“As a teenager, I always enjoyed baking,” said Rebecca Duchette, founder and owner of Goldfinch Bakery. A Poland native, Duchette spent her junior and senior years of high school attending the culinary arts program at Lewiston Regional Technical Center (LRTC). “I learned cake decorating and loved it. By my senior year I had several orders for wedding and other special-occasion cakes for family and friends.”

Duchette enjoyed the creative aspects of baking so much, she made the decision to enroll in The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, where she graduated first in her class with a bachelor of professional studies degree in baking and pastry arts management.

Then she took her love of baking one step further and decided to share the blessing of her talents with the public, on her own terms. “It was always my goal to open a bakery,” she said.

Lucky for us, Duchette did that back in her hometown, where she now happily concocts special treats for her growing customer base. “I love baking and planning recipes. I get excited about every order. I’m really happy creating something that looks nice and people will enjoy. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to put the finishing touches on a cake or to be lining up gift baskets filled with baked goods ready to deliver.”

The accomplished baker started planning her business in June 2013 with the support of her family. Duchette chose Goldfinch Bakery as a name because of her fondness for bird decor. She felt the logo, designed by a cousin, would be immediately recognizable as the word gets out through satisfied customers, Facebook and web pages, and networking opportunities.

With a newly state-inspected kitchen, Duchette said that although she’s only been in business a few months, she’s gotten off to a good start, with several specialty cake orders lined up for the summer and fall.

Her inspiration, Duchette explained, comes from her vast collection of cookbooks and magazines, as well as websites she reviews for new ideas. “I usually combine components from several recipes to create something of my own. If I’m unhappy with a recipe, I’ll try adjusting it to improve it. Making a lot of different things helps me have a recipe box in my head.

“For example,” she continued, “if I don’t like how a crust comes out, I can recall other recipes I’ve made, and use the crust from one recipe and the filling from another, then top it with something from another recipe.”

Such knowledge is one of the many things Duchette got out of CIA. She said every CIA baker had valuable advice and experience to share. “I was inspired by them every day.” And she credits Katie Liguori, her baking instructor at LRTC, as someone who influenced her greatly in pursuing her sweet dream of baking and attending CIA in the first place.

With her new bakery, Duchette said she’s eager to establish her name as someone offering something unique. She gave as an example the lemon meringue pie she learned to make at CIA. To make the Swiss meringue, “the egg whites and sugar are heated and whipped on the stove top so it doesn’t need to be baked. I then use a torch to brown it, making a much nicer meringue texture. That’s always what I’m looking for in recipes: to create something you can’t just go to the store and find any day. I want there to be something special to set my baking apart from what’s already out there.”

Duchette said demand for her cakes, pies, cookies, quick breads and candy bark is growing, and plans are in place to make this venture into the world of all things sweet her full-time job, eventually having a retail location.

“The demand for extravagant cakes with several tiers and handmade characters for children’s birthday parties has really surprised me,” she said. “It’s a whole new market for me, besides wedding cakes and traditional birthday cakes. They’re very popular.”

Duchette gets rave reviews for her chocolate peanut butter-filled cookies and lemon cheesecake cookies. “I think I’m pretty traditional when it comes to flavors of baked goods. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with classic combinations like chocolate and peanut butter, or white chocolate and raspberry. I try to use those flavors and create items that aren’t already being made elsewhere to set myself apart.”

She says she will take special orders for any occasion, as well as suggestions for flavors that may not be on her website. She can put together trays of baked goods or wrap them individually for a basket display.

Currently, Duchette offers baked goods by special order only. She can be contacted through e-mail at [email protected] or a voicemail message can be left at 207-577-4686. She can also be messaged via her Goldfinch Bakery Facebook page. There is an information request box on her website, www.goldfinchbakery.com, where her full list of treats, complete with photos, can be viewed.

Strawberry cake

In anticipation of summer, Rebecca Duchette, owner of Goldfinch Bakery in Poland, shares the recipe for this moist cake.

3 1/2 cups flour

2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups mashed strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Whisk together flour, sugar and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix oil, vinegar, vanilla and strawberries. Pour strawberry mixture into flour mixture. Stir gently or turn mixer on low and mix just until all flour is moistened. Divide batter evenly between two cake pans. Bake until each layer is lightly golden on top and the center is set. (This can be tested by inserting a toothpick.) Let cool completely at room temperature. The cake layers are now ready to frost, but it’s recommended that they be wrapped and left overnight then frosted the next day.

Cream cheese butter cream

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup shortening

3 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat cream cheese, butter and shortening in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add half the powdered sugar and salt. Mix on low until smooth. Mix in the water, then the cream and vanilla. Add remaining powdered sugar. Mix on low until incorporated. Beat on medium-high until smooth and fluffy. Use butter cream right away to frost cake. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Assembly of the cake

Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate. Spread about a 1/4-inch layer of butter cream over top surface of cake. Top with remaining cake layer and press down gently. Place a large scoop of butter cream on top of cake. Working from the center, spread butter cream out to edges and down sides of cake, adding more if necessary. Smooth sides and top, then decorate with fresh strawberries. Store remaining cake in refrigerator.

Caramel pecan bars

Duchette admits to loving anything with caramel. “I think I would put it on everything if I could,” she says. She likes experimenting with the basic recipe as she adjusts the ratio of ingredients to make different consistencies of caramel for various recipes. These cookies are a family favorite.

Caramel layer

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature

Place sugar and water in large sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let boil without stirring until sugar turns amber in color. Turn heat to low and whisk in butter until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in cream. It will foam up at first. Set aside to cool.

Cookie layer

2 cups butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 cups flour

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, powdered sugar and vanilla until light-colored and fluffy. Mix in flour just until incorporated. Press half of the dough mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 6-8 minutes. Pour caramel sauce over top of crust and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Crumble remaining dough over top of caramel pecan layer. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and press down gently until smooth and level. Bake until top is golden, approximately 12-15 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

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