Showing Care with Baking
The Deed of Trust creating the Milton Hershey School contained information on what was to be provided for the students. In addition to providing for daily needs by taking care of their health, making sure they had clothes to wear, proper exercise, and recreation, they were to be fed wholesome food. The central kitchen prepared the meals that were delivered to student homes in special meal trucks. In addition to three well-rounded, healthy meals a day, students were treated to homemade desserts baked by the school bakers. School orchards grew apples and cherries for delicious pies and the fruit would go to the canning room to be processed before heading to the bake shop for the pies. Long-time baker, Denise Wagner’s favorite sweet treat to bake was pies and remembers baking 150 pies at a time—all with crust made from scratch.
In addition to fruit pies, popular desserts were Shoo Fly Cake and cookies. Cookies were delivered to the student homes in large tins with one-third date cookies and two-thirds chocolate chip. Around Thanksgiving, the bakers shifted to baking the popular sand tarts for two weeks and baked cookies all day. They sent trays of cookies to the offices and tins to the student homes so the students could have the cookies before they went home for Christmas Break. The bakers took extra care with the delicate cookies.
“We always liked [that] you got perfect cookies in your can. And we would layer so many, and then we’d put a piece of wax paper, then more. Because they were so thin and fragile, and we didn’t want them breaking on the ride.”
When asked if they ever burned any cookies, Wagner replied, “No, we never did. But Mr. Fisher who was our president, would come through the supply center every morning and say hello to each person. And he knew you by name, we didn’t have our name on our jackets then, but he knew you by name. And he always would yell in the bake shop, “Any burnt cookies today?”
Another big day for baking at MHS is Milton Hershey’s birthday. Cakes are delivered to all student homes so they can celebrate the special day. Birthdays are a big day in any child’s life, and it is no different at MHS. The 1926 catalog described how it was commemorated. “All boys’ birthdays are remembered, and the boy always gets a birthday cake with a candle.” Not only students get a cake, but houseparents and their families as well. That means that the bakers make over 2,500 birthday cakes a year. Senior students in Transitional Living apartment-style homes get cupcakes to share.
In May, we celebrate World Baking Day, but at MHS, our baking and food service staff show they care about the students every day.