Building a Dream on Desserts
Lillian Jameson has finally found the secret ingredient to the recipe of life: It’s never too late to make your dreams into a reality.
By Crystal Schelle
Jameson, who jokingly said she’s “pushing 60,” is owner of Lillian’s Bakehouse at Mulberry Lofts in Hagerstown. She’s been at her location for two years working with the owner of Charlie and Sam’s Bakeshop and Cafe, before eventually launching her own business in early 2022.
The Williamsport resident said she learned to bake as a child.
“I’m old enough where you made stuff at home,” she said, “When you bother Mom, you’re bothering her in the kitchen, so she gives you something to do.”
Jameson also credits “loving to feed people” because she came from such a large family — she’s No. 11 out of 12 children. She grew up in the Pontiac area of Michigan before the family moved to Stevensville, Michigan. Feeding people must be in her DNA because her father owned a pub restaurant in Bridgman, Michigan.
With her creative cake designs, Jameson loves to see the joy it can bring to her customers. And as a mom of two and grandmother of six, making children happy is the icing on the cake for her.
“I like how happy it makes people when they give you an idea and you build something for them, even if it’s just a dessert cake, that looks beautiful,” she said.
That’s because Jameson said she wants her food to be as appealing to the eyes as it is to the palette.
“I always tell my grandson that we eat with our eyes,” she said.
Jameson’s early years were like the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere.” She said her father called her “Gypsy girl” because of her love of travel that her father instilled in her.
“He took us camping all over the United States,” she said. “It was really a fortunate thing. We piled into that station wagon and would go. I’ve done the same thing with my children. We just get in the car and go.”
After high school, she moved to Florida and started working at a local Mister Donut, a large donut chain. There, she learned from Sam, the older father of the owner of the franchise.
“Nobody wanted to go in at 4 a.m. and run the drive thru, so it was me,” she said.
Sam taught her to make donuts “the old way.” That early lesson continued to pique her interest of baking and it continued when she later had her children and would make cakes for them. Jameson continued to have jobs in the food industry, such as working at a bakery and deli for Food Lion. When she lived in Arkansas, she ran a bakery and deli at a grocery store. Along the way, she learned how to carve and build cakes as well as how to perfect her designs.
Eventually, Jameson would get to a level to compete in food shows and cake competitions where she would win for design and taste. She won a contest in Arkansas for a cake she designed of a bass fish jumping out of the water. And because of the popularity of the University of Arkansas’s mascot the Arkansas Razorbacks, she would make a full-body sized hog out of cake on more than one occasion, usually as a request for a groom’s cake.
“I love the artwork part of it, and I think that’s what most people come to me for,” she said.
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t think about taste. Favorite flavors are lemon blueberry, chocolate peanut butter, and strawberry crunch cake.
“And if you want a 3-D fish, I’m your girl,” she said.
Jameson said people often ask her how she is able to make the designs, and she said she doesn’t know. Often, a client will give her an idea whether it’s a specific theme, character, or cartoon, and she would ponder on it all day.
“Then I’d go asleep and when I’d wake up, I’d think, I know what I’m going to do,” she said.
She said when she builds a cake, the idea “just comes out” and she is able to make the cake the client is looking for.
“And I enjoy doing it—I think it’s a lot of fun and I like being creative,” she said.
Although she had a natural talent for cake designs, Jameson never thought she could actually have her own bakery. She said she never doubted her abilities, but she admitted it was her own lack of self-confidence of being a business owner that held her back.
“Did you ever grow up and just never been sure of yourself or never been able to take that final step?” she asked.
That changed when Charlie and Sam’s announced at the end of 2021 that they were closing their doors. Jameson saw the opportunity to open her own brick-and-mortar shop at the same location. She only gave herself a minute to let that self-doubt creep in.
“I’m like, I know I’m too old for this, but I’m gonna do this for myself,” she said.
“I don’t want to work for someone else and do this for someone else. I’m going to do it for me. I’m finally going to be brave enough.”
And to honor her late mother, who was her first teacher in the kitchen and her biggest cheerleader, Jameson named the bakehouse after her mother and namesake, Lillian O’Brien.
“I had a difficult time in my timidness, and she was always so good with me,” Jameson said. “(She) was always trying to tell me to stop being afraid and to do it on my own. I decided that I might be an old lady but I’m going to go for this.”
In addition to her highly stylized cakes, Lillian’s Bakeshop offers cupcakes, brownies, and cookies in a variety of flavors, including the popular oatmeal cream pie cookies. Eventually, Jameson said she wants to offer even more.
“I love baking bread. I would like to expand even more into a real bakery where you can come in and get a cake or cupcakes or a pie as well as bread and dinner rolls,” she said.
But for now, Jameson is enjoying her newfound freedom of being her own boss.
“Now I can create for myself,” she said. “Will I ever be a millionaire? No, I don’t want to be either. But if it’ll keep a roof over my head and the lights on, I’m good.”
She also has a message to others out there who are hesitant to take that first leap to fulfill a dream.
“Take the step. Don’t be afraid. I just don’t want some other young person to go through life working for somebody else and being afraid to trust in themselves,” she said.
Lillian’s Bakeshop is at Mulberry Lofts, 222 E Washington St. Suite 101, Hagerstown, 240-310-9415. Follow Lillian’s Bakeshop on Facebook to find out her current hours and @lillians_bakehouse on Instagram.