Mabel Linthicum: For the love of cake

Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Mabel Linthicum, a resident at St. Charles Health Campus, shows Kali Ballard of Jasper, 6, how to spread frosting across a cake at the Mad Batter bakery in Jasper on Saturday. Linthicum baked and decorated cakes for 30 years. Her trip to the bakery was part of the Live a Dream program at St. Charles Health Campus. 


With a steady eye and steady hand, Mabel Linthicum drew lines of sweet icing on the side of the round cake in front of her Saturday afternoon.

The Birdseye woman was particular in making her beautifully simple design, as family members and friends stood around watching and smiling.

Mabel, 86, commented that the icing was cold and a little stiff, making it harder for her to squeeze it through the cake bag and tip. But she was clearly enjoying decorating the cake at Mad Batter bakery in Jasper.

After all, this is something Mabel, a licensed cake decorator, hadn’t done in about 10 years.

Mabel’s career spanned about 20 years. But she‘s made cakes for longer than that, as she started out making them for friends and family.

She got interested in cake decorating after eyeing a cake that a friend had made.

“I thought that it was so pretty,” Mabel recalled. “And I thought, ‘Now, that’s what I would like to do.’”

So she did. She learned the basics and practiced, practiced, practiced. She always made cakes from her home. As she and her Air Force husband, the late William Linthicum, moved around as a military family, she found herself making cakes for others.

When the family settled in Birdseye in 1974, Mabel took classes to become a licensed decorator. Through her business, she created hundreds of cakes for all kinds of occasions — weddings, birthdays, anniversaries. She even recalled making a bikini-shaped cake for a Fourth of July party.

“The biggest cake I’d ever made was for 600 people,” she said.

The couple had four daughters; three are still living. And the girls would help Mabel deliver the cakes, which was a challenge in itself.

“We’d help her deliver and set up the cakes,” daughter Margie Andry recalled. “And you had to be careful with that. She would have to make sure the cakes didn’t move and shift around as she drove. It was very delicate work.”

Mabel put a sign on her vehicle that said, “Caution: wedding cake delivery,” with a picture of a wedding cake on it. She would always take extra icing with her as she made the delivery, just in case she needed to do any touch-ups on the design.

Mabel Linthicum, a resident at St. Charles Health Campus, pipes frosting on a cake at the Mad Batter bakery in Jasper on Saturday. Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald

Mabel had a room in her home that she used for her craft. “I’d have all my cake pans hanging up on the wall in the extra bedroom,” she said. “That way I know what I had and which one to get.”

After the walls were filled up, she put the extra pans in a crib that she no longer used.

The week she needed to create a cake was the week she’d bake the layers. “I’d bake and freeze the large cakes early” in the week, she said. Doing that and then thawing them helped firm up the cake to make it easier to cover with a thin coating of icing, to seal in the crumbs and to decorate. Smaller layers could be baked later in the week.

Although the girls helped with depositing the cakes, all the decorating was done by Mabel herself, by hand. “I remember watching her,” Margie said. “She was so focused and could do it so easily. She worked for hours.”
None of the girls pursued the talent, Margie said.

And why did Mabel go through all the time and work to create cake designs? It’s very simple.

“I enjoyed making them,” she said.

That enjoyment shined on Saturday as she got to decorate one more time.

Mabel is a resident at St. Charles Health Campus in Jasper and Saturday’s cake decorating was made possible by the health facility’s Live a Dream program.

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