A few years back, Victor Harris Jr. was selling maple peach bourbon cheesecakes at an Oakland event. He says an older African American woman sampled a slice and he watched as her eyes rolled back in her head before they re-focused on on him. She asked Victor to come closer. He leaned in and she smacked him softly in the face. Then she complimented his work and ordered a cake to go.
Victor, who is DJ, a former race car driver, a poet and owner of Reuschelle's Cheesecakes, hasn't been working any events this year due to concerns around COVID-19, but he's still finding ways to bring his sweets to peeps. He's selling at the Castro Valley Farmers' Market, and the Temescal Farmers' Market in Oakland. He's also doing personal deliveries-- and he says that's his favorite part of the job.
This week, I interview Victor about the origin of his cheesecakes and his poetry, which caught the ear of Rightnowish listener Rebecca Hensler, who suggested we interview Victor.
Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Victor Harris Jr.
Pen: How did you get into baking cakes in the first place?
Victor: When I was little my mother would use baking as a way to keep my brother and I quiet. And so my mother would bake a cake for us and she would tell us that if we made too much noise, the cake would fall. We had no idea what that meant, what the falling cake would be or how it would taste. But it didn't sound good. So, she got 45 minutes to an hour of peace and quiet and we all got a treat at the end of that hour 'cause we were silent... Baking was something that I always had a good relation for me.
Pen: What’s your favorite part about the process?
Victor: The actual baking part, my favorite part of that is mixing up the cheesecake...There's many ways to make a cheesecake. My preferred method uses what's called a water bath. You take the cake and you wrap the pan in foil and put that pan inside a larger pan. Then you put water around the cake and that slows the cooking process and gives you a smoother, even consistency and a creamier cake. My cakes, they're delicious. I love them.
Victor: Then I love delivering the cheesecakes. Handing them off to the customer and just seeing their smiles light up. It is one of the things that makes it all worth it. In our capitalist society, I shouldn't say this, but I would definitely like trade my cheesecake for hugs.
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