It’s not uncommon for Rhonda Henthorne to wake at 4:30 a.m. on a Tuesday through Saturday to mix cake batter in the work trailer next to her Ridgeville home. It’s the quiet still of the morning when the seasoned baker starts her day.
While the Summerville native—and Green Wave alumnus—spends most of her free time in the kitchen, don’t call her a cook; she won’t accept it. Henthorne explained she’s in the business of charming taste buds with sweet treats—bundt cakes and tiny cakes in particular.
“I’m not going to say I’m a cook, now; I’m a baker,” Henthorne said. “Once you mix that thing in the bowl and put it in the oven, you ain’t got to watch that thing no more. With cooking, you got to go back (and check).
She’s also not a fan of meat.
“I’ve never been one to like meat. I can’t stand to smell it,” she said.
It was only two years ago the budding small business owner officially tied on her apron strings—her now blossoming business venture rooted in a gift-giving hobby.
“I just started baking cakes one day and gave to a lady in Ridgeville, who encouraged me to start a business,” Henthorne said. “She kind of helped me; she led me everywhere I needed to go.”
She now has a bright, pink food truck—showcasing a giant cherry-topped cake—parked in her front yard. It’s actually her second truck.
“The first truck we got was all messed up and wasn’t like the way we ordered it, so they had to start all over again,” Henthorne said.
That was May. Two months later, the correct truck arrived, and The Ridgeville Bakery was officially born—ready to spread a sugary high throughout the community.
In recent weeks Henthorne’s traveled to various community events—and even plans to attend downtown Summerville’s Third Thursday event later this month to show-off her bite-sized bundts and give community members a taste of her business.
Prior to starting her bakery on wheels, Henthorne worked in a number of different career fields, including hospitality and hotel management in North Charleston. In high school, she participated in culinary and food service classes—though because of Henthorne’s knack for baking, her teacher rarely let her cook.
“The teacher only let me bake,” Henthorne said, reminiscing. “I did breads and cakes and pastries every day; I said, ‘Why don’t you let me do entrees?’ She said, ‘You do so good at baking.’”
After her food and beverage work for local hotels, Henthorne accepted a job with a wholesale eyeglass company—during which time she chose a more meaningful, lifelong role: motherhood; and after having a baby, for 17 years Henthorne drove a Dorchester District Two school bus, including one for special needs students her last three years.
But when Henthorne’s daughter Regina was in seventh grade, she quit working to allow the two of them more time together.
“I felt like she needed me more; it was making me sad,” Henthorne said.
After a while, the urge to work outside the home once again compelled her.
“I got tired of doing nothing,” Henthorne said.
Now, she spends her days deep in batter and creating tasty toppings she thinks others will salivate over—why? Because according to the age-old saying—the same one written on her truck—“Life is short; eat dessert first.” For a couple years, her daughter even helped with the business, completing certain kitchen chores.
“She’s real good at washing the pans,” Henthorne said with a wink.
Currently, the small-town baker’s cake flavor list totals 60 different types, ranging from classic yellow and Devil’s food to “peachy maple pound” and “pistachio marble”—basically, Henthorne makes what she “would like to be presented” when she buys a cake.
One of Henthorne’s most unique flavors is dubbed “watergate,” a mixture of coconut, pecans, marshmallow and whipped cream. It’s quite common for her flavors to contain candy or fruit—a majority of it sourced locally or purchased from Earth Fare.
She also offers specialty liqueur cakes like “chocolate Kahlua,” “eggnog rum” and “strawberry champagne.” While Henthorne’s most popular cake flavor is lemon blueberry, it’s the chocolate-cherry that’s her personal favorite: it was her late father’s preferred pick.
“He loved a good chocolate cake, and he would a good chocolate-cherry one,” she said.
In addition to her specialty of little bundts, she also crafts larger bundts, cupcakes and sheet cakes, for sale online; she’s limited the food truck to bundts only ($5 apiece).
Henthorne also doesn’t discriminate against customers with dietary restrictions—keto brownies on her to-do list because of customer demand. Her goal is to share her handmade creations with the entire community; that’s initially one reason why she chose the smaller cake size and decorates with minimal icing—to keep sugar-free eaters from missing out, and because Henthorne explained she’s not too artistic.
“So many ppl have…diabetes but they want just like a little treat,” she said. “I’m not a decorator because I never learned art. I can’t even draw a circle; that’s why I came up with the drizzle.”
The smaller size can also be eaten in one sitting and likely won’t dry out as easily as a larger cake.
“I wanted to come up with a cake that two people could eat,” she said. “(People) spend $30-$40 on a cake that they throw half in the trash.”
While her daughter, 18, is now in Army basic training at Columbia’s Fort Jackson, she’s still part of the family business—her photo hanging inside the food truck as a tribute to the mother-daughter duo’s special bond.
As for how long Henthorne envisions she’ll be invested in her delectable profession?
“As long as I’m able to,” she said. “I thought I’d always be driving the bus.”
For more information about The Ridgeville Bakery, visit theridgevillebakery.com or call 843-518-0484.