In the Market for Pound Cake?May 01, 2021 01:46PM ● By Karey Solomon
Imagine the dense, rich scent of pound cake, made in small batches as it used to be, and, fortunately, as it still is in some places. That deliciousness wafts through Kathy Siegrist’s Bakery 303 kitchen most days as she mixes and bakes seventeen different flavors of pound cake for the Wellsboro Farmer’s Market, festivals, special events, and private orders.
It’s a skill she first learned at the age of seven when she became her mother’s baking buddy. “I loved having my mother’s undivided attention,” she explains. “I helped measure and pour, and I loved to crack eggs. My older sister was more interested in reading. I was all about baking and had a sweet tooth.” As an older, more accomplished baker, she’d often fire up the oven and bake a cake when her parents went out on errands. “I’d do it to surprise them. It made everyone so happy!” By sticking to her mother’s tried-and-true recipe, which mostly involves a strict adherence to only using quality ingredients, she’s created a niche among the Wellsboro Farmer’s Market vendors only a pound cake could fill.
In addition to being a stellar baker, Kathy is a self-confessed “people person.” A conversation with this pound cake enthusiast is almost guaranteed to work up an appetite. For example, she’ll freely share the unwritten eating law of her Classic Butter Pound Cake, made exactly as her mother taught her: “Slice it about an inch thick and toast it, or even better, butter it and griddle it, then slab on more butter—that’s awesome.” Or, she’ll advise you on how to enjoy strawberry shortcake the New Jersey way. Make pound cake the base, then top it with juicy, sliced sweetened berries and whipped cream.
For those who want to explore other flavors, she offers at least sixteen more, including Lemon-Glazed Lemon Pound Cake, popular across a tri-state area because “the glaze is tart and so amazing;” Coconut Pound Cake she describes as “awesome—one customer makes coconut ice cream and serves that with the cake;” Chocolate Stout and Chocolate Cherry Stout Pound Cake—made with beer and “soooo delicious, that’s one of my favorites!”
To be exact, at one time or another, they’re all her favorites. There’s Serious Chocolate Pound Cake made with the same black chocolate used in Oreos. Crumb and Get It, named by her husband Bill, features a wonderfully buttery and cinnamon-y crumb topping. Of the Pecan Streusel Swirl, she says, “You should smell this house when it’s baking!” Seasonal fruits and berries are also featured in the roster, offering the mingled flavors of tart and sweet in each bite.
Kathy began Bakery 303 in 2016, encouraged by a co-worker and regular at the Wellsboro Farmer’s Market who thought her pound cakes would do well there. As she planned, her thoughts kept returning to her mother, who died in 1983, and who was not only her mother but also her best friend. Bereft, she hoped for a sign from beyond. She got what felt like several unmistakable messages of encouragement. A lilac bush that for years had remained stubbornly green and leafy burst into bloom. Lilacs were her mother’s favorite flower. Puzzlingly, she also kept coming across the number 303—as change from a purchase, the numbers where the pump stopped at the gas station, as the exit number when she visited her father, and often the moment during the night when she awoke. On one such night, peering at her digital clock in the darkness, she realized “303” was also a sideways rendition of the letters “MOM.”
Pound cake is a dessert with a long history. Kathy says it became “a thing” soon after it was invented in the early 1700s, given its name because its ingredients were an easy-for-the-baker-to-remember pound each of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs. With the addition of other ingredients, this leads to either a generous four-pound cake baked in a Bundt pan or two slightly-more-than-two-pound loaf cakes. A survey of farmer’s market customers proved that most preferred the loaf shape, possibly because it’s the best fit in a refrigerator for those who, like Kathy, prefer their pound cake chilled.
Not surprisingly, Kathy’s pound cakes evoke an appreciative nostalgia. “When people eat classic pound cake, it brings you back to the time your mom and grandma used to make cakes with simple, classic ingredients—always the best of the best ingredients,” she says. “Some say they haven’t had a cake that tasted like this since they were children.” She even brews her own vanilla. She says it tastes so much better than store-bought. The price of a loaf varies according to the cost of ingredients; in 2021 the classic cakes will cost about $14, while the ones with expensive additional ingredients will be more.
How good are they? For one thing, there are rarely leftovers. Kathy’s husband has dibs on any unclaimed coconut ones, but more often if he wants a cake she has to intentionally bake him one. Extra cakes are often cut into eighths, the chunks covered in layers of Ghiradelli chocolate and decorated to become “pound cake pops.” They join her caramel/chocolate and sprinkle-covered pretzels as single-serving “because I deserve it” indulgences. Her confections are also available through the area’s Delivered Fresh service (deliveredfresh.localfoodmarketplace.com).
The family baking tradition has continued in the Siegrist family, helped along by a conversation Kathy had with Santa one Christmas, leading to the gift of a KitchenAid mixer for each of her two now-adult daughters. Molly became a pastry chef and a consulting advisor to the 303 Bakery; Valerie, a social worker, is the family’s cheesecake specialist.
Kathy continues to experiment with new recipes—in the summer of 2021 she expects to add a gluten-free pound cake, a few new flavors, and a larger version intended for the family reunions and gatherings that lockdown-weary people are looking forward to resuming when it’s possible.
The Wellsboro Farmer’s market season begins May 20 and continues to October 14. Find it Thursday afternoons from 2:30 to 5:30 on the front lawn of the Presbyterian Church, Main Street. In case of a pound cake emergency, you can reach Kathy by phone at (570) 404-8047, through her Bakery 303 FB page, or at bakery303.com.