In Mel’s Kitchen

By Katherine Nettles 

el Miller doesn’t remember exactly how she got into baking. “I guess I’ve just always loved gluten,” she says. “I really just love feeding people and sharing food.” 

Growing up in Pittsburgh, she first came to Crested Butte on a ski trip in college. “I went to school in Ohio so it was quite an adventure coming to CB,” she says. “I fell in love with the crusty locals, the mountain and general charm of the community.”

After college she lived in Boulder for 15 years, but always had an eye on the Gunnison Valley. She even looked into buying Izzy’s bagel shop off Elk Avenue in the early 2000s but couldn’t quite make it work. “Finally I just went for it in 2016 and have been loving life here since.” 

Mel bought a converted horse barn in the Hidden River Ranches subdivision, and went to work transforming it. “When I bought the house it had dirt floors covered in carpet. 

“It is actually the original barn for the Hidden River Ranches HOA and was piecemealed into a home. I did a pretty big remodel in 2018 with the new kitchen, real floors and insulated walls,” she describes. The spacious kitchen is where she now creates new recipes and stages her regular baker’s column, Hidden River Recipes, for the Crested Butte News

Mel worked for a local bakery for a summer when she first got to Crested Butte and attended baking schools in both Colorado and France. But other than that, she hasn’t really worked as a baker. In fact, she’s more of a miner by trade. 

Mel started her career as a consultant running global supply chains for two major mining companies. “They had mines on five continents,” she says. Then she got into operations, running an open pit and underground gold mine in Canada. She says it was sometimes tough working in a very male-dominated industry. 

“But I’ve worked in that industry long enough that I am very comfortable.” Later she got into sustainability and is now the chief sustainability officer for a gold exploration company. 

“People just don’t understand that they need mining, all the time—in their phones, watches, electric vehicles,” she says.

When she isn’t working or playing in the mountains, she also volunteers at  CB Adaptive Sports Center and PAWS. During any other free time she tends to bake—preferably bread and croissants. “The croissants are just so rewarding…not to mention delicious.” 

She says the best way to bake at altitude is to employ the trial and error method. “I don’t have any specific advice—there are high altitude ratios but I find the best way to figure things out is to test out recipes and play.”

She recommends ample counter space to use as workspace, and soapstone countertops which are not easily damaged by heat.

As for favorite bakers, she says there are too many to name. “One recipe book I found while running a mine in Canada was Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynn Johnston. I would bake something every Sunday and then have it in my office to tempt folks to come in and chat,” she says. 

She takes the same approach in CB, bringing her cakes to friends, co-workers  or co-volunteers. “I think the community is what makes this place so special. The mountains are stunning and what bring you here, but the people and the community are what keep you here.” 

Lemon Bundt Cake Recipe



3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter 2 sticks, 

   at room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest, juice of 1 lemon

½ tsp of lemon oil (this is optional 

   but adds robust lemon flavor)

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1/2 cup milk any but non-fat

1/2 cup sour cream full fat preferred

1 tablespoon lemon juice fresh


1-2 tablespoons milk (I use milk instead 

  of butter because it limits separation) 

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoon lemon juice fresh



Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease the bundt pan (lots of cooking spray). This is an essential step for properly removing the baked cake, so be sure to do a thorough job.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the butter until fully smooth.

Add sugar and mix for 1-2 minutes.  The mixture should be well blended, light and fluffy.

Add lemon zest and blend. While still mixing, add the eggs, one at a time, with a few seconds of blending in between each egg.

Add half of the flour mixture, then pour in the vanilla and milk.

Add the second half of the flour and then the sour cream and lemon juice.

Don’t overblend – you want the ingredients combined but not overmixed.

Pour batter into prepared pan, using a spatula to smooth the top, as needed.

Bake 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs (but no wet batter).

Cool in the pan, sitting on a wire rack, until the pan is cool (or just barely warm) to the touch – about 1 hour.


Mix milk and powdered sugar and use a small whisk to combine.

Add the lemon juice and whisk. The glaze with 

thicken as it sits a room temperature, so you can 

play around with how thick you want it before 

pouring it over the cake.