Meet the baker: Erin Bettencourt from Sweet-E’s in Middlebury

Remember these words:
“No dessert until after you’ve finished your ______.” Brussels sprouts, lima beans, okra… whatever overcooked, slimy, totally gross vegetable you left piled in the corner of your dinner plate.
Most of us remember these words coming from our parents, but it’s not something Erin Bettencourt says to her three kids. In fact she believes just the opposite.
“Life is short. Eat dessert first.”
Yes, she’s an awesome mom. But that motto is also the inspiration behind her bakery, Sweet-E’s, that she runs from her home kitchen in Middlebury.
“Gram used to bake a few weeks before Thanksgiving and all the way through the New Year,” remembered Bettencourt, who grew up in Salisbury. “She used to collect those huge metal popcorn containers — they would line her whole back porch — and fill them will peanut butter balls, Chex mix, fudge, gingerbread men… you name it, she made it.”
And when Bettencourt would go to visit, her grandmother would put her to work.
“She got me started,” Bettencourt said. “I used to just use a box cake and make it pretty, but baking with her taught me how to make everything from scratch.”
Bettencourt’s grandmother Katherine Hurlburt passed away about seven years ago and that’s when Bettencourt officially started her business.
“We lost Gram before her time,” Bettencourt remembered. “She was in her 70s… Life is short. Why not have the good things first?”
Back in 2010, when Bettencourt was just getting started, she lived in Massachusetts. But by 2014, she had been through a divorce and moved her three kids back home to Addison County to be near family.
“I have the ‘it takes a village mentality,’” said the single mom, who also works a full-time job as an HR representative at Porter Medical Center. “It’s been so nice to be home.”
Since coming back, Bettencourt bakes on nights and weekends for her customers — often into the wee hours of the mornings. But a picture of her grandmother hanging in her kitchen keeps Bettencourt company.
After baking, comes decorating — an intricate and defining flair of Bettencourt’s treats.
“My style is animation decorating, I guess,” said the Massachusetts College of Art and Design graduate. “It’s the same as my painting and drawing… It generally appeals to a younger crowd… it’s not realism, that’s for sure.”
Bettencourt “eyeballs and freehands” everything she makes. Including goodies like the 3-D Sorting Hat cake she constructed out of rice crispy treats, or the helicopter cake (with a spinning blade), or the driver’s license cake with a photo ID.
“It takes a lot of patience,” Bettencourt explained.
Curious to try some of Sweet-E’s treats?  She’ll be selling cupcakes and cookies at Middlebury’s Spooktacular on Sunday afternoon, 1-2:30 p.m.
Look for Sugar Skulls (sugar cookies decorated with colorful royal icing) and five flavors of cupcakes at this Sunday’s event. Cupcake flavors will include Death By Chocolate, Autumn Spice, Candy Corn, Zombie Brains (chocolate with cherry filling) and Boston Scream Pie. Treats will cost around $2 each.
Bettencourt will also be raffling off a $25 gift certificate for an order of her custom confections.
“The community has really rallied around me and helped me get going up here,” Bettencourt said, adding that she hopes one day she will be able to open up her own shop.
   Erin Bettencourt is the mother of Lucas Bettencourt, 11, and 6-year-old twins Isabel Bettencourt and Sofia Bettencourt. They are her official critics and taste-testers.

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