By Shelley Hill Young
When Danetra Richardson goes to a restaurant, the first thing she looks at is the dessert menu. She recently celebrated her birthday at Edmund’s Oast. She ordered two desserts — a white chocolate coconut cheesecake with passionfruit and a milk chocolate cake with yuzu and caramelized bananas — and, she says, she wished she could order all five on the menu.
Danetra, who owns Swank Desserts, appreciates creative desserts that are more than just an afterthought on a menu.
“I wish we had more of that,” Danetra says. “That’s why I started my company. I wanted to be the change I was seeking.”
By far her favorite dessert in Charleston is The Gin Joint’s peanut butter bar, which has a Pop Rocks candy topping.
It inspired Danetra to create her Chocolate Cherry Pop Macarons, which are filled with a dark chocolate ganache, cherry puree and cherry popping candy. She created her ode to chocolate-covered cherries for Valentine’s Day, but they’ve become her signature dessert and a staple on her menu. During the holidays, Danetra also offers champagne macarons, which have popping candy in the center to create the bubbly sensation of champagne.
For Swank Desserts, Danetra focuses on two-tier wedding cakes and dessert bars for weddings and events. After Thanksgiving, Danetra features her champagne macarons as well as gingerbread eggnog macarons and gift boxes, which include the seasonal macarons, brownies and a small bottle of champagne.
Danetra got her start in the kitchen of Magnolias and then worked at Kiawah’s Ocean Course Clubhouse. Though she was cooking savory foods, she knew she eventually wanted to open her own dessert business, in part because she saw an unfulfilled need in Charleston. While working at Kiawah, she started baking things at home and posting them on Facebook. Eventually, she says, her business became more consistent and she knew if she wanted to grow, it was time for her to go out on her own. She was just 26 when she started the web-based business.
“There’s no better feeling than being able to run my own show and control my own schedule. Danetra says. “That motivates me to keep going.”
Danetra has a list of 30 things she wants to do before she turns 30 next September. There’s a trip to a resort to relax and a trip out of the country to explore. But at the top of her list is having a space secured for her brick-and-mortar location. She plans to offer doughnuts, macaron ice cream sandwiches and more plated desserts. She doesn’t want to call it a bakery. She doesn’t drink coffee and says she’s going for more of a “sexy, relaxing vibe rather than an early morning on-the-go vibe.”
Danetra specializes in creative, different and unexpected sweets. For weddings, she’s done a brown butter maple bacon wedding cake and a s’mores wedding cake. Don’t ask her for something simple.
“I had to learn to be OK with my company not being for everyone,” she says. “I did not start my company to be simple.”