By GWEN SISSON
When Tammy Jones first began baking her carrot cake at The Veranda, one of her sons thought it was his birthday.
"It was always the cake I made for the boys' birthdays and special occasions," Jones said. "It is our special cake."
And these days, Starkville residents have the opportunity to celebrate every occasion with a slice of Tammy Jones' carrot cake at The Veranda.
"We are blessed to have a partner with such great culinary skills to compliment what we do at the restaurant, especially when it comes to desserts," said Jay Yates of The Veranda. "Her carrot cake has become legendary, but you should also try the Cinnamon Apple Cream Cheese Tart with a cup of coffee, not to mention the hand rolled Peanut Butter Balls that have been on the menu since we opened in 2003."
Before The Veranda opened, Yates and Jones got together in her kitchen to put together menu combinations, and taste-test one another's food.
"We have a great relationship and this gives me a great outlet for my baking," Jones said. "Truly where I love to be is in the kitchen. I never get tired of it."
The Jones' are part-owners of The Veranda, which Jones said was a "very natural thing." They are having a great time with the opportunity and see it as a perfect outlet for Jones' culinary creativity.
"I have always loved cooking and I naturally gravitate toward baking," Jones said.
Her first girl scout badge involved baking chocolate chip cookies. Jones has always loved being in the kitchen with her mom and sister, who are also good cooks. Most of their telephone conversations revolve around recipes, and on holidays, everyone is making magic happen in the kitchen.
She uses a lot of family recipes, and "tweeks" them for use in the restaurant or for dinner parties.
The recipes for the carrot cake and the Peanut Butter Balls came from her mom, and she was able to make changes in order to make it work for the restaurant.
Other recipes have come from cookbooks and magazines, with a lot of experimentation. Jones also reads cookbooks like novels, so she is constantly in search of culinary delights.
While her carrot cake is wildly popular at The Veranda, the dessert she is most excited about had a "roll out" problem at the very beginning.
One of the initial issues with the Peanut Butter Balls was the shape. It was hard to keep them nicely placed on a dessert plate while serving. Yates solved the rolling issue by placing them on a bed of crushed Snickers to anchor the dessert.
The Peanut Butter Balls are Jones' favorite dessert to make, but they are also the most labor-intensive.
"We grew up eating these peanut butter balls," Jones said. "They are the perfect after-dinner bite. And you can share them with someone without 'sharing' a dessert."
She will typically roll and dip one to two batches of peanut butter balls a week for The Veranda. There are 250 peanut butter balls in a batch. And over the holidays or on weekends when the dessert is part of the special, she will make three to four batches.
One of her husband's favorite desserts is becoming more popular at The Veranda. Jones said the Cinnamon Apple Cream Cheese Tart is a little bit lighter and people really love it, including her husband, Frank. Her children, Frankie and Matt, love all of the desserts.
But Jones said she is a chocolate person, and loves chocolate chip cookies, yellow cake with chocolate icing and the Chocolate Marble Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache, that she makes in the winter for the restaurant.
"I try a lot of different recipes all of the time," Jones said. "I love experimenting. I love what I do and it is such a blessing to be able to have the ability to do what I like to do. It also helps me push the limits and push myself to be creative."