Cake is often the centerpiece of celebrations for life’s special moments, such as birthdays, graduations or a new baby. For the past 33 years, many families have chosen Mae Stover, cake maker extraordinaire, to make just the right centerpiece to mark their special occasions.
During the week, Mae is a patient service representative at Meritas Health North Kansas City. On weekends, she is often in the kitchen mixing and baking for the next festive occasion.
Mae loves baking. Her talent began with treats she made for her childhood tea parties. At age 19, she attended the Missouri State Fair and visited the Wilton display, where she saw someone making roses from icing. “I watched her for three hours. I was mesmerized,” Mae remembered. She bought decorator tips, an icing bag and an instruction book, and Mae started practicing.
Her first attempt to decorate a cake was for her sister’s birthday. Mae remembers it well. As Mae got out of the car, the layered cake fell upside down onto the driveway. Surprisingly, the cake held together, but gravel adorned the top. “My sister thought it was funny, but I was mortified and cried. I was so proud of my decorating,” Mae said. Family members simply scraped off the gravel and enjoyed the cake.
Transporting any cake, especially a wedding cake, can still prove challenging after 39 years. Like any experienced cake creator, Mae has her share of white knuckle stories: wedding cakes sliding around in the back of her car and cracking on top from bumpy roads. Still, nothing an experienced maker can’t camouflage with greenery.
Today, Mae typically sticks with traditional cake flavors, like chocolate, white, strawberry and lemon. She is self-taught and some of her favorite creations are children’s birthday cakes, where she draws characters to match birthday themes. She also decorates wedding cakes and plans to create a special cake for her son’s upcoming wedding. “I always told my husband I couldn’t stop making cakes until my son got married, and now he is,” Mae laughed.
Mae prefers decorating birthday cakes over wedding cakes. She said, “I am always afraid I won’t meet their expectations for the wedding cake.”
She remembers a five-tiered cake she made for a Quinceañera (Hispanic celebration for a Sweet 15 party). “The bottom layer cracked during transport, so we went with a shorter cake,” Mae said. “I put the cracked layer in a plastic bag, and when I looked, the kids were eating the cake out of the bag!”
Less Baking Ahead
This year Mae, 64, plans to slow down her confectionary hobby. In 2017, she kept busy with six weddings, eight birthday parties and several other occasions for which she provided cakes for family and work events.
For Mae, her hobby has become more about tradition. She hopes to pass down her knowledge of baking to her grandchildren, and her daughter, Michelle, who also is a decorator extraordinaire.
Mae’s Tips for Scrumptious Cakes
- Lower the oven temperature by 15°F to prevent the hump in the middle of a cake, which is caused by the cake rising too fast. Then, after 15 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and gently drop the pan on the counter to pop the air bubble. Return the cake to the oven and monitor the remaining baking time.
- Remove the cake from the pan immediately after taking it out of the oven. Don’t allow the cake to keep baking in the pan.
- Wrap the cake in plastic wrap immediately after removing it from the pan to keep the cake moist.
Scratch or Mix?
- Purchase cake mixes. They taste just as good as a cake made from scratch.
- Use an electric mixer instead of a hand mixer to whip more air into the cake and make it lighter.
- Make cakes a few days ahead of time and freeze, especially if you are feeding a large group.
Use real cake only for the top tier that the couple cuts. Provide sheet cakes for guests. “There’s nothing uglier than hacked up wedding cake,” Mae laughed.