As Father’s Day comes near, I can’t help be reminded of the man who inspired me in so many ways, including getting into decorating cakes.
Before he came to America, dad worked in a pastry shop in Athens Greece. He didn’t move to the United States until 1959, when he took his first job working at the University Club’s bakery in down town Chicago . His next job was working at the Morrison Hotel as a Pastry Chef. Around 1963, he started working at Heinemann’s Bakery decorating petit fours and wedding cakes.
My father was the man who made the cake for every occasion. He made everything from his own wedding cake to a cake made in honor of his mother returning to Greece and a Memorial cake for his late uncle. Of course, he always made a cake for mine and my siblings special occasions, including our baptisms and birthdays.
I could remember as a child standing next to the kitchen table, barely able to see over the top, watching my father make beautiful cakes. He would never use pastry bags. Dad just rolled wax paper into a funnel, snipped the top off and added a piping tip. I can still remember how effortlessly he could frost a cake. He’d start with a mound of frosting on top, take his spatula and set it just right as he spun the cake turntable resulting in a perfectly frosted finish. It was so smooth; dad used to call it a “sheet of ice.”
Dad won lots of contests, too. He took home first place from the Baker’s Society held at McCormick Place. He made so many impressive cakes, including one for the Santa Fe Railroad. It was a giant sheet cake, about 72” x 40,” that looked like a train. He made the “train tracks” out of wafers and made light posts and gates with spun sugar. It was so impressive the president of the railroad company sent him a handwritten note thanking him for his beautiful work.
He also made a cake for the Cub Scouts father & son baking contest. At the end of the contest, the cakes were auctioned off as part of a fundraiser. But, my brothers loved what they created so much that they wanted to take it home. My parents ended up paying $80.00 for that cake after it was all said and done.
So throughout my younger years, I watched a very talented man decorate beautiful cakes and saw how much fun dad had doing it. When I began working for Wilton, about 22 ½ years ago, it brought back all the wonderful memories of my father, and I began baking and decorating cakes myself. They aren’t quite as beautiful as his, but the decorating naturally because I still remember how my father used to do it. I remember how he made his roses and leaves, and piping around the sides. I take a lot of pride in what I do, just like my father did. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!