Neighborhood treat

Mim’s Bakery—making sweets in Chapmantown for two decades

Melissa “Mim” Peters is all smiles decorating a cake in her South Chico bakery.

Melissa “Mim” Peters is all smiles decorating a cake in her South Chico bakery.

Photo By Christine G.K. LaPado

Mim’s Bakery

890 Humboldt Ave.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 345-3331

Melissa Peters was only five units short of the bachelor’s degree in art she was pursuing at Chico State in the mid-1980s when the irresistible call of fancy cakes and fine pastries took over.

At the time, she was working for the now-defunct local candy-and-dessert-making outfit The Chocolate Moose, in part to help finance her schooling, though she adds, “I always loved food. … I started baking and cooking when I was too young to remember how old—probably age 8.”

One thing led to another, and Peters found herself, after The Chocolate Moose closed its doors in the late ’80s, continuing to supply the popular dessert-maker’s established wholesale accounts with confections under the name of “Mim’s.” School had to go by the wayside.

Peters, as many know, is the likable owner and chief cake-and-pastry artist of Mim’s Bakery (“Mim” is a childhood nickname given to her by her family), located on Humboldt Avenue in Chico’s Chapmantown neighborhood. For almost 21 years, her bakery has turned out the gorgeous, mouth-watering, five-star wedding cakes and French pastries for which Mim’s has become locally renowned.

“I was in mixed media. I’m still in mixed media,” Peters said of her art-school days and her art with baking. “I was also a sculpture emphasis, and it’s still sculpture.”

Peters chatted during a recent interview in the kitchen of her bakery while busy assembling a lemon mousse cake for the bakery’s case, which sparkles with enticing, pastel petit fours and gold-flecked chocolate truffles, as well as cakes decorated with fluted rolls of white chocolate and sail-like chocolate “plaques.”

The bulk of the bakery’s business is special orders of cakes for events such as weddings and parties, and individually plated dessert catering, but walk-in purchase of cakes and pastries is also an option. Mim’s also stocks a dessert case at Made in Chico.

A finished citron framboise cake.

Courtesy Of Mim’s Bakery

Working alongside Peters, creating decorative white-chocolate “filigrees” to adorn the top of an elaborate cake she was about to put together, was Peters’ right-hand woman, Leah Duensing. Duensing—whom Peters acknowledged as the “queen of everything”—is a product of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

“Our sponge cake,” said Peters, “is a génoise, which has butterfat in it—which is a French technique. … I think a lot of the best baking is French. I mean, they invented puff pastry, for God’s sake. … They’re baking geniuses.

“We do small batches,” she offered. “Everything we do is from scratch, and it’s all fresh. There’s not one mix in this whole bakery. We make all the fillings, frostings, the puff pastry, everything. It’s ridiculously labor-intensive.”

Peters and Duensing have been known to work 15-hour days during the bakery’s busy season—mid-April through September—turning out Mim’s sought-after delicacies, such as the citron framboise, double mousse, and raspberry-filled “Chocolate Decadence” cakes.

“Graduation’s huge,” advised Peters, “because it’s wedding season and graduation.”

Mim’s also makes special-order pies and seasonal delights such as its apple cake with chai frosting, mocha walnut tart and strawberry Bavarian custard cake, based on availability of seasonal local produce.

“We have such a bounty in the North Valley,” said Peters, picking up a handful of pretty, purplish walnuts—a new variety of nuts she’d just gotten in from a supplier in Davis. “We’re so fortunate to live where we have such a bounty of food year-round. Food is something that excites me probably more than anything in the world. It’s one of life’s consistent pleasures. I get excited when a new batch of nuts comes in!”