Mmmm MarionFebruary 20, 2020
“I actually remember when Linda was at her mall location – when the Middletown Mall was in its heyday – and I would look through the glass window and look at all of her cakes and just think, ‘Wow! This is amazing!’”
Anna Ash decided she wanted to be a baker when she was four years old. She now owns what was Linda Dudash’s Cakes with a Personal Touch. Anna took over in April 2018 and has put her own personal touch on everything from the apple harvest cake to the cream horns to the white chocolate raspberry scones. The deliciousness hasn’t ceased in 32 years.
She grew up in Fairmont and graduated from Fairmont Senior, baking through her childhood with her mom and grandma.
“When I got a little bit older, I watched a Master Chef’s special on tv and there was this guy on there whose name was Chef Timmins. And I told my mom that day that I was going to work for him one day. He was just amazing, and I was so flabbergasted at how they could turn food into art.”
The Back Story
She cooked in competitions with the ProStart Program in high school, competitively preparing three-course meals on two propane burners. Then, she decided to go into the culinary program at Fairmont State University.
“When I graduated high school, I got an externship at the Greenbrier and worked for Chef Timmons. He was the executive chef,” she said, and that was that.
Getting to work with him showed her teamwork, time management, organization, and a very high standard: “That if you’re not putting out the best possible thing that you can, don’t serve it.”
After graduating from Fairmont State University, she eventually decided she’d start her own business. She met the original owner of Cakes with A Personal Touch at a bridal expo, and Linda decided she’d be the perfect successor.
After a couple of years of financial hurdles because of being so young, she was able to take it over.
“The fact that I was able to buy an established business was incredible. I wouldn’t have been able to do it any other way.”
She wakes up between 5 and 6 a.m. and starts baking at 9 a.m. during the offseason. If it’s a busy week, like Valentine’s or Christmas season, she’s baking by 5 a.m. After that, it’s onto paperwork or advertisements and supply runs. After her son gets home from school, it’s dinner and basketball practice. Her day ends anywhere between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.
“On weekends, we do wedding deliveries. So we’re getting into the wedding season, so Saturdays will be all over the place,” she said, adding that it’s worth it. “To see the family’s reactions whenever they see the cake is priceless!”
When she isn’t baking, she’s still baking.
“I’ve been working a lot with breads recently because we do mostly sweet baked goods here. So I was looking to possibly expand into especially gluten-free bread,” she said. “That’s not something anyone else in this area is doing. And there is definitely a market and a need for it. I haven’t quite got it to where I’m satisfied with it yet, but I have a couple of different types of bread that I’m working on.”
She’s breaking into the savory side of things at the bakery, and in life, she’s kind of doing the same thing.
“Here in the past three or four years, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling because I don’t feel that waiting until I’m old to enjoy it is the way to do it. I want to do it now while I’m able. … I always just try to find a little mom and pop place in whatever city I’m in and see what they have.”
She said a bakery at Niagara Falls had an amazing cheese danish. Colorado had cherry turnovers and fresh croissants she still remembers.
What she doesn’t like is coconut anything – coconut cream pie, coconut macarons. And she’s not a big chocolate fan – brownies or cake – unless it’s a chocolate croissant.
“There is just something about the flakiness of the croissant with the dark chocolate. It’s just amazing.”
The only problem with that? It’s a three-day process.
“You can’t plan your cravings ahead usually. But if I’m craving it, it’s worth the three-day wait.”
It may seem like her tastes are a little fancy, and they are. She doesn’t like burgers so much, but she does like a nice charcuterie board or cheese tray with nuts and fruits and crackers.
“When I realized that food didn’t have to be mundane, that if you treated food as an experience instead of just something that you had to do every day – because everybody has to eat – but if you make it something that you enjoy, it just creates a whole other experience.”
The Next Generation
She’s giving her son those same experiences, as well. She’s had him helping in the kitchen since he was two years old, stirring mushroom risotto. Apparently, he’s surpassing even her skills.
When they’re not in the kitchen, she and her son are avid movie-goers.
“We go to the Tygart Valley Cinemas probably at least twice a month. Sometimes twice a week depending on what movies are playing. It’s like our biggest bonding time!”
Well, that and baking.