Emily White broke down at work.
On the outside, everything in her life as a 911 dispatcher in Gwinnett County looked fine. She had the experience with the tough calls and knew the job. On top of that, she’s a veteran of the Navy.
But underneath the calm, collected voice coming through the phone at Gwinnett 911, things weren’t what they seemed.
“It was so stressful,” said White, who lives in Flowery Branch. “I was a single mom of three boys, so they went to daycare for like 18 hours every third day and it was so stressful. And I started having anxiety and depression and insomnia and all those things that come with that job.”
It caught up to her.
After crying in the bathroom and taking some time to gather herself at work one day, White made her way to the hospital because she knew something wasn’t right. She was admitted to Laurelwood with depression and anxiety.
She was there a week but came out on the other side with a new passion and a new life.
A therapist she had been seeing told her to start baking.
White used to sit in front of those computer screens, wearing that headset and walking through some of the toughest situations you could imagine. Now, she works with mixers, doughs and ovens, and hasn’t dealt with any of the stress she found in her previous profession.
“I hadn't been doing anything for myself,” White said. “I just bought some cake pans and the first cake I ever made, I was frosting it on my cooling rack and I didn't realize I was pushing it further and further off the rack, and it fell and got completely destroyed … I was so proud of that cake, even though looking back I'm like, ‘That was the worst cake ever.’ But then I realized this was something that I really love to do.”
What started out as a hobby is now a full-time job at White Tulip Bakery. White works out of her home in Flowery Branch making cookies, cakes, pies, cupcakes and plenty of other sweets.
And she isn’t just baking any old cookie — although she does that, too — and spreading some icing on top. You’ve likely seen the videos on Facebook. The ones where someone squeezes the royal icing out of a piping bag to make a design and by the end of it, the cookie doesn’t really look like a cookie at all anymore.
Designing helps her tap into her artistic side, bringing happiness and relaxation she’s never known before.
“It’s therapeutic,” White said. “It's true, it helps with anxiety and depression … It's amazing.”
She’s made all sorts of designs and recently, White made some cookies with a Girls Scouts theme for a troop fundraiser and Alicia Feightner was happy with how they turned out.
“They were daisies, brownie vests and the Girl Scout logo,” Feightner said. “She put so much detail into the designs, even tiny patches on the vests. They were truly beautiful.”
She wasn’t just happy with how they looked, even though they were nearly perfect. She said they tasted good, too.
“We loved our cookies,” Feightner said. “They were delicious. Some of the decorated ones I've had in the past have been gross and not really made to be yummy, but beautiful … Hers are delicious and beautiful. The cookies are thick and chewy and you can tell they are made with quality ingredients.”
Each cookie was decorated, packaged individually and Feightner actually ended up ordering more for other events — a batch of JoJo Siwa birthday cookies and Grinch Christmas cookies.
White isn’t just a home baker, though. She said she doesn’t do anything halfway, so after she realized how much she enjoyed baking, she moved herself and her three children to New York so she could attend The Culinary Institute of America, where she graduated at the top of her class. She said after her schooling, she can make just about anything you ask, but some of her favorite things to make are wedding cakes and croissants.
She’s fallen in love with a hobby that started in a therapist’s office as a way out of rock bottom.
Now, she’s hoping to open a brick-and-mortar as soon as she can, so she can share what’s changed her life with even more people.
“I started baking just because it helps relieve stress, but I didn't understand why,” White said. “But now, I'm just really passionate about it. I love everything about it. I can't do anything else.”
This story has been updated from its original version.