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Baking with a flair

By Staff | Dec 13, 2013

RUTH MARIE FABER displays a few of butter-enriched delicacies including what she calls “Ester’s coffee cake.”



LE MARS – The year was 1955 when a young Minnesotan, and later Fort Dodge-area resident, Ruth Marie Peterson, captured the title Princess Kay of the Milky Way and would serve as Minnesota’s dairy ambassador.

Today, as Ruth Marie Faber, wife of retired Le Mars, veterinarian, Dr. Wayne Faber, she’s quick to recall what she describes as her “awesome” experiences in promoting dairy products, including visits to several countries including one trip to Columbia

Faber, 79, while standing before the stove in the kitchen of her Le Mars home, recalled a somewhat bewildered welcoming custom agent and his curiosity about the symbolic gold-plated cowbell she carried with her.

ESTER’S COFFEE CAKE is a Faber “family favorite, easy to put together and travels well,” Ruth Marie Faber said.

Learning of her efforts on behalf of the dairy industry he quickly bestowed on her an additional title, “international ambassador” of the industry.

Faber’s commitment to the importance of dairy products and their use in recipes for her family remains evident in the variety of tasty deserts to be enjoyed not only by family members, but guests at church events and special commemorative gatherings.

Among the most notable of her offerings she suggests was her 18-ring Norwegian kransekaka, or crown cake, given former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller for his Norwegian daughter-in-law when he visited Iowa in 1971.

Faber credits her mother with her first interest in baking.

“Mother loved to make cardamom buns,” Faber said. “She’d give my sister and I a little ball of dough that we would attempt to tuck in and fold. It was fun.”

Her baking skills were later enhanced through 4-H food projects that were considered “a learning tool” as a member of her Webster County 4-H Club after moving to a farm near Fort Dodge with her parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Carl Peterson.

Added to her cooking achievements was being a 2011 finalist in the Iowa Egg Council baking competition.

Faber said she feels it’s “a special gift the Lord has given me” to use.

She said that with mixing bowl and spoon in hand she has enjoyed experimenting with her favorite recipes including Ester’s coffee cake and butter bars, which are found below.

Faber said her husband and children, Jay, of Le Mars, and daughter, Heidi, living in Switzerland, and her late-daughter, Ana, were frequently called on to evaluate her successes of these experiments.

She said the coffee cake recipe given by the late-Ester Mazvinsky has been a family favorite for 40 years.

“It’s easy to put together and travels well which meant I sent it often to our kids while they were in college,” Faber said. “It can be easily warmed up in the microwave or served piping hot out of the oven with lots of butter or jam.

“And, it’s a nice thing to serve with coffee when you have friends over.”

The butter bars are easy to make and the butter adds to the flavor, she said.

Her paternal grandparents, the late-Louie and Hjordis Peterson, following immigration from Sweden, lived in Fort Dodge where her grandfather worked at the gypsum mill and her grandmother at Lutheran Hospital.

Faber said a 40th wedding anniversary of her uncle and aunt in Gowrie set the stage for her and Wayne, a 1954 Iowa State College veterinary medicine student, to first meet.

They will observe their 57th anniversary on Jan. 27.

Ester’s coffee cake

1 cup shortening

2 cups white sugar

(Cream together until fluffy)

Add 3 eggs one at a time and blend with above.

3 cups flour mixed with 4 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon. salt and 1 13-ounce can condensed milk.

Blend till mixed. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Pour batter into 9-by-13-inch greased cake pan.


Mix together 3 tablespoons white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Sprinkle over batter. Cut in zig-zag with table knife.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove and cool.

Serve hot or cold. Freezes well.

Butter bars

2 cups butter (no substitutes)

2 cup sugar

4 eggs beat in one at a time

2 cups of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Blend all of above together and pour into 11 x 15″ jelly roll pan

Add topping (optional)

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup currents

Sugar cubes (crushed) or decorative sugar

Mix above together and sprinkle over batter.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes in 350-degree oven.

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