“Cowboys were coming in ordering ‘sandwich cookies,’” Mowe says. “I said, ‘Oh, you like the macarons?’” They asked if her pickled strawberry pie had pickles in it; she explained that no, they are just pickled, inspired by a famous dessert at Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City.
Once her customers tasted their way through Mowe’s scratch-made desserts, they couldn’t get enough. She couldn’t be more thrilled. It was an unlikely leap for her, having just retired from her first career as a professional basketball player on the Portland Fire Women’s NBA team and other teams here and overseas.
While expecting their first baby, Mowe and her husband chose to move here from Eugene, since his family lived in Baker City and she had once visited for a tournament and loved the town. They settled — on Baker Street — in 2007, and their son was born the next year.
At home with the baby, Mowe spent a lot of time with her mother-in-law, who was milking her own cows and making her own cheese — a far cry from her own urban ways.
“It inspired me to start looking at what’s in our food, going more from scratch, getting away from processed, pre-made stuff,” she says.
Mowe’s only baking experience being cake mixes from a box as a child, she followed a couple of baking blogs, trying her hand at the recipes and soon whipping out surprising confections like homemade marshmallows.
While she was spoiling her family with treats, one of her friends opened Earth and Vine Wine Bar and Gallery in town. Mowe offered to make her scratch-made vanilla bean cheesecake for their dessert menu, and eventually added more flavors. Other local businesses began selling her desserts too.
Needing a larger space to bake, Mowe opened her kitchen in 2011 as a way to fill orders for restaurants in town — everything from cakes and cookies to macarons, tarts, pecan sticky buns, pavlova, brioche bread and more. She started selling her treats at the Baker City Saturday Farmers’ Market, attracting a devoted fan base although it took some education. “When you say ‘from scratch, a lot of people go ‘Oh, a mix from scratch,’” Mowe says. “No, this is truthfully from scratch. We’re literally ordering really expensive cocoa powder, butter, sugar and making this stuff. … I’m not price gouging people; this is the cost of real food.”
In August 2015, Mowe opened Sweet Wife Baking to the public, now open year-round on Sundays only. Being 6-foot-5, the name and image of a happy housewife is tongue-and-cheek, she laughs. Now with seven employees and two kids at home, life is sweet, she says: “It’s been a great adventure. I’m a really happy baker, and Eastern Oregon has embraced us.”