Tina Veverka has a fan following.
|Tina Veverka with her decorated chocolate cake. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
She's fast becoming the "Cake Lady" among her friends and her co-workers at Wood Lane. To see just one or two of her creatively decorated cakes is to understand why.
"She's a wonderful baker and would eventually - one day - like to open a bakery. You should see some of her cakes. They are amazing," praised Brandi Wallace, a former Cook's Corner subject.
Veverka, the staffing coordinator, is Wallace's immediate supervisor at Wood Lane Residential Services.
"I've always had this thing (about having) a little cafe-bakery," Veverka admitted. "I've actually taken some small-business courses, back in the day" in an effort to bring the dream a step closer to reality.
Last year, to benefit Wood Lane's silent auction fundraiser, the two women offered a jointly-produced prize basket.
"She made two desserts and I made two desserts," Wallace said of Veverka. "One of the cakes she made was a basket of flowers. It didn't even look like a cake, it was so authentic."
For other occasions Veverka has made cakes with a Mickey Mouse theme complete with frosting mouse-ears hat topper, a bridal-dress cake for a wedding shower, and others even more architecturally challenging.
"One I feared, at first, was going to be very tedious was a cheeseburger cake," overflowing with frosting simulated-cheese, lettuce and catsup, "but it turned out very fun."
Then there was the time she was asked to create a cake for a little girl's tea party-themed birthday.
"It had a tea pot on top of a sheet cake and four tea cups surrounding the pot. Everything was made of cake," Veverka explained.
She fashioned the spout and handles out of fondant icing. "That's a bit heavy, compared to buttercream, so it was a bit of a challenge" to keep them from collapsing.
"I've been doing these cakes now for three, four years on an ongoing basis," said Veverka.
Wallace's own dream job would be to open a rental hall and catering company "and sometimes (Veverka) and I talk about having a one-stop place for wedding planning. I will provide the place and the food, she would provide the wedding cake, and another friend we have would provide the decorations/ambience."
Maybe someday it will come true.
Meanwhile, Veverka is sharing with Cook's Corner readers her favorite recipe for chocolate cake and the buttercream icing she uses to make delectable pale pink frosting roses.
She found the cake recipe in Taste of Home magazine.
"I was looking online for a good chocolate cake recipe. I tried it out and it was pretty good," she discovered.
"I'm always making cakes (since) there's always something coming up. And of course I make a trial cake prior to, at home," to work out any kinks.
She has been asked to make a wedding cake in July. The bride has ordered a multi-tiered confection for 110 guests.
With three tiers "I said 'you can have three different flavors,' but she wants all three to be red velvet."
Coincidentally, the entire cake is to be frosted in the pale pink rosettes like today's Cook's Corner.
By contrast, the most popular cake flavor with the ladies in Veverka's bunco group is almond.
So, when Veverka made her own daughter's graduation cake last year, and the daughter in question "let me do whatever I wanted," Veverka opted to make one of the tiers almond "and that flavor was gone very quickly."
Veverka decorated the cake with cut-out circles of fondant - "big round ones, and smaller polka dots" - in the school colors.
Although Veverka's job has her commuting to Bowling Green, she actually lives in Port Clinton.
"So when I have cake orders in BG, I just deliver them."
Her buttercream frosting combines butter and vegetable shortening.
"I use both. I don't personally care for the taste when it's pure vegetable shortening, so I do half and half."
The key to her success is to make her cakes fresh, to order.
She recalls getting a call on Christmas Eve from a woman who wanted Veverka to make a cake for her son's birthday, which was the next day, Christmas.
The would-be customer wouldn't be put off, insisting that Veverka should just pull a cake out of her freezer and decorate it quickly.
"I like to please people" but since she only makes cakes fresh, alas, there were no tiers tucked away.
For those who plan to try Veverka's delectable, moist chocolate cake, she offers one warning.
"Make sure your ingredients are fresh."
One of the only times she baked something that didn't turn out was a batch of cookies from a new recipe.
It turned out the fault wasn't with the recipe. "The baking soda was old. It made the cookies flat."
Veverka made another batch later with a brand-new box of baking soda and they turned out perfectly.
Moist Chocolate Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup baking cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl. Add oil, coffee and milk; mix at medium speed for 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 2 more minutes. Batter will be thin.
Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round baking pans (or two 8-inch round baking pans and six muffin cups).
Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool cakes for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool on wire racks. Once cake is cooled, frost and decorate as desired.
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons clear vanilla
2 pounds confectioners' sugar
6-8 Tablespoons of water or milk
In large bowl, cream butter and shortening with electric mixer (I use a stand mixer). Add vanilla. Put confectioners' sugar into bowl, then add 6 tablespoons of water and beat at low speed till blended then increase to medium speed until light and fluffy. (You may need to add more water if the consistency is too thick.)