This story was first published May 14, 2020,and was updated May 15, 2020.
There’s another bake sale coming out of the Dude, Sweet Mothership this weekend, but it’s not by Katherine Clapner.
If you had been a frequenter of Murray Street Coffee Shop in Deep Ellum, you’ll be handed baked goods by a familiar face: Skye McDaniel.
The Oak Cliff resident isn’t pouring coffee at the coffee shop that’s closed for now, but she has been baking regularly and selling the goods to those who want them. She’s been doing it more since COVID-19, but it’s not new to her at all.
“I started in the restaurant industry when I was 14, then I worked in the back of the house, in the kitchen, regularly for five years, starting at 20. I’ve been at Murray Street with a mix of odd jobs, but Murray Street has been my staple job for the last 10 years, while also doing underground dinners, pop-ups. I also worked for Frank Underground,” says McDaniel, who's 32.
She grew up in North Oak Cliff and went to culinary school at El Centro after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. McDaniel says she always knew she was going to go to culinary school, even if she had focused on visual art in high school.
“Culinary has always been what I do for work, and baking has been what I’ve done for pleasure. I’ve never been a pastry chef anywhere, I just wake up in the morning feeling like baking, so I do that,” she says.
And it was about six years ago that she got a call from an acquaintance, Lily Hanson, who asked if McDaniel would like to collaborate on a side hustle. Their baking together became known as The Bake Sale, where they’d bake for fun then sell for some extra cash.
They continued the sales for about five years until Hanson moved to the Northeast. The baking had just been for fun, until the pandemic hit.
“For me, those first two weeks of COVID, I was totally reeling. I was just really kind of manic and felt like, holy crap, there’s no money coming in, holy crap, my industry is fucked there’s nothing anyone can do — just that lack of control," McDaniel says. "Those of us who are cooks, we’re so used to controlling our environment, knowing how to do stuff, how to execute it... I know we’re all feeling fucking crazy and the best thing to do for us is to just do something, so I started cooking.”
Her neighborhood is used to this — she’d regularly cook Sunday suppers for 40 to 50 of them on a monthly basis back in Normal Times.
For the past few weeks, McDaniel has been active on social media saying she’s selling cinnamon rolls and more. But this weekend she’ll be at the headquarters of Dude, Sweet Chocolate, after she got the attention of Clapner.
“I probably had not talked to Kat in over a year, I think the last time I talked to her I bought an appliance from her, she called me and was like, ‘Hey girl, I see you baking cinnamon rolls out of your fucking house: We both know how horrible that is,’” she says. So Clapner offered the space where she herself has been doing weekly bake sales. “She said, ‘I’m not using it next weekend, I think you should go in there and do your own pop-up and not do it out of your house.’”
This is a big difference: Prepping, cooking and baking out of a home kitchen with lesser appliances, less room for proofing, storage, cooling, etc., makes the process so much more stressful. McDaniel considered collaborating with someone else — a normal process for a pop-up for her. But Clapner insisted she do this for herself.
So for this weekend, people can order chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, cinnamon Amish friendship bread or dark chocolate pudding pie with whipped cream. Order ahead (she’s already gotten plenty of requests) by 5 p.m. Friday by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. UPDATE: Orders have been cutoff early as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
“I’m super grateful for the community support,” she says. “The community can’t support every industry worker that’s out of work; I feel very fortunate.”