Petaluma bakery owners pursue culinary dreams

Life is sweet for Holly Knipe and Maddie Smith, two friends who are pursuing their culinary dreams as co-owners of Petaluma’s Forget Me Not Cakes.

The local business was founded in 2008 by Sally Ann McGrath, and when the baker was ready to retire, longtime employees Knipe and Smith took the reins. The women met while they were working for McGrath, who shared her baking wisdom with the duo.

“For me, she was the most fantastic boss,” Knipe, 29, said. “She taught me so much.”

Both women bring certain strengths to the business, where they make custom cakes and desserts for an assortment of events.

For Knipe, who attended Santa Rosa Junior College’s culinary program, it’s a chance to explore her great love of baking.

“I like baking to bring people together,” she said. “It’s not just something sweet, but an investment of time and love as a gift to someone else.”

Smith, 30, not only enjoys baking, but also using her graphic design skills and training for decorating their products, as well as designing the business website.

Smith attended Santa Rosa Junior College for two years, then transferred to San Francisco State University to study graphic design, but found the work wasn’t as rewarding as she had hoped. She turned to the culinary arts, and obtained a degree in patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in San Francisco, she said.

“I realized I was never going to find the happiness I sought in my career,” she said. “Cooking and baking have always been a big part of my family and I like carrying on those traditions.”

With their business, the partners aim to support the community by staying as local as possible when sourcing their baking supplies, Knipe said.

“We believe in supporting local businesses and we are blessed to be in Petaluma, where there are so many great quality dairy and egg suppliers right here in town, for example, as well as sources for seasonal fruits,” Knipe said.

Knipe admitted that taking over a bakery while pregnant and mothering a toddler was a challenge, but she said she’s glad she gave it a shot, calling the business decision the best thing she’s ever done.

“Taking the steps, letting go of fear and doubts, it has turned out great,” she said. “It’s my first big adult trip. The bakery business is personally rewarding for me because of the flexibility of being my own boss. I’ve said in the past that I never wanted to own a business, but now I see the benefit of it.”

For Smith, the business is a way to turn her hobbies into a career.

“I’m taking my passion and I’m working with it,” she said.

Knipe said she enjoys the fact that the business allows the pair to be part of people’s special moments.

“Whether it’s weddings, birthday, special events, you get to see a lot of happiness in our business,” Knipe said. “We get to have a lot a fun, because we’re always celebrating people.”

(Contact Lynn Schnitzer at

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