MINNEAPOLIS — One surprising fact about professional baker Dr. Altreisha Foster:
"I didn't know I could bake," she said. "When I left Jamaica in my early 20's, I couldn't even cook."
It was when the vaccine scientist was pregnant with her daughter, that she fell in love with what started as a hobby.
"It's the stillness that comes with baking for me," Foster said. "It's really an introverted art, you do it by yourself mostly, and what it did for me was it allowed me to begin to reflect on the things that happened to me in my life and some of the traumatic experiences that I've experienced as a child. They started coming back."
Foster said when she was around 8 years old, a relative sexually assaulted her. Later, someone else did, again.
"I was raped at around 15, but because of those things that happened to me, I grew a shell," she said.
But through the creative medium of baking and decorating, Foster said she got the courage to break that shell.
Her baking career took off, and eventually brought her to the national stage when she was tapped to bake the 200th episode cake for the famous reality TV show, The Bachelorette.
Her home bakery business, Sugarspoon Desserts, is famous now for towering wedding cakes and incredibly detailed custom requests.
With that success, she said people encouraged her to share her personal stories more.
"We're taught to just not speak up," she said. "Just leave the hurt in the past and move on. And so I was beginning to talk about the traumas that affected me, some of my uncles were saying like, 'just leave that alone.' How do you leave it alone when it continues to bring you down? I had to really make a decision to start speaking my truth, living my truth and what am I going to do about it now?"
That's the sticking point of her charity, Cake Therapy Foundation. She also wrote a book of the same name, telling her life story. Among the stories, sprinkled – are dessert recipes that mean much to her.
"I keep telling them they can rise up out of poverty to become successful," she said about the girls she mentors. "But what is happening to a girl, that I'm not hearing because I'm remaining quiet about my own trauma?"
The foundation focuses on teaching girls to bake, and connecting them with resources as they grow their relationships. Foster said she no longer wanted to be silent and wanted the girls who might have gone through traumas in their lives to feel empowered to do the same.
"I know what cake did for me," Foster said. "I know that baking helped me with my communication with my friends, baking helped me communicate with my own mother. I thought why not teach girls to bake? Teach them to have their own financial independence, because this is a lucrative hobby and teach them ways to be able to own what happened to them."
If you are a girl who might be interested in Cake Therapy, or know a girl who might benefit, contact Dr. Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more information about the Cake Therapy Foundation here.
The program is free for the girls involved.
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