Photo by Jessa Pease.
0714 Darlene Womack
Darlene Womack delivers her signature cinnamon rolls, the treats that got her started.
It all started with cinnamon rolls.
With flour dusted on her apron and cinnamon wafting through her kitchen, Darlene Womack pulled her latest batch of rolls out of the oven.
She’s a wife, a mother and a nana, but here she is a baker.
After baking on and off for about 30 years, Womack said she had people saying, “That’s so good you should sell it,” when they tasted her signature treats.
“For a long time I thought, ‘Yeah, yeah they are just saying that to get me to bake it so they don’t have to,’” Womack said. “Then I realized I really do have a good product.”
What started with a bake sale about four years ago transitioned into Darlene’s Kitchen —Womack’s brand of treats that are frequently found at farmers markets all over Birmingham.
“I love it; I love the atmosphere of the market, the people and the vendors,” Womack said. “Our customers are amazing. They look for us if we are in a different spot, and that makes me feel good.”
The cinnamon rolls became the trademark Womack created for herself, but they were just the beginning of her baked creations. Darlene’s Kitchen now features a wide variety of cookies, candies, breads and apple strudel.
Womack does her baking at Chef’s Workshop in Hoover, and the markets have become a way unite the whole family through baking. Her son-in-law, Scott Wells, sometimes helps her with baking and her son, Will, sometimes goes with her to the markets. Even her husband has molded some cinnamon rolls.
Will is 26 and has Down syndrome and autism, and Womack said she chose to bake and sell at the markets because she can set her own hours and be with Will when she needs to be. He is her priority.
“I just came to a point in my life where I needed to do something else, and Will is old enough now — he still requires a lot of supervision and constant help with things — that I can pretty much take him with me where ever I go,” Womack said.
Womack started with the Pepper Place Market, and now she frequents three other markets as well. Some Thursdays Womack serves up her savory and sweet treats at the Urban Cookhouse Market at the Summit on U.S. 280.
“I get a very good response at that market,” Womack said. “There are several bakers there this year. It’s not like we are competing because we all do a different thing, so it is interesting to see the different varieties of things people bring to the market.”
Because Womack sometimes gets bored making the same thing, every once in a while she will try something new. Ideas will just pop into her head, and then she will pull from different recipes, adding her own unique twist to them.
She uses secret ingredients that make her recipes only hers. Even when she teaches her cinnamon rolls in cooking classes, she keeps her one secret ingredient to herself.
“It’s my therapy; it’s like another reason to get out of bed in the morning,” Womack said. “I live for this now. I get to bake, and I get to go be with a lot of people. Food is something that brings people together, so it is a great opportunity for me to bring people together.”
Find Darlene’s baked goods, along with other local food products at:
Urban Cookhouse Summit Market
Thursdays, 2-6 p.m.
Summit Boulevard in the Pottery Barn Kids parking lot