For baker, decorating is the icing on the cake


May 04, 1998|By Lisa Breslin | Lisa Breslin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WESTMINSTER resident Debbie Rich Morris will never know for whom actress Kirstie Alley was shopping when she came into the Main Street Bakery last year and ordered a double-tiered, heart-shaped cake with a pink Cadillac convertible on top.

Main Street was converted to an Amish town for the filming of "For Richer or Poorer." And while most people were packed like sardines behind the barricades to get a glimpse of Alley or her co-star Tim Allen, Morris was whipping up one of her elaborate creations and chatting with a star.

A self-taught cake decorator and baker, Morris has worked for stars before. She decorated Cal Ripken's birthday cake with the Oriole emblem; for one Baltimore museum, she made a cake that featured a design by quilter Elizabeth Talford Scott.

A cake with fountains of running water, or staircases, even a 6-by-4-foot, five-tiered cake -- imagine the cake, and it has probably been created by the former owner of Main Street Bakery.

Morris is now the bakery manager at Eddie's of Roland Park in Baltimore. She said she misses the small-town atmosphere and the customers who'd come in on a regular basis for her scones or apple strudel when she worked in Westminster, but she doesn't miss the 17-hour days or making doughnuts at midnight.

Alley's request for the heart-shaped, pink Cadillac cake wasn't one of the more unusual requests Morris has happily fulfilled. In the past, she made cakes for the Mechanic Theater in Baltimore. "Every time they would change plays, I'd duplicate the program cover on a cake. That was fun to do," she said.

People bring in pictures of their animals, and she puts the likenesses on cakes. Customers bring in pictures that their young children have drawn in elementary school, and she re-creates them on a cake.

"What I like the most about decorating and baking is that the cake makes every occasion that much more special," Morris said. "It makes people happy, and the cake is often the highlight of every occasion. When someone tells you it's gorgeous, you feel really good."

Morris started baking 17 years ago at her grandmother's house in Glen Burnie. She said she couldn't imagine doing anything else for a career.

So her daily routine was to drop by the bakery at the local grocery store and ask for a job. She asked again and again and again until she was hired as a counter girl.

Then she bugged the bakery manager about decorating. She had read the books; she was good, she told him. Eventually she got her chance under the threat that if she wasn't any good, she would be back at the counter.

Within six months, she became the head cake decorator at another store within the chain. She has been happily baking and decorating since.

Her children, Jessica, 16, and Andrew, 13, have eaten so many leftovers from various bakeries over the years that they'd much prefer Little Debbie's, they tell her. Family joke. Debbie Morris, Little Debbie's.

"They both know how to bake," Morris said. "Have since they were tall enough to stand at the table. They can braid breads, all kinds of stuff, but they don't like to. I wouldn't push this career on them. It's a hard career with long hours and lots of holiday stress. But I love it."

Morris offers several cake-decorating demonstrations at Eddie's Market on Charles Street. She said she has also offered advice over the phone. Recipes for icing, helpful hints -- she's a great local baking hot line.

Women of distinction

For the second year, the Soroptimist Club of Carroll County has inducted a distinguished woman in the community into the Women's Hall of Fame. Paula A. Langmead, superintendent at Springfield Hospital, was honored during a ceremony in the atrium at Carroll Community College yesterday.

She is the first woman and the first nonphysician to be superintendent at Maryland's largest psychiatric hospital.

"It is truly an honor for me to be receiving this award from the Soroptimist Club of Westminster and Carroll Community College," Langmead said. "This would not be possible without the tremendous support team I have."

"Paula has advanced the status of women, no doubt," said Joan McGrath, a member of the Soroptimist Club, a professional women's service organization. "Since she was hired in this position, the number of women in senior management has risen."

Ellen Stahley, who retired from Springfield in June and continues to volunteer there, was awarded the Women Helping Women distinction last week by the Soroptimist Club.

A volunteer who was known to raid her son's closet if someone needed a suit, Stahley lives in Westminster with her husband, Robert. She has four children, five stepchildren and 20 grandchildren (soon to be 21 grandchildren).

"I love it. Sometimes it gets nerve-racking, but I love it," Stahley said about her volunteer work.

National Day of Prayer

From 12: 10 p.m. to 12: 50 p.m. Thursday, rain or shine, people will gather at the Vietnam Memorial near the old courthouse in Westminster to observe the National Day of Prayer.

This year's theme, "America Return to God," highlights "our need to lift our community and our nation up in prayer before God and draw our nation back into a relationship with him," said Connie Hoge, who is organizing this year's gathering.

Anyone can participate. Church, community and business leaders will offer specific prayers for people, and there will also be spontaneous prayers, Hoge said.

"It's a specific time to get away from the rush of our daily routines and to acknowledge and communicate with God," said Gary Pearson, minister for the Westminster Church of Christ.

Information: 410-857-2893.

Lisa Breslin's Central Carroll neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 5/04/98

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