Bobby Hamilton keeps a sign on the front counter of his cake shop for skeptical first-time customers. He points to it when they ask him if his cake is any good.
“Just eat it.”
“We just use a basic recipe and we just put a lot of quality of ingredients into [it],” Hamilton says. “We don’t do custom cakes…. Our ingredients are too high quality.”
Hamilton has been the owner of Sweet Talk Bakery on High Point Road in Greensboro since January. He says he decided to buy the bakery after the previous owners, who had run it since 2016, decided to move back to Pennsylvania. He now runs the shop with his baking partner, Donovan Simmons.
Hamilton says they kept the essence of the shop but tweaked some of the recipes and added new flavors such as white velvet and Oreo. In total, the shop lists 21 different flavors.
The spacious 3,000-square-foot bakery shares space in a shopping center with Simauchi Peruvian Restaurant as well as the original Jerusalem Market. Pastel colored chairs and accents warm up the interior, which boasts a small stage for spoken word and live music towards the front shop, as well as a charming Martha Stewart-esque private room in the back, ready for bridal showers and birthday parties.
“I fell in love when I looked in the window,” Hamilton recalls of his first time at the bakery. “We decided to keep the names of the cakes but changed up how we did things. More homegrown, homestyle.”
Hamilton, who grew up in Greensboro, worked as an HVAC salesman for 13 years before going into the cake business. He also raised two daughters on his own and says he learned from a young age how to take care of himself.
“My mom raised me always sayin’, ‘Don’t no woman want no man that can’t cook, clean and take care of themselves,’” he says.
As the eldest of eight siblings, Hamilton says he grew up in the kitchen watching his mom and grandmother cook. That’s where his love of making and sharing food came from.
“Growing up in an African-American household, we would go to Grandma’s house after church,” he says. “You brought extra Ziplock bags to take food home. Mac and cheese, stuffing, cabbage, vegetables, turkey, Cornish hen. You just always knew that going there, you were going to eat well.”
He says he got tired of the monotony of his job and knew he wanted to do something with food.
“As I say, do something you love,” he says.
Hamilton says he met Simmons at church about eight years ago and was introduced to his cakes. He says he ate the cakes almost every week, until one week when Simmons was out of town, he was forced to bake one himself.
“It just came back to me; it’s like that bicycle,” he says. “There’s nothing to it; I just got back on and did it. This is something I knew I could do, because I could be creative about it.”
On a recent Thursday afternoon, mothers and daughters and women on their way home from the grocery store pop in to pick up a slice or two.
Sandra Spencer, a first-time customer, comes in to buy a slice of the coconut cake and chats with Hamilton about her son before departing. Not more than 20 minutes later, she walks back through the doors to buy another slice.
“It was so delicious,” says Spencer, who admits she ate the entire piece in her car. “Just like my grandmother’s. So, I had to come back to get the Oreo.”
The black and white cake delivers the nostalgic chocolate-y flavor but comes with an added crunch courtesy of Hamilton and Simmons’s personal touch.
“We put the cookies right into the cake,” Hamilton says. “It keeps the cookies crunchy.”
In addition to the Oreo, Sweet Talk also has white velvet — a flagship flavor — red velvet, hummingbird, German chocolate and strawberry to name a few. They also make pound cakes and sell ice cream.
Lanore Johnson, a regular, texts Hamilton her order before she comes in. She makes the trip almost weekly and this week dropped off strawberries she picked herself for the crew to use in her strawberry cake.
“You can tell it’s homemade,” she says as she waits for Hamilton to pack her slices. “The texture, the flavor.”
As for the fact that the shop is black-owned, she says she wants to support shops with owners that look like her.
“Why not pay a little extra for something I want?” she asks. “I try to support my own.”
That’s where some of the skepticism from customers comes in, says Hamilton.
When they see two black men running a bakery, some of the patrons come with their own stereotypes.
“They’ll ask me, ‘So you can actually cook?’”
And he says he proves their preconceived notions wrong every time.
“People can taste work,” he says. “You can’t have it any other way. This is how you’re supposed to do it. It’s just how we were raised; I can’t explain it.”