I’ve written before about the importance of sharing recipes and not taking secret recipes to the grave.
Recently, though, I’ve come up with another reason for sharing them: immortality.
When a recipe lives on, the originator of the recipe lives on in our memories and on our dinner tables.
Such is the case with this week’s feature story on Art’s Place restaurant, which closed in 2001.
Not only were former owners Jennie Morris and Dodie Varca willing to share the formulas for their former restaurant’s specialties, they also made an effort to point out that most of those dishes were the work of one woman, Edith McGuckin.
McGuckin was the sister of former Art’s Place owner Ernest Genovese and ran the restaurant for her brother along with their other sister, Christine Campbell. While Campbell was a fixture in the front of the house, it was McGuckin’s skill in the kitchen that kept customers coming back to Art’s Place.
I had never heard of Edith before this story. She died in 1989.
But from now on, every time any of us makes her recipe for bean soup or for sweet and sour salad dressing, a small part of her will live on.
The same goes for Henry and Margaret Aberth, the founders of Akron’s former City Bakery.
Henry died in 1970 at the age of 86, his wife in 1973, and their bakery was later sold. But thanks to the memories of local residents, the pair are warmly remembered for their devil dogs, a cream-filled chocolate snack cake.
When I wrote last week about a local woman’s desire for the recipe for City Bakery’s devil dogs, two of the Aberths’ grandchildren contacted me.
Henry Hiss, 80, said the Aberths had 21 grandchildren, and 20 of the cousins are still living. If Hiss’ name sounds familiar, that’s because he went on to found Hiss Bakery in Barberton, which his son Karl now operates.
Hiss explained how the devil dogs were originally made by hand with a baker squeezing the batter out of a pastry bag and onto a baking sheet to make their elongated “hot dog” shape. Later, the devil dogs were made by a cookie machine that dropped the batter into the same shape.
At its peak, City Bakery had a fleet of 100 trucks on the road that delivered bread, cakes, and other treats to homes in the Akron area.
Unfortunately, Hiss did not have the devil dog recipe.
That wasn’t a problem because his cousin, Nancy Baumgardner, did. Or at least she knew who did.
Baumgardner wrote to tell me about her grandparents and the history of their bakery, which once was booming at 532 Grant St.
“The building on Grant Street remains empty for the most part which makes me feel sad each time I see it, as it was bustling with activity and wonderful aromas when I was growing up,” she wrote. “I’m sure there are still people in the area who worked at the bakery in some capacity.”
What’s more, Baumgardner contacted another cousin, Helen Franks, whose father, Richard Aberth, worked in the bakery. Franks had her father’s recipe book.
I was pleased to learn that the recipe for devil dogs that we printed in the Aug. 22 Food section was nearly identical to the one provided by Baumgardner and Franks.
But since I promised to print the original recipe if I ever got it, you will find it below.
I also suggested to Hiss that he might hint to his son Karl that perhaps Hiss Bakery needs to start making and selling devil dogs again. After all, it is a family recipe.
For those of you who clipped last week’s devil dog recipe, the only difference is an increase in the amount of cream of tartar from ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon in the cakes. Since the instructions on the original were a little vague, I have tweaked them a bit so they can be clearly understood here.
Here is the recipe:
CITY BAKERY’S DEVIL DOGS
For the cakes:
⅔ cup vegetable shortening
1¼ cups sugar
2½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa
1¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
For the filling:
2 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup shortening
2 egg whites
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
For the cakes: Cream together shortening and sugar. Then add eggs, one at a time.
Mix together the flour, cocoa, soda, cream of tartar and salt. Combine milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the vanilla and milk.
Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake, cool, cut in two lengthwise and fill.
For the filling: Combine all ingredients with mixer until it forms a soft, fluffy frosting.
Makes about 1 dozen, depending on size.
Editor’s notes: No baking time or temperature were noted in this recipe. We recommend baking at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
Because the filling contains raw egg whites, which could contain salmonella bacteria, for safety, use pasteurized eggs.