“My goal is to continue to 'make the world a smaller place' with the Caramel Cake and my other Southern specialties. I am so grateful for all of my customers and their generous and ongoing support.”
Caroline Ragsdale Reutter had a background in interior design, but good food was always a major ingredient in her life, and growing up in Lake City, South Carolina life revolved around entertaining. Caroline’s mother, my grandmother, was a fabulous cook and a gracious entertainer, and constantly entertained my customers from my grandfather’s charcoal business, Ember’s Charcoal, with recipes that had been in our family for generations. There were always weekly cookouts and delicious dinners with friends at Caroline’s childhood home, and whether it was a planned cocktail party or a last-minute barbeque, she quickly learned the enjoyment that food brings into everyone’s lives.
Caroline always remembered these gatherings fondly. “I always looked forward to family night dinners at my church when everyone contributes their best dishes. You always knew who brought the best deviled eggs, the best fried chicken, and the best cakes, of course. Food brought us all together in happy times and sad. It was the core of our lives-the hospitality and the grace we learned to share.”
As many of you know, Caroline served her first Caramel Cake at my christening in 1982. The power of word of mouth quickly spread the legend of the 7-Layer Caramel Cake across the country and before Mom realized it, she had customers from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii wondering how soon they could get a Caramel Cake! In the beginning, Mom had a baker in South Carolina who would make the cakes, and they would be shipped up on our grandfather's charcoal trucks or picked up during one of our family trips south from Maryland. I remember vividly being in the back of Mom’s car at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning as we waited to meet the trucks that were carrying the special delivery Caramel Cakes for friends to pick up in Annapolis. Unfortunately, the baker who was helping became ill, and Caroline had to decide whether or not she could continue on with her growing business. As with many questions we have faced throughout the history of Caroline’s Cakes, the answers came from our wonderful customers who kept asking for more cakes! Caroline’s labor of love was a rough start because caramel is so difficult to perfect. I remember coming home from boarding school in the early days of the business and watching in awe as Mom worked and worked to get the icing just right. There were times when it took an hour and a half just to get the icing right for one cake! Despite these hurdles, she was not to be deterred, and her perseverance and dedication to perfection finally conquered and owned the process!
After graduating from Hobart College in 2004, I was eager to start my career. I never could have imagined the opportunity that was presented to me when Mom asked if I had an interest in joining the team at Caroline’s Cakes. From the very beginning, I realized how much I would learn from her passion for this business and all of our wonderful customers. Mom instilled in me an appreciation for hard work, creative problem solving, and a love for people. It really is the relationships that we have with our customers that make this business so special, and I am honored to be able to carry on the traditions that Caroline started with her now famous Caramel Cake. Many thanks to all of you for your support over the years. Looking forward to hearing from you soon, and remember, as Caroline always said… “Eat Cake and be happy!”
-Richard R. Reutter