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On the Sweet Side | By Starr Oldorff


There’s a dessert frenzy downtown. As if chocolates on the corner and cupcakes aplenty weren’t enough, Just Desserts café on Hay Street is a sweets lover’s siren sign. Reminiscent of a Parisian patisserie, the Hay Street bakery is full of charm with black lampposts and red brick sidewalk leading up to a double storefront painted black with full-length windows. Bienvenue! Take a closer look and you will see baking paraphernalia old and new, fat lady cookie jars and a hint at what may have started the owner’s long love affair with baking, the very first oven she ever owned. Déjà vu? Jae Haire keeps a cabinet close to the cash register with the newest goodies she dreams up: colorful pretzels topped with swirls and cream-filled chocolate rolls. The smell of fresh yeast bread invites guests to settle in. Tan marble floor tiles complement black and tan diamond wallpaper and massive chair rails lining mocha-colored walls. Haire has artfully decorated her café with a photo journal of her work, all in matching black frames. Coffee and pastry anyone? Southern classics are a popular choice at Just Desserts. The fully-loaded carrot cake and red velvet cake are frequent requests. But Haire can also whip up a picture-perfect cherry cheesecake, an Italian crème cake as fine as any and a dreamy "Death by Chocolate and Raspberry" literally swimming in chocolate ganache, chocolate butter cream icing and fresh raspberries. Just Desserts offers more than, well, just desserts. Haire serves breakfast and lunch, too. On a recent Saturday morning, friends Nubian Farley and Linda Stephens enjoyed a French-inspired brunch. Haire first brought out a tempting caramel peanut butter cake followed by a tray of bacon, egg and cheese croissants. “Uummmm. Oh my gosh, I’m in heaven,” Stephens said, savoring the first bite. “This is wonderful.” Topped off with cups of fresh steaming hot coffee, it was a perfect meal for a cool morning. Lunch can be had almost any time of day at Just Desserts. Favorite dishes include Haire’s homemade chicken salad (made from her mom’s special recipe), egg salad, vegetable beef and chicken noodle soups plus two new soup offerings: navy bean and tomato basil. Just Desserts recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. Haire says that, at first, there were struggles to get the business up and running. But with the challenges have come rewards par excellence. Just Desserts received an award in the 2009 Best of Fayetteville contest, and Haire graced the front cover of “An American Mosaic,” a coffee table book published by the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce. “My mama always told me the importance of warmth of spirit and personality,” she said. “If customers want to sit down and talk, then I am going to take the time to sit down and talk. I want it to be what you want. I want it to be all about you. I want your creation to be your vision, to be beautiful and to taste good. I am your personal pastry chef.” But Haire is not one to be content with the status quo. In addition to the creations displayed on her walls, she is now working on an adorable line of designer cupcakes. Imagine: spaghetti and meatballs! But that does not come close to her most unusual customer request, a beer can cake made to scale. Just Desserts has earned a reputation for one-of-a-kind cakes, but Haire is also known for her cookie bouquets and not just for people. The Barkley Collection – Haire’s piece de resistance? – will please pups with its homemade dog biscuits pressed and baked into the shape of bones. Hey, even mutts deserve their Just Desserts.