Whoever said you can't trust a skinny cook has never met Miletta Knob. Despite the legions of pies, cakes, loaves of bread and German specialties she's cooked over the years, she has stayed trim and fit.
Yet upon leaving home, all four of her kids joked they needed to get out before they got too chubby.
It's hard to resist anything that comes out of Miletta's kitchen, whether it's one of the standbys from her crockpot or an elegantly decorated cake.
She got into baking and decorating cakes to pick up a little extra cash while her four kids were in school. Little did she know she'd spend nearly every weekend of the next 13 years decorating wedding and anniversary cakes.
It all started with the 50th wedding anniversary of her husband's parents. A sister-in-law, Dovie Knob, had worked in a bakery so she said she would bake the cake if Miletta would decorate it. Dovie offered a few tips, and together they managed to come up with a cake that looked pretty good (as long as you ignored the extra layer of frosting covering up a depression in the back).
Soon other members of the large Knob and Distel families began asking Miletta to bake a cake for their special event, and little by little word got out to the community as well. Miletta's Catering was born.
Miletta says she learned something new with every cake she decorated. She took just one class, to learn how to pipe different types of flowers. Unfortunately, the instructor focused on roses — one flower Miletta had already mastered on her own.
Miletta recalls one event when she was handling the meal as well as the wedding cake. About 2 in the morning her husband came out of the bedroom doubled over in pain. She was convinced he was having a heart attack but she was up to her elbows in tinted frosting. Fortunately her son was visiting from Craig. She woke him up and asked him to take Ray to the hospital, and she kept piping flowers onto the surface of the cake.
"I'm a one-man show and I could not leave," Miletta said. "Thank goodness Alan was here and it turned out Ray had a gall bladder problem."
It was not uncommon for Miletta to wind up her work week in the Delta High School cafeteria then immediately start baking at home. She would work until midnight, take about a 15-minute power nap, and be good until Saturday night. "Then I was done for," she said.
Photo albums contain all the cakes she's done over the years, including a huge cake intended to serve 600 at her cousin's wedding. Two smaller cakes layered on top of the sheet cake were connected by a bridge. After pulling another all-nighter, Miletta was ready to load up the cake for the reception. But there was just one problem — the cake was assembled on a board measuring about 3 feet x 5 feet. She had turned the board on its side to get it through the kitchen door, and there was no way it was going back out that way. In the end, she and her helpers had to take out a large pane of glass and move the cake out through a window. That was the largest cake Miletta ever made.
An experiment with fondant turned into a disaster Miletta plans never to repeat. Her nephew's fiancée loved the smooth, silky look of fondant, so even though Miletta finds fondant inedible, she set out to make the sugary confection. It's possible to buy readymade fondant, but Miletta always tried to save money by making her own components. She got out her mixer and set to work. By the time a neighbor came to help shape the rolled-out fondant onto the large wedding cake, she had gone through 35 pounds of powdered sugar. "It was unreal," she said. "It was just beautiful but I would not want to do it again."
Just one cake ever fell, and Miletta is convinced it wasn't her fault. She and her daughter carefully stacked three tiers atop one another for a reception at a Grand Junction hotel. After they were sure the cake and the stairway were stable, they left the banquet room. As they were going out the door, band members were coming in to set up their equipment. She cautioned them about hitting the table with their instruments and sound equipment, but she's convinced that's exactly what happened. The hotel's kitchen staff took the damaged layers into the kitchen, trimmed away the mashed areas, and cut the rest of the cake into serving-size pieces.
One reason Miletta was booked for weddings every weekend was that her prices were so reasonable. Unfortunately, she didn't always take into account the time and skill required to put together some of the elaborate cakes brides requested. In one case, she piped hundreds of flowers onto wires that hung in her kitchen for three days. She did her own scrollwork, flowers and decorative trim, and invested heavily in cake pans of all shapes and sizes, columns, bridges, stairways, fountains and decorating tools.
In addition to cakes — including her own 25th wedding anniversary cake — Miletta's Catering provided salads, finger meals or entire meals for many weddings. Appetizers for the chamber's Business After Hours gatherings often came from Miletta's Catering.
After she had worked in the school cafeteria for 10 years, Miletta's youngest son graduated from high school. Miletta worked at the school one more year then decided to accept a job with more hours at the hospital. She finished out the school year in '93 and went to work at the hospital. She started out in the cafeteria where she was expected to work weekends, but she was booked for wedding cakes through November. Fortunately she had an understanding supervisor and after November she turned down any more requests for cakes — at least most of the time. "Sometimes they would catch me in a weak moment," she said. She has promised a wedding cake to her granddaughter in June, and Miletta and Ray's 50th wedding anniversary is coming up in February. She will make exceptions for family members and close friends.
Wedding cakes these days are generally much simpler, Miletta observed. Her granddaughter wants just a little beading and some dipped strawberries to decorate her cake. At a wedding Miletta recently attended, the cake was made entirely of doughnuts.
Miletta also bakes cakes and pies for fundraising events at her church and for Delta Doves, an organization that helps fund mammograms for women under the age of 55 who don't have health insurance. Delta Doves has just two fundraisers every year, a booth at AppleFest that sells quick breads, cinnamon rolls and apple crisp (all from Miletta's recipes), and a women's luncheon. The luncheon is catered by Altrusa International of Delta and features a fashion show and a silent auction. Every year Miletta bakes several pies and cakes for the auction. Her lemon strata pie once fetched $180. A decadent Almond Joy pie can bring in up to $120 for the worthy cause. "I have to sell them so I don't have them around the house," she said.
This year's luncheon is set for March 3. Tickets can be purchased by calling Miletta at 874-3110 or Beverly Moore at 835-4033.
Regardless of the occasion, Miletta loves to cook. The Knob Family Cookbook is filled with German favorites like cheese maldash, krepple (French doughnuts) and galreih (her husband and his brother love the taste of the fried head cheese made with liver, heart and tongue). Dompfnoodle is a favorite of Miletta, her daughter and her mother-in-law. Biscuit dough is layered with sauerkraut and steamed. Miletta fries sliced onions in lard in a really hot pan and pours the mixture over the dompfnoodles for an "absolutely fabulous" dish.
Only recently has Miletta begun measuring the ingredients for popular treats like her fried bread and cinnamon rolls, so she can pass on her recipes to family members. The recipe for the cinnamon rolls was perfected when Miletta worked in the school cafeteria. To this day, Miletta says people still "go on and on" about her cinnamon rolls. At AppleFest, the supply of about 300 cinnamon rolls was sold out by noon.
Her most treasured kitchen tool is her KitchenAid mixer, the second she's owned — she wore the first one out. If her house ever caught fire, she says the mixer would be the first thing she'd save.
A self-described "cookbook fanatic," Miletta has cupboards filled with cookbooks, many of which were gifts. She never tires of looking for new recipes to try. Her husband, four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren never have reason to complain about eating the same old thing when they sit down at Miletta's table.
She shares her cake decorating skills with the members of the Pride of the Valley 4-H Club. In years past she also held cake decorating classes for adults in her home.
Miletta has worked hard since she started driving truck on her parents' Olathe farm and she has no intention of retiring quite yet. She loves being around the patients and staff members at Delta County Memorial Hospital, and is looking forward to celebrating her 20th anniversary as a hospital employee in May. If she ever does retire she would like to learn to crochet and join a quilt club. She loves to sew and play horseshoes at family gatherings, where you know there will be homemade noodles and lots of other great dishes from Miletta's kitchen.blog comments powered by Disqus