Radical Recreation: Mixing up happiness

The holidays are around the corner, meaning that delicious family feasts are soon to follow. For Jessica Struempler, dinner is great, but the desserts are better.

When Struempler, a restaurant hospitality management major, was younger, she would help her mother and grandmother around the kitchen. Her job was making the pie filling while her mother would make the pie crust.

To this day, she continues making pie filling for the holidays and has pursued an associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts.

“To me, baking isn’t just making good food, which it totally still is. But food also brings people together and the history of making food starts from the beginning of time,” Struempler said. “People have always made food for others and if one industry never dies, it’s the food industry. People make food for celebrating, mourning, regular occasions, excuses to see others and really any occasion. At the end of the day food is a good excuse to put a smile on people’s faces, no matter the time. And desserts? Those always make people happy.”

When Struempler first started to bake, her father, Sam Struempler, recalls her taking over the kitchen and using it as an outlet for her creative baking possibilities.

“As a young girl, Jessica would quite literally take over our home kitchen for days on end, turning it into a home recipe cake-pop and cupcake factory. I don’t think our family minded at all as we taste-tested her creations and offered opinions,” Sam Struempler said.

Rose cupcakes Jessica Struempler made for Molly McCabe’s birthday last year. Photo credit: Jessica Struempler

Jessica Struempler’s specialties are breads, cakes and pastries. She often bakes cakes for special occasions for family and friends, and bakes cupcakes every year for her close friend, Molly McCabe. Together, the duo comes up with a new, crazy and fun creation each year.

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“Every year, since my 12th birthday, Jessie has made me cupcakes. One year, she made lemon ones with cute little sea turtles on top. Last year, she made me rose flavored ones, all super cute, all super yummy,” McCabe said.

Finishing culinary school was a huge accomplishment for Jessica Struempler and has allowed her to become well rounded in multiple parts of the food industry from small bakery, large-scale production and high-class fine dining.

“Even though I’m starting to steer more towards food science, I’m still loving my baking background. Getting into baking actually pushed me more towards the science, since baking relies so heavily on the science. They definitely go hand in hand,” Struempler said.

Struempler has many plans for the future involving her career. Although it is undecided, she knows it will involve food.

Cakes Struempler helped make for a wedding. Photo credit: Jessica Struempler

“I’d love to open my own small bakery one day. On top of that, I’d love to work on a cookbook, too. At the same time I love the stability of a dietitian’s career. So I’m really seeing myself being a registered dietitian and eventually coming back to the baking professionally.”

Her father believes that her interests and opportunities will continue to increase.

“The science and craft of baking is the foundation for what is driving her at the moment. Nutrition is Jessie’s current emphasis and who knows where that will take her, but fundamentally, baking creatively gives her the most joy so I can’t help but think it will always be one of her priorities,” he said.

Despite her hectic schedule being a full-time student and working full time at Providence Hospital, Struempler said she is excited to start studying the science of food and continue baking for fun.