le magazine noir: Samara Houston of Crush Sweets

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston) Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)
Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston) Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)
Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston) Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)
Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston) Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)
Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston) Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)
Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston) Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)
Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston) Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Dear Pennies & Pens,

As I mentioned in the post: de la Pen…All Pen Everything Presents le magazine noir, I met Samara Houston while at the No Tie Dinner and Dessert Party here in Dallas. While at the event, I sampled some of Samara’s delicious treats. (Yes, I cheated on Veganism, don’t judge me, lol!)

But the thing is…it was so worth it because that Red Velvet Cheesecake was life honey! I mean I still remember how it tasted. It was the perfect mix of sweet and savory.

In essence, I knew I wanted to feature Samara in this issue. And I’m happy to say that Samara agreed to do the interview. So with no further adieu, I present to you le magazine noir: Samara Houston of Crush Sweets.

Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Where are you from?

I am originally from Saginaw, MI- born & raised!

What school did you go to?

I graduated from Michigan State University in the Spring of 2000 with a Bachelors in Supply Chain Management. Additionally, I graduated from Toni & Guy Hairdressing Academy in June of 2003.

How has being black influenced you as a baker and chef?

It has led to the creation of several Black desserts!!! Crush Velvet’s Black Velvet Cheesecake was created in large part as an ode to the Black Velvet paintings popular in the 70’s.  Blown away by the Red Velvet Cheesecake, a photographer friend of mine was working on a velvet painting series, and challenged me to create a Black Velvet Cheesecake. Not one to back down from a challenge, I successfully created one on the first try…and yes, it’s Black!

I’ve also created chocolate Hennessey pop-tarts- there’s actual Hennessey in the ganache. I also have several cookie designs of brown girls.   I’ve done cute little brown baby ballerinas, some are hand painted and I also use handmade afro decals- it’s lots of fun! We’ve made some progress in terms of representation; however, I feel we are still underrepresented when it comes to seeing ourselves in print, television, etc…especially in a positive light.  

When you see images on cookies….it’s typically not a person of color.  That’s why I make it a point to create cookies with brown faces- we belong on a cookie too.  Along with the Black Velvet Cheesecake, I use Black icing on my cookies whenever I can. When one sees or thinks of black food, it tends to be synonymous with bitter, unflattering…or simply burned.  With my black desserts, I want to help change the notion of Black.  I’ve (halfway) jokingly said for the past year, that for Black history month I’m going to showcase all my Black desserts and the tagline will be…..”Just because it’s Black, doesn’t mean it’s bitter!” Maybe along with a little bit of “side-eye”

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Which you rather be known as…an young entrepreneur or a young black entrepreneur? Why?

I’m good with simply being a young entrepreneur.  Personally, I’m not a fan of labels when it’s not necessary and I think the less labels we have the better.  It can take the focus off of the brand/product and that’s what I’m in it for.  Folks will figure out I’m Black when they see me….no biggie.  However, I embrace and am well aware of my blackness!

What inspires you to bake?

Other than the fact that I like to eat…it truly warms my heart to share good food.  That moment when a person takes that first bite of Crush Sweets and they start to moan, close their eye or tap that foot….that’s why I bake.  Good food is a universal language and that allows me to connect with people which is something that I enjoy and thrive on.

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

What made you decide to start a business?

I grew up cooking and baking.  Both my parents are excellent cooks and bakers. My Mother had a catering business and did cakes for years; so, for starters, it’s in my blood.  When I started as a professional Hairstylist, I wanted to give my clients Christmas gifts, but, I really couldn’t afford much.  So, I started

Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

my famous Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for my clients for Christmas.  This quickly became a coveted Christmas gift for over 10 years!  

When I would try out new recipes, I quickly realized I needed to bring cakes and cookies in to share with clients so I wouldn’t eat them all.  After years of hearing, “You should sell this!”, I went ahead and did just that!  It started out as something I did on the side during the holidays for extra cash.  After 4 or so years of that, I decided to market outside of the holidays.  Seeing an increase in demand and sales by year 7 (last year), I decided to leave the salon to concentrate on my baking business full time. After over 20 years of doing hair….I was more than ready!

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Tell me more about your creative process as far as how you prepare your delicious treats? Do you have a book of recipes or do you create your own?

My cheesecakes, pound cakes and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies are pretty static; so, the creativity for those was mainly in the initial creation phase.  But, the sugar cookies are totally customizable and the sky is the limit when it comes to creativity!  

I get a lot of inspiration from picture on social media, hobby stores….fonts on semi-trucks that I’m staring at while stuck in traffic. I see dessert décor in everything!  Many customers simply send me pictures and I take it from there.  I’ve always had the ability to recreate what I see….from being a Hairstylist to being a baker and decorator.

The majority of my recipes I have created.  I have sat in front of ovens with a stop watch to get the perfect bake times.  I literally studied cheesecake for months prior to making my first one- the Red Velvet Cheesecake.  This became my mission after I purchased the Red Velvet Cheesecake from an unnamed popular national Cheesecake chain.  I was so irritated and disappointed, it left me wanting a “for real for real” Red Velvet Cheesecake.  

Not being one to wait around for long, I figured I’d just make it myself.  Miraculously, it came out awesome on the first try!  I only had to tweak the recipe for consistency sake.  After eating half of a 9” cheesecake (by myself…happily) in 2 days, I came to the conclusion I liked it and we could just stay with that recipe.  I’m happy to say that 99.999% of those who have tasted it agreed!

Which of your desserts is your favorite and why?

That’s really hard.  It’s like if you ask a parent which child is their favorite…and they’re like, “I love them all the same!” If I were forced, I’d have to say the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies.  They have the perfect balance of nuts and chips, they aren’t super sweet and they’ve got a great texture- not too crunchy, not too soft.  Yeah….it’s hard for me not to swipe one when I fill those orders!  

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Please describe what your desserts taste like.

Balanced flavor!  I love that I don’t have to tell people that my desserts aren’t super sweet, it’s often times one of the first comments I hear. I take that very seriously.  I purposefully created recipes that have just the right amount sweetness and flavor.  

I personally don’t like desserts that are a mouth full of sugar.  So many flavors and textures exist and that’s what I want people to experience when they have Crush Sweets.  The Cheesecakes are definitely likened to what velvet would translate to if it were a food- rich, smooth and creamy.

If you could bake a dessert for anyone who would it be and why?

This is part of the reason it has taken so long to finish this interview!!

I’d have to go with Oprah.  She has a great palette and everything she touches is gold- I like gold! Hopefully she would want to send for me (first class) so I can bake her fresh Cheesecake in the French Polynesian.  I’d go ya’ know!

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?

Know what you do, and know what you don’t do.  Stay in your own lane and work the hell out of it.  If I put everything on my menu that people “tell me I need to…”, I’d have a ton of overhead and be all over the place.  You’ll never grow roots potting yourself in every other pot.  You’ve gotta have the discipline and perseverance to stick with your ideas long enough to really cultivate them.

Do what it is that you do well and don’t be swayed by everyone’s opinion of what they think you should be doing. I tell people often, “I’m sure Colonel Sanders can grill a great steak, but that ain’t what he does!”  I’m sure I could make an awesome German Chocolate Cake, but….that’s not what I do.  What I do do, is work….you’ve gotta pay your dues and put in the work, there are no shortcuts.

Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Samara Houston, Owner of Crush Sweets (Image courtesy of Samara Houston)

Tell me about upcoming projects that you are working on?

This year I have had the absolute pleasure of partnering with Chocolate Secrets- a premier Dallas Chocolatier near Park Cities that has been rated #1 in D Magazine!  Crush Sweets’ couture cookies are the sole cookies offered in her store.  Along with Chocolate Secrets, Crush cookies are now available for retail at all three Paper Affair locations- Dallas, Plano & Frisco.  

We are also working on making custom design cookies available for Paper Affair customers for occasions such as weddings, showers, birthdays, etc.  I am also in current talks with a premier Dallas florist and event shop, Dr. Delphinium, to offer custom botanical cookie designs that will be available in their store as well as through their website! So….12 finger worker be….buzzzy, buzzy, buzzzyyyy!!!

To learn more about Crush Sweets, visit: www.crushsweets.com. To keep up with their latest follow Crush Sweets on Instagram: @crushsweets.

And there it is. de la Pen…All Pen Everything. With us, keeping it real never goes wrong.

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LoudPen
LoudPen is CEO of ISLP and Co-Founder of 8515. Over the past 8 years, LoudPen has gained extensive experience in lifestyle blogging, writing, editing, production, publishing, marketing, public relations, creative direction, styling, brand management, and event planning. Originally from Cincinnati, OH, LoudPen is based in Dallas, Texas.
  • Sandra Garth

    Thank you for featuring Samara and her awesome desserts. She is truly dedicated to her craft and we are extremely proud of her. It’s an absolute joy to see her business grow and receive the recognition it deserves.

    • http://www.allpeneverything.com/ loudpen

      You’re welcome! Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts on Samara. I completely agree that she is dedicated to her craft and was more than thrilled to feature her. I hope you’ll continue to read de la Pen…All Pen Everything for future features. Thanks again!