“I’ve slowly…become a very firm believer that there’s never a right time. There’s always going to be something prohibiting you, stopping you, and doubts and everything, so you have to just grab it by the horns and go for it.”
Damala Badon | Founder DB Dessert Company
Newcomers may take for granted Portland’s foodie culture and consistent ranking as one of the best food towns in America. Yet long-time Portlanders like Damala Badon of DB Dessert Company can remember when ordering a custom birthday cake was limited to the standard sheet-cake carried by local grocery stores.
Fortunately, the options for satisfying Portland’s sweet tooth have broadened, and Damala and her skillset as a self-taught baker have kept up. Like so many homegrown businesses, DB Dessert Company has humble origins. Damala grew up in the kitchen alongside her grandmother who passed in 2016. Affectionately known as Gigi, Damala’s grandmother was raised during the Great Depression. She knew a thing or two about making something out of nothing. With nostalgia, Damala recalls a signature Gigi dish: a saltine and spice “Cracker Pie” that tasted just like apple pie despite the modest ingredients. Damala’s evolution from baking aficionado to boss baker and successful businesswoman started nine years ago. Her son, a toddler at the time, made an unusual request for a birthday cake: one shaped like a dog bone in a bowl. At the time, local grocery store bakeries were the only options, and none of them could fulfill the request. Damala thought to herself, “I bake. I cook. I could do that.” And so, she did. From there, family and friends started making requests, word spread, and the orders poured in.
The reluctant entrepreneur quickly recognized her side-hustle’s potential to become a bona fide business. After six years in operation it became clear to her that her vision for truly expanding her business was a “now or never” endeavor. “I’ve slowly…become a very firm believer that there’s never a right time,” she says. “There’s always going to be something prohibiting you, stopping you, and doubts and everything, so you have to just grab it by the horns and go for it.”
In February 2019, family-run DB Dessert Company will officially make the move from home operation to a Northeast Portland storefront, providing Portland residents with an array of custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, puddings, and other delectable desserts. Customers can order a single treat or choose from themed variety boxes ranging in price from as low as $25. The company will deliver cakes and offers cake tastings both in-store and packed up to-go for sampling at home.
While Gigi’s Cracker Pie recipe, near and dear to Damala, is reserved exclusively for her family, the line of DB Dessert fudges honors Gigi’s memory and will be available for all to purchase and to enjoy. For a taste of Gigi’s special touch, Damala recommends one of her favorites, the peanut butter fudge.
A new space, new kitchen, and open doors to welcome in the community mean new avenues of opportunity for Damala and her husband, who is an integral part of the family-run operation. In addition to vegan-friendly offerings, baking classes and workshops for youth are part of the plan to give back to the community. As one of a growing number of Portland entrepreneurs of color, Damala wants to encourage the next generation of bakers. She says, “Baking has taught me the right amount of everything brings success. Yes, you can do this and be successful as a woman of color even in a place where you’re a minority.”
From weddings to graduations, birthdays to anniversaries and other special occasions, DB Dessert Company invites customers to get creative with flavors, textures, and cake designs. With the guarantee that each dessert will be made “from scratch with lots of love and the best ingredients,” indulging and supporting this small business is easy as pie and just as sweet!
Author: Tiara Darnell
Photos: Renée Lopez
Published: February 2019