Erwin Zirkler, 88, longtime Union Square baker

November 25, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

For 50 years, baker Erwin Zirkler filled the air around his bakery with the tantalizing aromas of fresh-baked bread, cakes and doughnuts, seriously tempting the caloric intake of his Union Square customers.

Mr. Zirkler, a Pasadena resident since 1978, died Saturday of a cardiac arrest at North Arundel Hospital. He was 88.

Until retiring in 1978 because of a bad hip, Mr. Zirkler dutifully rose in the wee hours in his rowhouse-bakery at Hollins Street and Carrollton Avenue, and put on his white pants, shirt and baker's cap.

Down to the basement ovens of the bakery, with the awning out front and the swinging neon sign that advertised "Zirkler's Bakery," he began the daily cycle that put fresh rolls, buns and bread on the dining room and kitchen tables of several generations of West Baltimore customers.

Ardebella Fox and her husband, Melvin, who live in the 1500 block of W. Lombard St., were loyal customers of the bakery from 1959 until its closing in 1978.

"Anyone who shopped at Hollins Market also shopped at Zirkler's," said Mrs. Fox yesterday.

"It was a hallowed neighborhood institution," said Mr. Fox, whose family has lived and shopped in the Union Square community since 1885.

"I particularly recall the bakery around Thanksgiving and Christmas when it was jammed with customers. It was such a pleasant place," he said.

Mrs. Fox expressed a particular fondness for Mr. Zirkler's cream-filled doughnuts, Christmas stollen and eclairs, while her husband praised the cakes and cookies.

After the bakery was sold, Rudolph Rauch became the baker. He recalled Mr. Zirkler's former customers coming in and asking for old favorites.

" 'Why don't you make what Mr. Zirkler made? Where is the pound cake, yellow cake and layer cake?' So, I had to learn how to make them," he said, laughing.

The bakery's other specialties, according to Mr. Zirkler's daughter, Linda Z. Pritchett of Annapolis, included rye bread, honey-dipped doughnuts, hand-decorated wedding cakes and his famous peach cakes.

"The secret of the peach cake was that he didn't use a thick peach jelly. He used a peach juice topping that was then sprinkled with 10X-sugar," said Mrs. Pritchett.

Mrs. Pritchett, with her two sisters and mother, carefully wrapped the bakery's wares in white paper and tied them with string.

Mr. Zirkler eschewed commercial icings, preferring to make his own vanilla and chocolate icing and glazes, said family members.

"Because the bakery was closed Sunday mornings, customers used to come to the back door for hot buns," she said.

A somewhat quiet man who never lost his German accent, Mr. Zirkler enjoyed making and decorating wedding cakes.

"When he was decorating a wedding cake, he couldn't talk. He was lost and in his own world," she said.

Mrs. Pritchett said that her father kept all of his recipes in his head and in German.

"If anyone asked for a recipe, he gave it to them in German, in metric measurements and for nothing less than 20 cakes," she said, laughing.

"And," she added, "he didn't eat much of what he baked."

It was in the bakery that Mr. Zirkler met his future wife, the former Helene Ella Tischner, also a German immigrant, who came to shop. The couple married in 1934.

Born in Stuttgart, he was reared in Obereisesheim, Germany, where he was educated and learned his trade as a baker. Mr. Zirkler immigrated to Baltimore in 1928 and went to work in Amhrein's Bakery, which he purchased in 1936.

He was a member of the Liberty Lodge of the Masons and an active Shriner. He also was a member of St. John's United Church of Christ in Catonsville.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Hubbard Funeral Home, 4107 Wilkens Ave. in Baltimore.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by two other daughters, Hermine Z. Broughton of Littleton, Colo., and Janet M. Haack of Hanover, Pa.; a sister, Wilma Zirkler of Obereisesheim; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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