Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Cake Ladies Who Fed the Cast of The Help

They took mama’s recipe and fed the cast of The Help

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When ‘The Help’ was shot in Greenwood, the Delta Delicacy ladies baked all the cakes on the table in the pivotal scene at the Junior League Ball. /Photo by Erin Scott

Greenwood, Miss. – Sandwiched between a health food store and a vitamin shop lie the kitchens of Delta Delicacy. “It was mama’s recipe,” Gwen Toomey says of what has created a busy second job and a rewarding hobby for this enterprising group of three schoolteachers. “She was a great baker. She’s 80 years old and still helps us out in the shop.”
When that happens, three generations of women from tiny Money are in the Delta Delicacy kitchen baking caramel cakes from the recipe that built the business – Gwen, her neighbor Adrian Tribble, and Gwen’s daughter, Jennifer Roden.
Before they knew it, their cakes were getting shipped out of state, featured in magazines and the movie The Help, and thrilling brides at fancy weddings throughout the Delta.
But back to Toomey’s mom.
“At Christmas she would make cakes. Ambrosia cake, jam cake, German chocolate and caramel. Just good cakes. And when I was growing up you didn’t have cake all the time. It was an occasion,” Toomey says. Now after the school day, the three women become bakers for a few hours each evening, creating chocolate, caramel and strawberry cakes that are sold through the Mississippi Gift Company.
“Momma taught me. Then I threw a lot of caramel icings out before I ever got it right,” relates Toomey, who can lecture at length on the difficulty of cooking with caramel.
“My brother and I ate a lot of cakes that didn’t look pretty,” interjects Roden.
Toomey jumps back in: “My husband Don used to love it. [He’d say] ‘Did you mess one up?’ I gave Adrian the recipe and she threw a lot of caramel icings out. We took the cakes to school for different functions.”
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For a few hours most evenings, the ladies are hard at work, creating chocolate, caramel, and strawberry cakes that are sold through Mississippi Gift Company. /Photo by Erin Scott

Roden finishes the story: “And we realized there was a market for them. A lot of people don’t cook anymore, especially my generation.”
Something that is great for business at Delta Delicacy. So the passion for cooking and baking has been passed down.
Roden recalls sitting on the kitchen counter as a child, mother Gwen giving her flour and water. “I would put my hands in that bowl and just play with it.”
What started as cakes for friends and school fundraisers led to wedding cakes. The first of which was for the wedding of Adrian Tribble’s daughter.
“We didn’t go to the ceremony. Jen and I stayed with the cake,” Toomey says of their first one, a banana-pudding number that they drove in 110-degree weather at six mph in a Chevy Tahoe, with Roden in the back watching the top tier start to slide in the Delta heat that the Tahoe’s A/C couldn’t quite vanquish. Fortunately, they made it before the cake collapsed.
“There was no pressure because no money was exchanged,” says Adrian, shrugging.
The two other bakers disagree.
Since then, Delta Delicacy has baked cakes for everything from “baby reveal” parties to book clubs, including one in New York that ordered a caramel cake to savor the Southern story of The Help. For the movie version, they baked all the cakes on the table for the scene at the Junior League Ball.
“We joked that each cake needed a ‘stunt cake’” says Gwen, explaining why they had to bake multiples of every cake. While the movie was in town, Delta Delicacy had crew members coming in to buy a few for themselves as well.
Lately, they’ve been expanding a little at a time, bringing more of the community into the act. They host cookie- and cake-decorating sessions for children.
But they learned that even tasty cakes and cookies have their limits. They had to establish a minimum age limit after an icing-stuffed 3-year-old on what may have been a sugar high felt compelled to bite someone on the posterior, leaving lip marks of powdered sugar.
Which, the ladies might say, is just one of the hazards of success.
– Erin Scott, Meek School of Journalism and New Media, University of Mississippi
 

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