Cake Lady’s Lovely Museum Under Threat
There are very few things in this world, which evoke so strong an emotion in us, like a well-baked and beautifully decorated cake. The Cake Lady, Frances Kuyper, knew this well, which is why she immortalized her love for cakes and baking in the form of a lovely cake museum in 1994. Unfortunately, her cake museum is under threat these days due to financial problems being faced by the “Los Angeles Unified School District” (LAUSD).
1) The Cake Lady
The news comes as no less than a shock to those who are familiar with Kuyper’s love for cakes and had visited the cake museum. Described as someone who was “known for pioneering use of airbrush,” Frances was a vaudeville performer who had taken her cake decoration skills to an extraordinary level. Her skillful execution of frosting can be gauged from what a fellow member of the “International Cake Exploration Societé”, Carolyn Mathewson, says, “She was the first to airbrush a cake without blowing holes in the frosting.”
2) Frances’ Legacy
What Frances achieved during her career as a cake decorator, she assimilated in an exhibition area, known as the cake museum. The museum holds more than 140 cakes on display but none of them is edible. All the cakes, hosted on plastic or Styrofoam bases, serve as a showcase of what Frances had achieved in terms of sugar-work and decoration techniques. Frances and her husband, Frankie Kuyper, spent their savings worth $40,000 to set up the museum and prepared for everything, including vermin strike. When the museum opened in 1994, Frances told the press, “I had the place fogged with bug bombs before I opened. I have a termite guy come every month. I’ve tried to think of everything.” After Frankie’s death, Frances moved to a retirement home in Boyle Heights, where the administrators allowed her to keep her cakes and the 1,000-book cake-decorating library in the basement. The museum continued to invite tours and demonstrations until Frances’ death in July 2010.
3) The Uncertain Future
Along with Frances’ obituaries, press covered the fact that her museum now faced an uncertain future, till a thrilling tale of rescue came to knowledge. In August 2010, a group of bakery students from the San Fernando Valley vocational school, saved the cake museum from being dumped forever. The rescue mission was actually designed by Susan Holtz, a culinary department instructor at the West Valley Occupational Center (WVOC), in Woodland Hills, who was used to bring her students to tour thee cake museum. Explaining her motivation behind saving the museum, Holtz told the press, back in 2010, “These are famous cakes. They show a lot of advanced techniques. There are really important people in the industry here. About three dozen cake artists are represented.”
4) Fresh Trouble
However, just two years after that daring rescue was achieved, it seems Holtz will have to again rally public support to save the museum. The LAUSD is facing financial crunch, forcing it to cut back its adult education services into half. Since the WVOC’s entire staff, including Holtz, have received layoff notices, the cake museum is again in a limbo. For now, Holtz said, “I’ll rent a storage unit if I have to. I don’t want these cakes to be thrown out. We have a lot of history in these. They cannot be thrown out.” Susan thinks to dearly about the museum because she realizes that with the cake museum, the district would be losing much more than a baker’s legacy.
Frances Kuyper took cake decoration to the heights where it could very easily be regarded as one of the top 5 fine food arts to savor. No surprise, then, that Susan is resolved to save the Cake Lady’s last legacy. Would you like to do something about it too?
Image Courtesy: ediblegeography.com
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