The aroma of hazelnut cinnamon rolls and the sound of carefree toddler giggles fill the room while Kate Wood and her 2-year-old daughter, Aimee, stir homemade icing together. It’s a happy childhood memory in the making – the familiar scent of a mother’s cooking and the comfort that comes from being together in the kitchen.
For Wood, an avid baker and the brains behind the popular baking blog Wood and Spoon, this is exactly where she belongs. On a springlike day, Wood has opened up her family’s Lake Martin home that has become a retreat for family members from across the country to gather, reset and spend time with one another.
Food is one of the many ways Wood connects with others. Growing up the oldest of three, Wood has fond memories of her family dining together and spending time over food. The Orlando native moved to Alabama to attend Samford University, where she majored in nutrition. She met her future husband, Brett, in the cafeteria at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she was earning a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and he was finishing his residency in orthodontics.
While Wood says she started to develop her love for food and science in early college days, it wasn’t until her wedding that she discovered her passion for baking. Inspired by her mother, Wood set out to make her own wedding cake.
“My mom and her friend had an old pasta maker and they made their own fondant. I thought, if she can do it, I can do it. I probably made 30 different vanilla cake recipes that year,” Wood said with a laugh.
Making her wedding cake revealed that her love of food and science were a perfect pair when it came to baking.
“Baking is really just one big science project,” she said.
The recipe lab
Wood and her husband now live in his hometown of Selma with their two children, Aimee and George. For the big-city transplant, Wood has taken to the closeness of a small town.
“Life in a small town is so rich. People truly care about each other, we are all sewn together and you realize how your life affects others,” she said.
After her wedding cake success, Wood has continued to bake and has a dream of creating a cookbook of her own. She started Wood and Spoon to document her recipes and journey through baking.
“It was scary at first to put yourself out there and trust that what you have to say is meaningful. But this is a passion that God has put in my heart. We all have goals, and I want this to be full; it’s a labor of love.”
Inspiration for a new recipe seemingly waits at every corner for Wood. “I get ideas traveling, looking at a restaurant menu or even just seeing an item at the grocery store,” she said. “I keep a running list of ideas and just see where the inspiration strikes me when testing recipes.”
Using her food science background, the recipe development process can take a few short days or can stretch weeks at a time.
“I made easily 40 loaves of cinnamon bread before I was happy with it,” she recalled of a recent recipe.
Love and baking
More than her passion for nutrition and food, Wood embraces the opportunity baking offers to spend time with her family and to connect with her loved ones.
“At the end of my life, I want my children to look back and know their mom loved them and loved baking. That they have memories of us being in the kitchen together and that this could create a special way for us to spend time together,” she said.
As Aimee dips her fingers into the freshly iced cinnamon rolls she helped make, it’s obvious that she is developing a love for baking with her mom.
“I think a love of food and sitting down to share a meal together will always be part of how our family connects,” Wood said.
This love for food and connection stretches beyond sharing a meal with her family.
“Most of the time, even I don’t get to eat the treats Kate has made for the blog,” her husband said with a laugh.
Instead, Wood gives them to neighbors, friends and colleagues to share.
“It’s a way to show people you love them. And it’s a joy to be able to do those things, to love people and show them you care,” Wood said.
A restful place
Lake Martin has become another way Wood and her family connect. When Wood was at Samford, her Florida-based parents bought a second home on the lake.
“I loved Alabama, and once my parents came and saw Lake Martin, they decided to settle at the lake instead of in the mountains of North Carolina.”
For their family, it’s a great way for family members from across the country to come together. Wood’s parents and younger siblings now spend their summers on Lake Martin. Her grandparents from Michigan have relocated permanently just down the street in a community on the lake.
“Everyone found a home at the lake,” Wood said. “It’s our rest place.”
At the lake, there is something for everyone. Wood’s grandfather, a carpenter, helped remodel the family lake house, building cabinets, doors and built-ins. Another shared passion of the women of the family is quilting, so much so that the lake home boasts its own quilting room.
“We spend so much time quilting at the lake – my mom, my grandmother, my sister, the babies. There are quilts all over this house that we have made. It’s just another way that we are able to spend time together,” Wood said.
As Aimee and George play on one of their many family quilts, Wood shares her dreams of the lake house playing a significant role in their family for years to come.
“Whether we are coming up for the weekend, spending Auburn football weekends, visiting the grandparents, just bringing the kids up, I want this lake house as being a place we will return to year after year,” she said.
Republished with permission of Alabama NewsCenter.