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Family affair: 57th annual Country Store Bake Sale has this pair cooking for a cause

 

Lucy Willcutt, 12, and her grandmother, Janice Hollis, are busy in Hollis' kitchen making red velvet cake, one of Willcutt's specialties. It's her dad's favorite. Willcutt and Hollis are among dozens of volunteers who will donate made-from-scratch treats for the 57th annual Country Store Bake Sale set for Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m. at the S.D. Lee Home. Willcutt is the daughter of Shannon and Jason Willcutt of Columbus.

Lucy Willcutt, 12, and her grandmother, Janice Hollis, are busy in Hollis' kitchen making red velvet cake, one of Willcutt's specialties. It's her dad's favorite. Willcutt and Hollis are among dozens of volunteers who will donate made-from-scratch treats for the 57th annual Country Store Bake Sale set for Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m. at the S.D. Lee Home. Willcutt is the daughter of Shannon and Jason Willcutt of Columbus. Photo by: Courtesy photo/Kelly Hayes Photography

 

Launch Photo Gallery

 

Lucy Willcutt and Janice Hollis hold Willcutt's finished red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

Lucy Willcutt and Janice Hollis hold Willcutt's finished red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.
Photo by: Courtesy photo/Kelly Hayes Photography

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Janice Hollis and her granddaughter Lucy Willcutt never need an excuse to get together in the kitchen, but the 57th annual Country Store Bake Sale gives them a good cause to cook for. Always held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Country Store, which benefits the Stephen D. Lee Foundation, draws an enthusiastic crowd lined up when doors open at 10 a.m. at the S.D. Lee Home at 316 Seventh St. N.  

 

Homemade cakes, pies, candies, breads, cheese straws and jellies festively presented for the holidays are the draw. Hollis' hummingbird cake and Willcutt's red velvet cake will be among them at the event organized by the Association for the Preservation of Antiquities in Columbus and Lowndes County.  

 

Willcutt learned to make the red velvet dessert from scratch at a holiday cakes workshop she and her grandmother took at Mississippi University for Women's Culinary Arts Institute last year. The 12-year-old is well-known at the Culinary Institute; she has attended culinary camp for the past four summers and, with her grandmother, took many weekend community classes offered by the university in the past couple of years. 

 

"Chef Mary Helen Hawkins at The W has really been a big inspiration to Lucy," said Hollis, who is called JisJis by her grandchildren. 

 

"It's fun," Willcutt said about cooking. "It teaches me lots of new things that most kids my age don't know how to do." 

 

Soon grandmother and granddaughter will make their specialties for next Tuesday's Country Store.  

 

"It's important to make it from scratch," said Willcutt of her dessert with cream cheese frosting. "That's how I learned to make that cake, and it's better than from the box." 

 

Her grandmother said, "It's so special to be in my kitchen cooking with Lucy. She loves it, and I love it. Just to see her eyes light up when she's finished something she started from scratch is so special to me." 

 

The relationship is also meaningful to Shannon Willcutt -- Lucy's mother, Janice's daughter. She treasures her own memories of time spent with her grandmothers shelling peas, shucking corn, being in the kitchen as they cooked, or sitting around the table enjoying a meal they prepared. 

 

"I truly believe one of the highlights of a child's life is time spent with their grandparents," she said. "I am so thankful Lucy has had the opportunity to learn the art of cooking alongside my mom. Not only is this an invaluable gift she will be able to use the rest of her life, but it will forever evoke sweet memories of time she and my mom spent together." 

 

 

 

Preserving a landmark 

 

The Country Store is vital to the financial health of the historic Lee Home, said Eulalie Davis, president of the Stephen D. Lee Foundation. Proceeds have helped fund a wheelchair ramp, make kitchen improvements, buy furniture and pay insurance on the Mississippi Landmark which houses the Florence McLeod Hazard Museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Funds raised Tuesday will be earmarked for a new roof and related brick work. 

 

"This year, we will use the proceeds to literally put a roof over our heads," Davis said. "I am forever grateful to the ladies who work long and hard on this project."  

 

 

 

Numbers, raffle 

 

The Lee Home Country Store Bake Sale doors open at 10 a.m. Nov. 21. 

 

"But beginning at 8 a.m., you can come by the Lee Home and pick up a number, and you'll be able to line up according to your number before the doors open," said Rita Douglass, president of the antiquities association.  

 

Raffle tickets for a floral centerpiece donated by Mildred Austin may be purchased when numbers are picked up, for $1.  

 

Although the event is billed as 10 a.m. to noon, it's not uncommon for everything to sell out before noon, Douglass noted.  

 

The atmosphere is a festive one, Hollis said. "It's just so exciting to see all the things that people bake. Everybody's so jovial going in, and all the items are packaged so pretty. ... The Lee Home is such an important part of Columbus history, and I think it's wonderful that we do something to preserve it." 

 

Douglass invited others to join in the mission. "We would love to have anyone interested become a member of the antiquities association," she said. Contact Douglass at 662-327-3193, or see Douglass or Lee Home docents president Lillian Wade at the Country Store event. 

 

 

 

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE 

 

 

 

For the cake: 

 

3 cups all-purpose flour 

 

2 cups sugar 

 

1 teaspoon salt 

 

1 teaspoon soda 

 

1 teaspoon cinnamon 

 

3 eggs, beaten 

 

1 1/2 cups salad oil 

 

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 

 

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained 

 

2 cups chopped pecans, divided 

 

2 cups chopped bananas 

 

For the frosting: 

 

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese 

 

1 cup butter 

 

2 16-ounce boxes confectioners' sugar 

 

2 teaspoons vanilla 

 

 

 

  • For the cake, preheat oven to 350 F. Butter three 9-inch cake pans; line with parchment paper and butter again and dust with flour. 

     

  • Whisk together flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix oil, vanilla and sugar until combined. 

     

  • Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Beat until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy on medium speed. 

     

  • Stir together pineapple, bananas and 1 cup of pecans. Add to egg mixture; stir until combined. Add flour and blend well. 

     

  • Divide batter between pans. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan. Cool completely on wire racks. 

     

  • For frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners' sugar. 

     

  • Spread frosting between layers, on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of pecans on top.  

     

    (Source: Courtesy of Janice Hollis) 

     

     

     

    RED VELVET CAKE 

     

     

     

    For the cake: 

     

    3 cups cake flour 

     

    1 teaspoon baking soda 

     

    1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa 

     

    8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature 

     

    1 cup vegetable oil 

     

    2 cups sugar 

     

    4 large eggs, room temperature 

     

    1-ounce bottle of red food coloring 

     

    1 teaspoon cider vinegar 

     

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

     

    1 cup buttermilk 

     

     

     

    For cream cheese frosting: 

     

    8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature 

     

    2 each 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature 

     

    1 tablespoon vanilla extract 

     

    5-6 cups confectioners' sugar 

     

     

     

  • For the cake, preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper and butter it as well. Lightly dust with flour. 

     

  • Sift cake flour, soda and cocoa; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, oil and sugar together on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, until very pale and thick. 

     

  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add food coloring, vinegar and vanilla. Mix 1-2 minutes. 

     

  • Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix for another 1-2 minutes. 

     

  • Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 40-50 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean. 

     

  • Let cool for 15 minutes, remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.  

     

  • For the frosting, beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Frost between layers, top and sides of cake. 

     

    (Source: Lucy Willcutt, from MUW Culinary Arts Institute)

     

  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

     

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