Trinise Prosper clearly remembers looking forward to Sundays when her mother would take her and the whole family to Lawrence’s Bakery on the corner of Elysian Fields and Fillmore. She remembers what seemed like the whole neighborhood gathering together inside the bakery, clasping numbers in their hands, ready to behold their favorite sweets. Back then, Prosper had her heart set on the sugar cookies that would be bagged up and stacked high on a shelf in the center of the store.
Prosper can also vividly remember the sign she would see when her family parked their car on those anticipated Sunday trips. The sign had the portrait of Lawrence Aiavolasiti alongside the words “Mr. Wedding Cake” and “Everlasting Bakery.” Prosper didn’t know it then, but those words, “Everlasting Bakery,” would become real through her own journey to support her family while operating a bakery in that very same special location.
Her journey to open up Heavenly Sweets Bakery began with a love that was passed down from many generations. Like many children, Prosper learned to bake from her mother, making homemade cake doughnuts and sweet potato pies in the family kitchen. Although she loved making these sweet and savory treats, Prosper never thought of baking as much more than a passion she shared with her family.
She would eventually grow up, get married and have children of her own, but when her husband was tragically killed in 1996, everything changed. At that time, Prosper was happily working odd hours as a banker at Harrah’s Casino while her husband watched the kids at home. The moment she lost her husband, Prosper became a single mother who had to face what she said felt like insurmountable obstacles. She had to change jobs so she could be there for her children, but she knew her search to secure a job would be especially difficult because two of her children had disabilities that demanded a lot of her time. It seemed like her son and daughter were both in and out of Children’s Hospital almost every other week, and Prosper knew most jobs would not accommodate her schedule both at that time or in the future. That was the moment Prosper decided she needed to eventually pursue opening her own business where she couldn’t be fired if she had to step out to go to a hospital visit or handle any other unforeseen circumstances.
So when the corner bakery that she frequented as a young girl became available, she took a giant leap of faith and opened up Heavenly Sweets Bakery in October of 2018.
When I recently walked into Heavenly Sweets to sit down with Prosper and get an update on what’s been going on with the bakery, I saw that the whole family pitches in, just like when Aiavolasiti operated so many years ago. As I spoke with Prosper, multiple generations of family bustled from the front of the house to the back where cinnamon rolls were being carefully placed on a large baking sheet.
Everyone does their part to make the business work. Her oldest daughter is the cake decorator, her son bakes, and her other daughter works the front of the house serving customers. Prosper also works beside one of her sisters, Antoinette Bradford, who has her own connection to Lawrence’s bakery. Besides coming along on the weekly Sunday trips when she was young, Bradford also became a cake decorator for Lawrence’s bakery when it was owned by Theresa Aiavolasiti, the widow of the nephew to whom Lawrence Aiavolasiti sold the bakery.
Since opening a little less than a year ago, Prosper has been excited to pursue her dream of sharing her love of baking with the community with whom she grew up. Although it’s been a struggle at times to get the business rolling, Prosper is committed to the area she grew up in.
“We’re in the Gentilly area. We aren’t downtown, so we don’t have the tourists come up in here. But at the end of the day, I want to be here and serve this community from this location, even if it is hard sometimes,” shared Prosper with a certain level of conviction and pride.
Throughout our conversation, it was clear how committed she is to making it work for her family in the location she holds so dear to her heart.
“This location has meaning, and we love this community so much, and we want to serve right here,” she said.
While Aiavolasiti was known for his traditional king cake, Prosper makes a sweet potato king cake that loyal customers look forward to every year (I know I’ll definitely be back for one when that time comes around). Customers also love her cinnamon rolls, homemade baked doughnuts, pralines, danishes, and her fabulous cakes.
Although she hasn’t been given the nickname “Mrs. Wedding Cake,” Prosper also makes amazing wedding cakes that are delicious and beautifully decorated by her oldest daughter. If you want to check out what’s happening in this historic location, Prosper wants you to feel welcome to come in any time. She is also excited to start hosting cake and cupcake decorating parties for children and adults. When Prosper told me about her idea to host these parties, for which she has coined the name Patisserie Soirée, I couldn’t help but think that maybe one of those eager children who come in to learn something about baking will one day grow up to carry on the legacy of this “everlasting bakery.”
This story is part of a two-part series on the history of the bakeries on the corner of Filmore and Elysian Fields avenues. Click here to read Part I – Back Then: “Mr. Wedding Cale and Lawrence’s Bakery.