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By Joy Belgiovine
Master Baker John Cabrera knew exactly what he was getting into when he took over the reins at Mills Bakery in 2010.
He started as a dishwasher at the Wood-Ridge shop at just 14 years old in 1998, the week before the busy Thanksgiving rush. Through high school, Cabrera learned the ins and outs of the bakery business, worked his way up and honed his skills as a baker.
“I was learning simple baking procedures like putting sprinkles on cookies and dipping doughnuts into chocolate,” he said. “By the time I graduated, I moved into cake decorating and baking all items in the store. I really fell in love with the business.”
He attained an associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and landed a position of head baker at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. After working at the Mirage for two years, Cabrera found himself missing his family and friends back home, and as luck would have it, there was an opportunity to buy Mills Bakery. Cabrera is now proud to say that he is the owner of a town landmark which has been in business since 1920.
Mills Bakery has earned a reputation for its old-school desserts such as pecan rings, crumb cake, apple turnovers and butter cookies.
“Many customers come in and love that they can get the same doughnuts and coffee cakes that they got here years earlier,” Cabrera said. “We use the same recipes that have been used for almost 90 years and use only the freshest ingredients, all made from scratch.”
Along with the classic favorites, Cabrera has added some modern sweets such as cake pops and cupcake cakes to the menu. Cabrera also delights in creating unique, specialty cakes for all occasions. “We can create custom cakes for any event, big or small, at very reasonable prices,” Cabrera said.
Diane Heade, Cabrera’s mother, is in charge of sales,
“I don’t know where his artistic talent comes from, but customers e-mail him a picture and he can recreate it or draw freehand on cake.”
One of Cabrera’s creations – the Ball & Chain Cake – was featured on TLC’s Say Yes To The Dress: Big Bliss.
In June, Mills will hold its annual customer appreciation day where the staff distributes free samples.
Mills Bakery is located at 275 Valley Blvd. in Wood-Ridge (201-438-7690). For more information, visit www.mills-bakery.com.