June 17 2009 12:00 AM

DeWitt baker produces top pie


It’s official: Greater Lansing is home to the best fruit pie in the country. Cherry pie, to be exact, baked by Linda Hundt, of Sweetie-licious Bakery Café in DeWitt, and sanctioned by a blue ribbon at the National Pie Championship in Orlando. The annual contest is sponsored by Crisco and the American Pie Council and televised on Food Network.

In total, Hundt — decked out in a throwback apron and sprightly as the day is long — walked away with five first place ribbons, including Best in Show honors for her Tom’s Cherry Cherry Cherry Berry pie. The task was not an easy one; Hundt was up against more than 130 competitors, including name brand, commercial bakers. Being a few thousand miles from home didn’t help, either.

"It’s just so hard to win with fruit pies down there," Hundt said. "What I can do here blindfolded, it doesn’t work down there."

Hundt normally bakes her pies, which are filled with up to eight cups of fruit, in a commercial oven, but in Orlando she had to use a typical household oven. The humidity and sea level difference were variables that also needed to be accounted for, but the biggest obstacle might have been the ingredients; Hundt usually relies on local produce. "It is somewhat surreal to think I ended up winning," she said.

While in Orlando, Hundt also got a taste of television production schedules. The crews covering the event recorded her and other contestants baking pies, but her grand-prize winner never made it onto film. So after the fact, Hundt donned her apron and acting hat and made the pie again for the TV cameras, straining to subdue and conceal her excitement after having won the prestigious award.

"I don’t think I ever made that face in my life," she said of the moment her name was announced as best in show. "It was like a smile-cry of weirdness."

The dedication of the pie made the victory all the more special. Hundt personalizes every recipe she bakes, dedicating pies to friends or family who have affected her or her family’s lives. This particular cherry pie was made in honor of Tom Hundt, Linda’s State Trooper brotherin-law, who valiantly battled brain cancer before dying in April, a week before the competition. Linda said Tom Hundt constantly gave her confidence in her confectionary venture, not to mention handyman skills when her shop needed drywall or other projects.

"I love the fact that his legacy lives on," she said. "He encouraged me, he believed in me, and everyone needs to be believed in. He made a huge difference."

Along with inspiration and elbow grease, Hundt said ingredients are key — the secret, in fact. "Michigan cherries, Michigan blueberries," she said with pride.

For her strawberry rhubarb pie, she said, "We get strawberries down the road, I don’t use any (others), and I only use them during the season," she said. "People want an apple pie right now,

other blue ribbon creations include her raspberry cherry pie and a
Dutch crumble-topped delight that deftly combines tart fruit with sweet
filling and rich crust; It makes taste buds moan with pleasure.

reaching a pinnacle, the work is never finished for Hundt. "It’s not
like it’s the end of my rainbow," she said. Hundt is drafting a
cookbook and making plans for additional locations in the area, perhaps
beginning with downtown Lansing. "I love to make people happy,"

Hundt said. "All day long, people come in here happy and they leave just as happy. I have the best job ever."

Bakery Café, 108 North Bridge St., DeWitt, 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday, (517)
669-9300, www.sweetie-licious.com

Ribs for your pleasure

REO Town Custom Motorcycle show will launch its first ever rib cook-off
June 20. The contest, which organizer Beth Simonds hopes will grow in
the future, will pit two local grilling aficionados for bragging
rights. The Pork Posse, a group of friends who band together during the
summer months to barbeque at numerous festivals, sling their charred
pig with the slogan, "You’ll love our meat in your mouth, you know it’s
going to be good." And in the other corner, usually set up with a
portable grill at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Mount
Hope Road, is Michael’s Southern Style Jack Daniels B-B-Q. The winner
will receive a fireplace pit courtesy of Budweiser and City Pulse. The
festival runs from noon to 8 p.m. on Washington Avenue, south of I-496.
Proceeds from the show, nicknamed “Hogs for Dogs,” will benefit the
Humane Society.

Cool treats

a five-year drought, soft-serve ice cream is back on tap in Lansing’s
Old Town thanks to Arctic Corner. The new shop recently opened in the
building that used to house Tate’s Freeze, at the corner of Grand River
Avenue and Center Street. In addition to soft-serve, the shop offers
shakes, sundaes, hot dogs and nachos. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.