By day, Janine Durbin, ’99, is a senior vice president, senior relationship manager at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. But she takes special pride in her other title: the Scone Lady.
Durbin’s crowd-pleasing scones are a favorite at bake sales and during holidays.
Durbin, a 48-year-old mother of two from Arlington Heights, Illinois, has been baking for more than 20 years. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m a banker, but I really wish someday I could be a baker,’” she said.
That someday almost arrived in 2012. Durbin had just been laid off from Motorola Mobility. She received a payout with stock options and restricted stock units. It was enough money, perhaps, to start her dream bakery. But before changing her business attire from power suits to oven mitts, Durbin spoke to her father about her entrepreneurial vision. He had some words of caution.
In 2008, he—along with several other family members—opened a restaurant in St. Louis. Her father confided to Durbin that the restaurant had yet to turn a profit. With her kids and college tuition on her mind, Durbin decided that opening a bakery at that moment in her life would have been too financially risky.
“What Booth does with their students now—the focus on entrepreneurship—is great,” she said. “Before you have obligations like a house and kids—that’s the time to look at taking a financial risk.”
While she hasn’t opened that bakery—yet—Durbin continues to sell scones through her Peace of Cake brand in her spare time. After her 2012 layoff, she perfected her recipe and began to build her brand via social media. “I don’t necessarily need a brick-and-mortar location to accomplish my goal, which is building community,” Durbin said. “I’ve decided to use scones to develop my own network of kindness.”
I don’t necessarily need a brick-and-mortar location to accomplish my goal, which is building community.
Several years ago, Durbin donated two-dozen scones to a charity raffle at her church. Her contribution netted $95, leading to more donation requests. Durbin began baking scones for bake sales, birthdays, and for the teachers at her kids’ school. When she sees someone on Facebook doing a good deed, she’ll reward the person with a dozen scones, asking that they mention her on social media. “I use baking as a way to spread kindness,” she said.
It’s not all about charity for Peace of Cake. Durbin advertises her scones through her social media channels for $20 per dozen, especially around holidays and other special events. “I use that to subsidize the free scones I do for charity,” said Durbin. “I feel like I’m rewarding people who are doing good work.”
Durbin hasn’t given up on her bakery dream. She’s eyeing grants and loans for women-owned small businesses. She’s always thinking up ideas for her own shop. Maybe it would also sell fresh flowers or host birthday parties? She also has an eye on a storefront that would be perfect for her bakery. Right now, it remains vacant. “I hope it’s still available when I’m ready.”
Cinnamon chip has become Durbin’s signature scone flavor. But she often experiments with seasonal flavors and unusual combinations. “Every time I roll out a new flavor, it’s my new favorite,” she said. Here are some of the other flavors she has baked up:
“This took a while to develop. I kept adding a bit more basil in each batch to find out how much I needed.”
“This one also took a lot of R&D. You don’t want it to taste like soap.”
Piña Colada, with Pineapple and Coconut
“I sprinkle coconut on top. It browns nicely.”
Almond Joy, with Chocolate Chips, Almonds, and Coconut Topping
“This is a good one. It’s quite sweet.”
“It’s really flavorful. I use fresh-squeezed orange juice in the orange icing on top.”
“I put lemon zest in the scone batter with the raspberries and a bit of lemon juice. But using the juice of the lemon in the icing really gives it that kick.”
“This flavor was a big hit this past Easter.”
Durbin tried a cinnamon-chip scone from Starbucks about a decade ago. She liked it, but found it a bit too sweet. So she went on a quest to create the perfect scone recipe.
“I just kept making adjustments,” she said. “My scones are not as sweet or as dry and hard. I wanted something a bit more moist and cakelike.”
Over the years, she developed a basic dough recipe that requires little tinkering with the addition of new flavors and mix-ins. Here are some of her top scone-making tips after years of practice:
You Don’t Need Fancy Equipment
Durbin mixes all of her dough by hand, using a simple, handheld pastry blender to work the cold butter into the dough.
Choose Your Dairy Wisely
Some scone recipes call for sour cream or heavy cream. Durbin prefers buttermilk. “It makes it a little richer. I like the consistency it gives the dough,” she said.
Get the Texture Right
Plan on kneading the dough until it’s quite dry. “If it’s too moist, you won’t get a good cut or definition in shape,” she said.
Know Your Add-Ins
The addition of moist or fragile fruit (raspberries are particular culprits) will likely require the addition of a bit more flour to keep the dough from getting sticky.
Consider the Shape
Durbin likes to form her dough into discs before cutting the scones into pie-shaped wedges for baking. It makes for a clean presentation and eliminates any waste.
Janine recently shared her love of baking at the Booth Treehouse, a pilot program sponsored by the Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership that focuses on lessons that can be gleaned from non-professional interests. Learn more about the next event on November 2 »
—By Heather Lalley