September 12, 2018My mother never bought a bakery cake. It was a matter of thrift and pride in her apple pie's reputation and whatever her oven produced, sweet or savory.
Truly, I didn't know what a bakery was until my mother led me into Sanders at Gratiot and Seven Mile. I never dreamed candy and cakes could be so beautiful. We sat on stools at the soda fountain. She ordered two hot fudge sundaes.
We preferred the flavor of Sanders hot fudge to Kresge's. Thus began my life-long loyalty to Fred Sanders, the sweetness he brought to Detroit, our new home.
When my family moved to Warren, I yearned for a Sanders hot fudge sundae. However, I was content with a scoop of ice cream with Mom's two-layered chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. As my sisters and I grew, our birthday cakes transformed into bosomed dolls with fluffy buttercream dresses decorated with cascading red roses.
Mom didn't buy pastries, either. She filled the skirt of our Aunt Jemima cookie jar with homemade oatmeal, raisin, walnut cookies.
She baked date bars. They didn't last long. Later, she found a recipe with a large yield of peanut butter bars coated with melted Nestle chocolate chips blended with peanut butter.
My mother never made donuts. "The hot oil is too dangerous. You girls might get burned," she said.
Who needed plain ole donuts when Mom placed hot pecan pies and peach cobblers on the counter to cool? Hers was my favorite bakery in the world, for she taught by example how to prepare and appreciate wholesome, delicious, and lovely desserts. She savored hers with hot tea or coffee.
I remembered this upon my first encounter with Butternut Bakery in Warren. During my brief employment with the Bank of Commerce, fellow employees chose me as the designated donut runner for lunch break.
Doubting my donut qualifications, I made the rounds taking orders and collecting exact change.
"I'd like a buttercream donut," one teller said.
A buttercream donut?
Well, it wasn't round with a hole, but a long pastry with buttercream bulging from its middle. I licked my lips, laid down prejudice with 50 cents, and savored my first donut with hot tea.
On Fridays, customers lined up early for Butternut's famous banana cake. That happens when a particular food carries the essence of a place for generations.
There's Lexington, Kentucky's "original" glazed donut, for instance.
On our recent drive through downtown Lexington to Mom's gravesite, Mel and I passed a red brick building with a long line outside the door.
"Looks like a bakery," I said. "Let's stop after we visit the cemetery."
Mel nodded with visions of donuts in his head.
An hour later we stepped into Spalding's Bakery advised by a fellow customer that everything is delicious.
"But I always buy the plain glazed donut," she said.
Mel devoured his custard-filled and chocolate-glazed donut.
Considering calories, I savored a molasses with raisin cookie.
Dear Reader, Mom wouldn't approve, but I'm thinking about Spalding's plain ole glazed donut—the essence of Lexington since 1929.
Email Iris at email@example.com.