that you’re not too young to follow your dreams and bake things and help your neighbors,” Catherine said.

This holiday season, she has also agreed to share one of her recipes.


Cinnamon glazed pecans

2 egg whites

1 lb. pecans

¾ cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Beat egg whites until stiff. Stir in pecans. Add sugar and cinnamon. Spread on cookie sheet or cake pan. Bake 1 hour at 200 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.