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Let ‘em eat …

By Staff | Jan 14, 2011

Sally Wilkie, of rural Cherokee, has been decorating cakes for 25 years. Roughly 75 percent of the cakes she prepares are for anniversaries and birthdays.

CHEROKEE – Sally Wilkie is a life-long learner living in this central Cherokee County community.

As proof of this, she took an adult education course on making and decorating cakes in 1984, just a few years after her twins were born. She used what she learned in that class to go into the cake baking and decorating business.

She has been doing so for just over 25 years on the dairy farm where she and her husband Scott Wilkie reside.

Sally Wilkie has developed what might be considered by some of her customers a family tree of cakes.

“I’ve been making cakes for generations of some families,” she said. “I’ve done cakes for birthdays, confirmations, weddings, anniversaries and then the same for those people’s grandkids.” Wilkie does all of her advertising by simple word of mouth.

Sally Wilke said her most common cake topping is butter frosting. She said she’d love to teach cake decorating to her 4-H club, but said the boys prefer learning to make things or work with animals.

Growing up No. 12 of 14 children, it would seem that she would have learned everything there was to know about baking before leaving hom,e but she said that’s not so.

“Most of what I’ve learned my mom taught me after I was married. I enjoy baking the most, I guess, especially with my grandkids. We don’t keep as many cookies and bars around here as we used to when we had our kids on the farm, so when I bake with my grandkids, I send the treats home with them.”

After an eight-year stint at Cherokee’s Hy-Vee as a doughnut and cake maker and then in business for herself, she took her trade of baking cakes to others in a classroom setting.

She has taught two cake-making and decorating classes at Western Iowa Tech’s satellite school in Cherokee. “I focus on how to make a level cake which is extremely important when selling to customers. I also show my students how to use two different frosting tips, a star and a writing point.”

She noted that templates and sprays have become popular and she sometimes uses them, but always starts with the customer in mind. “I ask them what occasion the cake is for, if they are looking for sheet or stacked cake, what color frosting is preferred and the cake flavor desired.”

Finding herself as her own worst critic, Wilkie noted a time when she just wasn’t satisfied with a cake she made: “My family thought it was wonderful. I thought the design made it look like it wasn’t level. I presented it to the customer – who was getting married – and she loved it. I guess I’m just tough on myself!”

Even when customers are pleased, she finds the most challenging part of her job “hauling the cakes, setting them up, and sometimes doing so in the heat and humidity.

When I want the cake to get there just perfectly, I don’t have the time to stop on the way for lunch!”

Wilkie has hauled cakes as far away as Sioux Falls and Ames for family events, stating that most customers are in a 30-mile radius of her home.

Wilkie and her husband Scott are dairy farmers, so you’ll see butter and cream in many of her recipes, not just in her cakes and frostings.

She also is up early to see their cows get milked, so she’s plenty aware where all that good butter and cream comes from: “I’m usually out with the cows from set-up to clean-up in the morning and afternoon – it’s a two and a half hour process.”

Wilkie is also active in supporting kids who want to be in 4-H, but don’t have access to calves to participate, allowing interested kids to work with their calves.

“They have to come out to the farm to work with them, though. It has to be a good learning experience. I also enjoy working with our 36 kids in the Mill Creek 4-H.

“With farm chores and helping to lead the group, I don’t take as many cake decorating jobs as I used to, but I take orders when I can fit them in.”

Chicken pot pie

1 whole chicken, cooked and deboned

1 cup chicken broth

1 8-ounce. package frozen vegetables

1 can cream of onion soup

1 can cream of chicken

Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 stick butter melted

Mix chicken, vegetables, broth and soup. Place in buttered 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.

Crust: Mix flour and butter to make a paste. Slowly add the milk. Pour over chicken mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until lightly brown.

As a time-saver, can be made the day before.

Applesauce gelatin squares

4 3-ounce packages sugar-free cherry gelatin or a flavor of your choice

4 cups boiling water

2 cups cold water

1 46-ounce jar unsweetened applesauce

In a bowl, dissolve jello in boiling water. Stir in cold water and applesauce. Pour into 9-by-13-inch dish coated with a nonstick cooking spray. Refrigerate for eight hours or overnight.

Cut into squares.

Caramels

2 cups white sugar

1 1/2 cups white syrup

1 stick butter

1 can Eagle Brand Milk

Mix together and boil to 245 degrees. Stir constantly. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Pour into 9-by-13-inch greased pan. When set, cut into squares and wrap.

Homemade ice cream

6 eggs

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups cream

5 cups milk

2 to 3 tablespoons vanilla

Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat well – the longer the better (5 to 10 minutes).

Add cream, vanilla and milk. Pour into 5-quart freezer. If not at the “full” line, add a little more milk.

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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