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Sammy's Sweets

A great baker must at once possess three rare qualities. In his mind he must be precise, for to coax flour, egg, and sugar into perfect form is a science. In his soul he must be an artist, as the most delicious baked things are also the most beautiful. Finally, a great baker must love baking from the depths of his heart. It is his passion. 

Sam Borchert is such a baker. His precision and artistry may very well be superhuman, because Sam has autism. He has memorized the details of dozens of recipes and can follow any of them exactly. He will not rest until every cupcake in every batch of hundreds looks divine and identical. Sam can not be distracted from his craft.

The source of Sam’s love for baking is manifold. To make such delicious things is rewarding for reasons which beg no elaboration. Sam certainly takes pride in his work and cherishes his independence. The gratitude, the respect, and, in all fairness, the money he receives from the community inspire greater passion still. But the very first time Sam loved baking? He loved it because he could do it with his mom.

“Sammy has wanted to bake ever since he was five years old,” said Sue Borchert, Sam’s mother and the other head chef of Sammy’s Sweets. “It has always given him a peaceful atmosphere – free from sensory overload – with a challenging task at hand. 

“When Sam first started out, his favorite thing to bake was chocolate chip cookies. And they were amazing cookies, but after a few thousand batches I did start getting tired of them. So I got this old copy of Bon Appétit that had an insert with 50 crazy cupcake flavors. I told Sam that it was our neighbor’s birthday, so we should go let him pick out a recipe and then make it for him.

“After Sam’s inaugural batch of malted milk ball cupcakes we became hooked on baking for the community. We spent a lot of time together, helping each other without the need for so much talking, making tray after tray of beautiful cupcakes to pass out to people. In return we would only ask that they text Sam their review, so he could practice communicating with them.

“Word must have spread around, because eventually we got our first paid job: the graduation party of a friend of a friend. This made Sam and I realize that we really were on to something. It was time to bring in some help. Cooper and Sydney, Sam’s brother and sister, worked on branding and communications. Dona, a close family friend, filled in as our other baker. And of course Sam and I retained our roles as head bakers!”

Sammy’s Sweets became a fast success. Sam and Sue have tended to the dessert aspects of countless wedding receptions, fundraisers, church events, birthday parties, and other big social to-dos. Recently Sam single-handedly baked the 600 chocolate chip cookies that SCHEELS could not have reopened without.

Sam composes rhapsodies in butter and cream. His raspberry surprise cupcake is the reward of a hundred trial batches, now a vision of fluffiness injected with sweet purée. His carrot cupcake is made with freshly shredded carrots and dolloped with cream cheese frosting, a recipe peeled straight from Dona’s family recipe book. His toffee crunch cupcake is adorned with Hershey’s chocolate whipped cream frosting. You can typically identify one of Sam’s cupcakes by its frosting alone. Very few share the same.

And of course there are the chocolate chip cookies, perfected over the course of nearly two decades. You are welcome to ask Sam for his cookies’ secret ingredient, although this line of questioning will likely not get you far. 

“We feel so blessed that Sam has found something productive which he also loves to do,” said Sue. “He will hum while he works in the kitchen all night if he has a big order to bake for. Finding that kind of joy can be difficult for people with autism, who might struggle with so many tasks you or I take for granted.

“Finding employment can be difficult for someone with a disability. But finding meaningful employment? That is even harder.

“Right now we are still based at home, but we dream of owning a little bakeshop in Eden Prairie one day. There we could offer jobs to all of Sam’s friends, letting everyone help out as they’re most comfortable. If they don’t like to bake, they can work at the cash register. If they don’t feel like being social, they could help in the back by assembling boxes, emailing customers, or even tasting new flavors. That still looks like it’s a long way off from now, but with the community’s support I believe we will get there.

“If I could ask your magazine’s readers to do one thing, it would be to look around their lives or the companies where they work. See if they can find a place in them for someone with a disability. Give them an opportunity to be as proud as my son.”

Sue also wouldn’t mind if you also ordered cakes and cookies from Sammy’s Sweets. You can learn more about the local bakery and reach out to them at sammyssweetsmn.com.

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