Arlington Heights' Jane Bethke makes Coeur a la Creme
Everybody needs somebody in their life like Jane Bethke, a woman who bakes frequently, shares generously and is fond of saying, "give me layer cake and bubbly, and it's a party."
Now those are words we can all live by.
Jane bakes two to three times a week, eats sweets routinely and happily produces luscious cakes for any occasion she wants to make special. Take her 50th birthday party, for instance.
To celebrate she invited over a gang of girlfriends, baked eight different cakes and served them with Champagne, of course. For a sweet farewell she let everyone take home their favorite leftovers (though not the bubbly) in cute cake boxes.
"I've been known to make them for my children's friends, or when my daughter sings in a concert, and for every birthday," says Jane. "For anything special, it's definitely a layer cake."
For birthdays husband Neil gets apple spice with cream cheese icing; Eliot, 19, lemon poppy seed with cream cheese icing; Isabel, 17, angel food cake with whipped cream and berries; Violet, 11, honey pound cake in the shape of a bee hive with honey glaze. For herself, she makes white poppy seed with custard filling and cream cheese icing.
"I've had that since I was born," she says. "My mom shipped it all over the country," following Jane to college and various jobs.
A member of two book clubs Jane contributes treats that cleverly match the month's reading material, like Coeur a la Crème for Moliere's French farce, "Tartuffe," and a fruit crisp for "Little Women" because author Louisa May Alcott's childhood home in Massachusetts was called "Orchard Home."
Given all that, what would you say are the odds that Jane would be not only a Weight Watchers success story, but has been a meeting leader for more than a year?
Well, don't bet against her.
Jane lost 30 pounds on the program and travels to seven or eight meetings per week to inspire others to lose weight. Among her tips: ask yourself if the food is worth it, keep an eye on portion size and exercise regularly. Jane walks 31/2 miles at a brisk clip, three to five days a week.
"I've always had sweets and treats around for my family," she says. "When you're denied something you want it more. You just have to ask yourself if you are really hungry for it; it will be here tomorrow too and it will taste just as good."
Here are some of Jane's cake baking tips:
Eliminate icing mess: Place four squares of wax paper on the serving plate beneath the cake before icing, after, gently pull each square out.
Second life for egg shells: Wash them out and dry completely; crush into small pieces and store in airtight container. When you have a vase or other vessel that's difficult to clean, just pour in some egg shells, water and dish detergent; swish and drain.
Presentation: "Don't make it wait," use your cake as a centerpiece, garnished with edible flowers, candies or taper candles.
"It will remind diners of what's to come so they can plan ahead and decide if (dessert) is worth it."
- Laura Bianchi