By Darlene Donloe
INGLEWOOD — Karolyn Plummer is standing inside her bakery, Sweet Red Peach, reminiscing about the first time she tasted what is now one of her best-sellers, red velvet cake.
The year was 1999. She was 29 years old and visiting her uncle in Las Vegas.
“I had never seen it before,” Plummer said, as she set about baking the southern staple, a longtime favorite that gained nationwide popularity, in part, thanks to the movie “Steel Magnolias.” “The woman who baked the cake gave me the recipe. … I started adding things to make the recipe my own. Soon people were telling me the cake was so good, I could sell it.”
What started with a desire to perfect red velvet cake grew. Oreo cookie cupcakes, peach and apple cobblers and banana pudding followed, and Plummer realized she had found her passion.
That was 24 years ago. Today, Plummer, 53, is the proud owner of the immensely popular bakery located across from SoFi Stadium. The small shop sells hundreds of ready-made cakes every day, makes them to order and has even customized cakes for celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Big Sean.
It’s 1 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and already there is a line outside the door and a throng of patrons waits to get inside.
The bakery’s offerings consist of a variety of moist cakes, pies, banana pudding, cookies, cinnamon rolls, peach cobbler, and, of course, the famous red velvet cake.
Lakisha Coleman, who has lived in Inglewood for nine years, visits the bakery two or three times a month.
“The banana pudding cheesecake, the sweet potato cheesecake, the carrot cake, and those cinnamon rolls are a must,” Coleman said. “It’s so good. I like to share. When I come here, I get enough so that I can take some treats to work. Do you see that cinnamon roll right there? Do you see it?”
Letta Simon is leaving Sweet Red Peach with several bags of her favorites — strawberry cake, blue velvet cupcakes, yellow cake with chocolate icing, and red velvet cake. She is on her way to the airport to return home to Maryland, but first she stocked up for the flight.
Known for being delicious and decadent, Plummer’s tasty baked goods have achieved legendary status. Regulars know to line up early; visitors from throughout the county and even other states detour to Inglewood for their favorites.
Plummer, who appeared on Cake Wars but was eliminated when the cake was dropped during the final stage of the competition, says both the red velvet and the German chocolate cakes are the reigning treats at the bakery. About 80 slices of German chocolate cake are sold each day.
“People just love both of those,” said Plummer, a married mother of two. Then she urges: “You have to taste it for yourself.”
An Inglewood native, Plummer has an infectious smile and an easy-going personality. She is also an accomplished and precise multi-tasker who greets customers coming and going, boxes orders and makes sure the kitchen is running smoothly, all without missing a beat.
She first opened the bakery in 2011 on Nutwood and La Brea, also in Inglewood, and credits her parents, James and Mary Plummer, for providing moral support and a financial boost.
Phillips Bar-B-Que was also crucial to her success.
“Mr. Phillips (Foster Phillips) was the first one to give me a chance and help me get my name out there,” Plummer said. “They sold my red velvet, carrot and chocolate cakes. After that, I started getting more accounts. I will forever be grateful.”
In 2012, Plummer moved to her current location, which has become a neighborhood staple. The unique name stems from the popular baked goods that she sells. Sweet (potato) Red (velvet) and Peach (cobbler).
She’s proud when she thinks about how, in a relatively short amount of time, she brought her vision for her business to life.
“It has worked out pretty well,” Plummer said. “I’m expanding. The brand is doing well.”
Plummer is currently in the middle of opening another Sweet Red Peach in Menifee in Riverside County, with several others in the works in Atlanta.
Plummer, whose business may be relocated to make way for the $1.5 billion Inglewood Transit Connector, is cautiously optimistic.
“I heard about the ITC project about two years ago,” Plummer said. “At the time, I thought, ‘Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? I can’t afford a build-out.’ Then, talk of it went away. When it came up again, I got a little nervous.”
The ITC is a transit line connecting the new K Rail Line to the Kia Forum, SoFi Stadium, Clippers’ Intuit Dome, as well as the housing units and commercial spots popping up on and near Prairie Avenue. The city of Inglewood hopes to have it running in time for the 2028 Olympics.
Since that time, however, she has come to believe a move could give her business a boost. The long lines outside her door attest to her customers’ loyalty (and love for her baking), but she has outgrown her current location, and her clients struggle to even get into the parking lot on event days.
“I’m ready to go see where it takes me,” Plummer said. “I’m pretty sure everything will go well. I need a bigger spot. I’m ready as long as all the promises the city made are fulfilled.”
Plummer may have made peace with her business being relocated, but her regular customers just want assurance of one thing. They want her to stay in Inglewood.
Judie Smith has lived in Inglewood for five years and is a frequent customer.
“When I first ate her German chocolate cake, it brought tears to my eyes,” Smith said. “It tasted just like my mother’s cake. The icing … let me tell you, I even bought some cakes and shipped them to my brother in Pennsylvania.”
“Please stay,” squealed Smith to Plummer simultaneously with her friend, Hajir Nuriddin.
Nurridin, who lives in Bakersfield, had driven back to Inglewood for a second time in the same week to visit Sweet Red Peach. “Yep, I was here yesterday,” she said. “I came back. It’s about quality.’”
Keeping this local gem, said Mayor James T. Butts, is the plan.
“Of course we want Sweet Red Peach to stay in Inglewood,” the mayor said. “Karolyn is a part of everyone’s family. Her baking is important to our birthdays and Christmases, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving — all of our holidays. Having her cobblers, puddings, cakes and cookies is how we celebrate. We are going to help her find a terrific spot.”
Long before Gloria Gray became the new city councilwoman for District 1 — or met Karolyn Plummer — she was a regular at Sweet Red Peach
“I get the peach cobbler,” she said, “It’s delicious.”
The bakery is in her district and Gray is committed to seeing that it continues to flourish.
“We want Sweet Red Peach — and any of our business that may have to relocate — to thrive. That’s the goal, and that’s the work we’re doing right now.”
Plummer realizes she has struck gold of the culinary kind.
“My happiness comes from the people,” she said. “When people say they like what I do, that’s what I enjoy. That’s when I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. It’s easy for me because the secret ingredient is love.”
Sweet Red Peach is located at 1035 S. Prairie Ave., Unit 2. It’s open seven days a week, and partners with food delivery apps. You can also order online at https://www.sweetredpeach.com/.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.