Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Baking contest proves diversity is in good taste


Nancy Spence with Pumpkin Roll.


Toledo's bakers were out in full force Oct. 30, when they submitted 47 entries in the “Flavor of Diversity” baking contest. Sponsored by The Office of Affirmative Action/Contract Compliance, City of Toledo, the event was a fund-raiser for United Way and Northwest Ohio Community Shares.

Nancy Spence, who works for the Ohio Department of Health, won first place and $300 with Pumpkin Roll, a recipe she learned from her mother. “I have become known for the recipe,” said the mother of two teenage sons. “My husband Robert loves it and he even takes it to work.”

The pumpkin roll is cake made with canned pumpkin and a cream-cheese filling. Mrs. Spence thinks nothing of whipping it up after a day at work.

Second place and $200 went to Nouha Rezcallah for homemade Baklava.

Many may remember that four years ago, she and her mother-in-law, Mary Rezcallah, made 1,000 pieces of Baklava for the St. Francis Housewalk. Needless to say she has not lost her touch.

Actually Mrs. Rezcallah had five more entries in the baking contest: bird's nest, lady fingers, samboosik pastries, Lebanese coffeecake, and butter cookies.

Third place and $100 went to Natalie Higgins, who works in the Toledo City Law Department, for the kahlua-laced chocolate mousse called Death by Chocolate.

“The recipe comes from a cookbook that Edward Yosses gave me.” He is the former director of law for the City of Toledo who has since moved to Colorado. His brother is famed New York City baker Bill Yosses.

The original recipe was made with homemade brownies and from-scratch mousse. But she tweaked the recipe by using box <$eb>mixes to save time. The convenience of these products makes otherwise-complicated desserts possible.

The variety of recipes in the contest included Mexican cream cheese cake, angel nut pie with raspberries, homemade yeast rolls, pumpkin cheesecake, two caramel cakes, sweet potato cream cheese swirl pie, bread pudding, banana chocolate fudge cake, and sweet potato cheese cake with ginger snap cookie crust.

Eleven judges with food expertise were from diverse areas across the community. They rolled up their sleeves, picked up a fork, and made the hard decisions to select the winners.

Toni Moore, United Way fund-raiser with nonprofit organizations, donated a chocolate cake with raspberry cream filling with real fudge frosting, that was raffled yielding $60; the winner was Gene Borton.

The spectacular cake was decorated with 24 handmade chocolate leaves placed in alternating tiers like the petals of a flower. “It almost looked like a [chocolate] poinsettia,” said Ms. Moore, who was one of the three women who founded Lady Fingers in the West End, which was later sold.

Mary Wright, coordinator of the event, was thrilled with the contest. “We felt the affair was a smash. Not only did we make money for charity, but we were able to reach a broad segment of Toledo and surrounding area. There were new friendships forged. People were exchanging recipes. There was that one common thread that was food. People got to know each other. That's what it is all about.

“We applaud everyone for their participation,” said Ms. Wright, who credits Perlean Griffin, executive director of the Office for Affirmative Action, with the idea for the contest.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. E-mail her at

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