Couple brings new bakery with a special twist to Houlton

11 months ago

HOULTON, Maine — The scent of hot doughnuts, muffins and specialty treats like Baklava cheesecake start wafting down Fair Street just after sunrise. It’s the quiet time Rachel Mazzella loves best as she gets the first of the days’ orders in the oven.

Mazzella and her husband Peter own The Sweetest Sensation, one of Maine’s only designer completely sugar-free sweet shop that uses natural sugar replacements and fresh clean ingredients like butter, milk and eggs. 360 Sugar Free, a completely sugar-free bakery, had opened in 2019 in Kittery, but is permanently closed now.

A lot of times people think to eat right they have to eat leaves, she said, But things that are sourced properly, like grass-fed cows for milk and butter instead of oil, makes it a whole different experience, Mazzella said. 

The Sweetest Sensation’s sugar free baklava cheesecake. (Courtesy Sweetest Sensation)

“We take really good food and add a fun twist on it,” she said. “We like to say, what do you get when you take the guilt out of guilty pleasure? Just pleasure.”

The Sweetest Sensation caters to their customers by making orders just before the scheduled pick-up time or hand delivering them as soon as the food comes from the oven. Sometimes a customer gets a dozen doughnuts that are still warm, Mazzella said.

She cooks in small batches and never saves goods to sell the next day she said, in keeping with their mission statement of fresh, good food.

When they moved to Houlton in December 2021, they weren’t expecting to build a business. She was baking sugar-free birthday cakes for her kids for parties and treats for people as thank-you gifts. 

The Sweetest Sensation’s vanilla bean ice cream on a hot fudge cheesecake brownie, all zero sugar. (Courtesy Sweetest Sensation)

After hearing over and over, “you should open a business,” they did last July. 

The Mazzellas’ business is really an extension of how they live their lives and feed their five children. They eat organic, do not use sugar and make everything from scratch with fresh, local ingredients. 

“I would have a very hard time giving someone something that has sugar in it. We’re really against it. It’s bad for your brain, your body and it’s addictive,” she said. 

Getting a business started in Houlton was a smooth process, she said, adding that it’s a super great town to start a business because they make it really easy. Everyone wants you to succeed, she said.

They had to work with the town to get their bakery kitchen approved and town officials helped them every step of the way, she said, adding that when they were inspected they received a perfect score. 

The family moved from Millinocket to their Fair Street home in December 2021.

“We used to shop in Houlton because there is a better selection of the foods we buy,” Mazzella said. “When we found out we were having another baby, we needed a bigger house and both thought, Houlton. We practically ran up here.” 

The Sweetest Sensation’s garlic herb bread. (Courtesy Sweetest Sensation)

Some of their specialties are cruffins, stuffins and muffins, Mazzella said.

The cruffins are a crispy, delicate pastry stuffed with a variety of fillings like cheesecake or chocolate. Some are rolled in cinnamon, others topped with strawberries, blueberries or other unique combinations.

Stuffins are a tall bakery muffin, chocolate chip, blueberry, mixed berry, stuffed in the center with a creamy cheesecake filling. It has a little streusel on top and a soft, creamy inside. 

They make sweets like natural peanut butter cups, chocolate-covered strawberries, custom candy bars, an Almond Joy-type candy, a large caramel and chocolate covered Keto cookie, Keto cheesecake brownies, Keto doughnuts, breads, Sicilian rice balls and even soft pretzels. 

The Mazzellas occasionally sell their goods at the Houlton Farmers Market but their daily orders are keeping them very busy. 

In May, the Houlton Town Council gave the couple approval to sell more items from their bakery and they plan to add pizza and other healthy items to the menu.

Mazzella was a chef at several Maine restaurants including Olive Garden and The Forester Pub in Lincoln and she brings that knowledge into their new venture, she said.

“I have a real passion for it. I love to cook and I love to feed people,” she said.