Baking the Old-Fashioned Way at Syroya’s Bakery

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At Syroya’s Bakery, Syroya Eugene, who goes by Roya, bakes eye-poppingly gorgeous custom-made cakes and apple, pecan, pumpkin and sweet potato pies–– available in 9-inch, 5-inch and mini sizes. “Pies are my favorite [thing] to bake; they’re simple, with no frosting,” she says. “And you can eat pie for breakfast.”

Not a pie fan? No worries; choose from an array of colorful and flavorful cupcakes, as well as banana pudding, cheesecakes, chocolate-covered treats, cookies, muffins, pound cakes or scones. Her intimate bakery also sells New Harvest coffees and Noble Beverages’ cold-pressed juices, probiotic sodas and teas.

“My recipes are very simple without a lot of ingredients,” says Roya. “They’re how your grandmother or aunty baked … I work with what I have.”

With only a few ingredients for each confection, Roya is finicky about sourcing: She buys eggs from Stamp Egg Farms, in Johnston, and uses Philadelphia cream cheese for cheesecakes. Eager to avoid waste, she crushes leftover cookies into crusts for pie and cheesecake.

Her maternal grandmother’s baking prowess––think sweet potato pies, biscuits and yellow cakes with chocolate frosting–– inspired her to begin baking. Her first creation was the blue velvet cake she made for her youngest son’s first birthday, 12 years ago. “It wasn’t the prettiest cake, but it tasted amazing,” recalls Roya. “I’ve always made everything from scratch; I’m big on knowing what’s in my food. My business started with giving my baked goods to friends and family as a way of practicing and spreading my love.”

Roya—who has juggled raising three sons, now 24, 18 and 12, sometimes as a single parent—appreciates family support. Acknowledging that many naysayers questioned why she’d leave her secure career as a clinical laboratory technologist to do something unpredictable, Roya says, “Being an entrepreneur is not easy, and I didn’t know a lot of business owners, yet my sons are proud of me.” Roya’s mother, Donna DeJesus, was an inspiration and was with Roya at all hours, when she began baking.

Feedback from those who’ve tasted her cupcakes is consistently positive: “scrumptious, decadent, two-thumbs-up, yummy, I want more, best cupcakes of my life!”

At the bakery, where many customers feel like family, the cake server on display is similar to one used by her maternal grandmother, Edith McCants. The walls are adorned with artwork by Roya’s oldest son, Ashaad Tillman, and a Makala Fields collage featuring African American Edna Lewis, the legendary, award-winning cookbook author and doyenne of Southern cooking, and inspirational quotes.

“Food is love, and making connections with people who come in keeps me going, even when times are tough—putting smiles on customers’ faces gives me joy,” says Roya, who sometimes bakes four or five versions of a dessert––including that first blue velvet cake and many cake pops thereafter––to get the dessert just right. Clearly, her baking skill and willingness to experiment have paid off: “I have customers who say, ‘We’re not red velvet cake fans, but we love yours,’” says Roya.

She was still working as a clinical lab technologist while completing Hope & Main’s incubator program, where she found her baking passion. “Being there was pivotal to where I am now, by being around other like-minded entrepreneurs and getting feedback from customers,” she says. “It’s tough running a food business and keeping up with trends, but I stay true to what I offer.”

That focus seems to be paying off: Her maple bacon cupcake was a prizewinner in the 2016 Sweet Start Smackdown in Bristol, and feedback from those who tasted her cupcakes was consistently positive: “scrumptious, decadent, two-thumbs-up, yummy, I want more, best cupcakes of my life!”

She recently completed a competitive 13-week food entrepreneurship program sponsored by Santander Bank, Babson College and Commonwealth Kitchen. “Hope & Main recommended me for the program, where I learned so much about business plans, determining the costs of goods, best business structures, tax issues, etc.,” says Roya. “It was very intensive, with homework and a final presentation, all while I was running the business.”

Just running the bakery and parenting presents challenges: Roya survives on catnaps and works at the bakery at all hours of the day and night. She finds it helpful that she lives so close to the bakery and has four “very part-time” employees.

In addition to her in-store offerings, Roya welcomes orders for wedding and other custom cakes, and bakes for Res American Bistro and the Swearer Center at Brown University, both in Providence, and Seed Café & Espresso Bar in Pawtucket. This year, Roya participated in charity events––Zoobilee! Feast with the Beasts, Special Olympics Rhode Island and the Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Classic––and looks forward to doing more in the future.

Eager to expand beyond her North Providence location, Roya says, “I don’t want to be known just as a Black-owned business, but as a Rhode Island business that is striving to be a bakery that stands the test of time.”

Nancy Kirsch is an award-winning freelance writer in Riverside, Rhode Island. Visit her at NancyKirsch.com.

Syroya’s Bakery
1860 Mineral Spring Ave.
North Providence
401.516.0716; SyroyasBakery.com
Order special requests in advance.

Source: https://ediblerhody.ediblecommunities.com/about-us/baking-old-fashioned-way-syroyas-bakery