Once again, the Cake Lady's museum gets a reprieve
Now, New Orleans takes the cake.
In fact, Louisiana has taken more than 100 of Kuyper’s elaborately decorated cakes and plans to put them on display starting Saturday at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on the city’s Mississippi River riverfront.
Kuyper, known in baking circles as “the Cake Lady,” collected the inedible, polystyrene foam-based cakes for decades at her Pasadena home, where she conducted tours and staged cake-decorating classes. When she grew older, she moved to the Hollenbeck Palms retirement home in Boyle Heights and took her collection with her.
The retirement home’s operators allowed Kuyper to display her cakes in a basement room. But when she died in 2010 at age 92, Hollenbeck Palms officials made plans to scrap the 140 cakes.
That’s when Susan Holtz, a culinary department instructor at the West Valley Occupational Center in Woodland Hills, came to the cakes’ rescue. Over the years, she had escorted bakery class students to Pasadena and then Boyle Heights to view Kuyper’s cakes.
After learning of Kuyper’s death, Holtz marshaled a dozen of her students to move the collection to the vocational school’s Winnetka Avenue campus where they were used as a teaching tool.
The cakes were a popular instructional aide until June, when budgetary problems forced the Los Angeles Unified School District to cut services at 61 adult education centers and Holtz and others received layoff notices.
This time the New Orleans museum stepped up to save the Cake Lady’s one-of-a-kind collection. Representatives of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum packed up the cakes and drove them cross country in September.
Kuyper’s collection will go on display starting at 4 p.m. Saturday as part of an exhibit the museum calls “Tout de Sweet: All About Sugar.” The exhibition is being underwritten by Domino Foods Inc., a Louisiana-based sugar refiner.
Museum officials said Holtz will continue her involvement with Kuyper’s collection as its curator. Those attending the opening will be served edible cake from a New Orleans bakery, they said.
-- Bob Pool
Photo: Frances Kuyper, pictured here in 2002, had a collection of cakes, including one of her favorites, an air-brushed cake depicting Princess Diana. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times