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It all started with a Sara Lee cheesecake. Cherry Shuler and her sister loved to feast on the frozen aisle staple. But because they were both semi-broke college students at Florida State University, Shuler looked for a way to make their guilty pleasure even cheaper. So she started whipping up cheesecakes herself, eventually crafting a version better than Sara Lee.
“Back then, Sara Lee cheesecake was $3.50 and minimum wage was $3.35,” Shuler says. “It was cheaper for me to get a package of Philadelphia cream cheese and a Keebler crust and make it myself. So that’s what I started doing, and here I am now.”
Where she is now is the kitchen of her new Lafayette bakery, Cherry’s Cheesecakes & Delights, where she has perfected more than 100 cheesecake flavors like caramel apple bacon, Key lime, red velvet, salted caramel, pistachio, and, of course, cherry. And since she uses her own crust, not Keebler’s, all of them can be made gluten-free and vegan. (Shuler herself eats that way, which is why crafting creamy, ultra-rich vegan and gluten-free cheesecakes was such a priority.)
But her path wasn’t always paved with sweets. After getting her MBA in Finance, Shuler got a job working in the Florida Senate, but then, as it so often does (or at least should), cheesecake intervened. She brought in one of her cheesecakes, and a senator went nuts for it. Then another. More and more people asked her to bake them one, and soon she was doing nothing but baking cheesecakes for the legislators. “It went from the Senate to the House to the Capitol. That’s how I started selling them,” Shuler says.
Over the past couple decades, Shuler has baked up her treats—besides cheesecakes, her pies and bread puddings are pretty killer—at Super Bowls and on the Food Network, and for famous fans like President Obama’s chef and Deion Sanders (the CU Football coach is a college friend of Sanders). She’s moved a few times, but word of her incredible cheesecakes always spread, no matter where she went.
In 2019, Shuler relocated to Erie. She’d never been to Colorado, but her husband had friends here and they both thought it sounded like a nice place in which to “retire,” which for Shuler meant hitting the kitchen again. In late 2019 she found a kitchen share and started delivering her soon-to-be-Colorado-famous cheesecakes. And then in January of this year, she opened the small Cherry’s Cheesecakes storefront in downtown Lafayette.
“It’s been absolutely amazing. I could not have asked for a better location with the best customers. Everything I put out—I opened with the intention of selling my frozen cheesecakes and take-and-bake pies—they take everything right off the table. I bake right here in front of the customers; I roll out my dough, I’ve got my big mixer, and my oven right there in the open. Customers come in and it smells wonderful, and they see everything out of the oven on the table and they just take it,” Shuler says.
Most days she sells out of her mini 4.4-ounce cheesecakes, with banana puddings, bourbon pecan pies, sour cream pound cakes, and triple berry bread puddings making guest appearances on the Cherry’s Cheesecakes menu.
But her favorite is the vegan version of her OG cheesecake. Nut-based instead of soy-based, it’s just as creamy as her traditional cheesecakes, and it’s topped with vegan whipped cream, too.
“Even people who aren’t vegan, when they try my whipped cream, they’re amazed,” Shuler says. “I’ve worked very hard on my vegan and gluten-free cheesecakes. That’s more important to me than the regular [ones] because everyone can get regular cheesecake, but as far as gluten-free and vegan, they don’t get that opportunity to have that variety of cheesecakes. I have customers who come in and thank me. It makes me feel good because I’m giving them something back that they used to have. That’s a great feeling for me.”
And it all started with that college Sara Lee cheesecake.
111 N. Harrison Ave., Lafayette; Tuesday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ; Saturday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.