Fresh from the oven

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The scent of sugar, caramel and chocolate greets customers as they enter the small, white building.

But few have yet to taste the sweet treats from Henson’s Bakery, one of Demopolis’ newest business additions.

“This location just felt right for what I wanted to offer,” owner Randall Henson said. “I used to have dreams about baking. I guess it’s because I come from a long line of bakers and I guess it’s just in my blood.”

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Although he was born and raised in Akron, Henson spent many vacations with his uncle, a baker, in the “Boothill” of Missouri.

“As a child we would go into his store and he would tell us to get whatever we wanted,” he said remembering his uncle’s Causbie’s Bakery.

“It was my childhood fantasy and I thought everyone grew up like that.”

As Henson got older, he realized that everyone didn’t have an uncle who fed them goodies every visit and he learned that people were willing to pay for baked goods.

“I was trained by my uncle on my mother’s side,” Henson said, “but I was scared to ask him at first because he took his baking so seriously.”

After the young Randall got up enough nerve to ask, his uncle was willing to teach him how to make a variety of desserts from scratch.

“Now, people buy everything from factories, but there’s a human element missing from the food and you can taste it,” he said. “The human touch makes a big difference.”

After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in business and food and nutrition in 1981, he opened his first store in Greensboro in 1982.

“Al DuPont was fairly new mayor and I think we we’re his first grand opening,” he said showing an article from his grand opening. “We were there for about a year or so.”

But the store eventually closed and Henson moved to Florida were he worked as a ma&8221;tre d’ in a three-star French restaurant for 16 years.

After the death of his father and the constant battle with hurricanes, Henson decided to move back to Alabama where he opened his Demopolis shop last Tuesday.

“Baking is my specialty. I like the finer dining, but at the end of the day, I like my turnip greens and cornbread,” he said referring to his cornbread made in a skillet. “There’s no other way.”

For now, Henson’s focus is the Demopolis shop, even though dreams of franchising dance around in his head.

“I will stay small and slowly work my way up,” he said. “But I am Alabama incorporated. I got incorporated in 1982.”

As Henson learned to perfect his “burning passion” for baking, he also inherited top-secret family recipes from his uncle that were wanted by large manufacturers.

“This is a peanut butter sandwich,” he said pointing inside the glass case. “Sara Lee wanted to buy the recipe from my uncle, but he wouldn’t give it to them. And when he gave it to me, he told me not to give it to anyone.”

Henson said the company even took a sample to the lab, figured out what was in the treat, but was never able to get the perfect mixture.

“It’s all in how it’s put together,” he said. “And they couldn’t figure it out.”

Among other sweets are pecan divinity, chocolate fudge, coconut caramel haystacks, a seven-layer caramel cake, cupcakes, Danishes, pecan cookies, chocolate oatmeal no bakes, oatmeal cookies and sugar cookies.

Henson also bakes doughnuts, red velvet, fresh coconut, German chocolate and banana pineapple cakes, pecan pies and assorted cheesecakes.

After the new year he plans to bake low-fat and sugar-free treats for diabetics and those who make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight.

Although the shop is currently full of wonderful treats, area residents are still wanting more from Henson’s Bakery. And even though Henson runs a one-man show in the shop, he is willing to fulfill the needs of his customers if the demand is there.

“People were asking for Turtleback cookies and I had never heard of them. But finally someone gave me a recipe, so I tried it,” he said admitting that he put a Henson twist to it.

Henson is also in a helpful spirit during the holidays as he prepared special angel and star sugar cookies Tuesday afternoon, per the request of his new clientele.

Henson’s Bakery is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Saturday from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. and is located across from Food World, next to Roberts restaurant.

But you will have to wait until Thursday to taste a treat from Henson’s Bakery because the one-man show is taking a 24-hour intermission.