They don’t just knead it, they love it

Making cookies, cakes, people smile

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Three-year-old John Talbott of Silver Spring (above) sizes up the pastries in the display case at Woodmoor Pastry Shop while munching on a cookie on a March 29 visit to the Silver Spring store. Rows of cupcakes (below) decorated for Easter sit in the lit display case.

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Lisa Mihovich⁄Special to The Gazette

Three-year-old John Talbott pressed his nose to a glass case of goodies in the Woodmoor Pastry Shop, making one of his most important decisions of the day.

Should he have the yellow-frosted smiley face cookie twice the size of his hand? Or the tulip cookie coated in yellow sugar? Or perhaps its red sugarcoated twin, or a cookie in the shape of a bunny?

He settled on the yellow tulip — and no sharing.

Talbott and his mom, Kate, are regulars at the family-owned Woodmoor Pastry Shop, which has been in the Woodmoor Shopping Center for 46 years. Owner Joanna Gray, a Silver Spring resident, has been working at the bakery for nearly that long. She started there four years after her parents opened the business.

Her grandfather had a bakery in Cumberland before her parents brought their culinary skill farther south.

‘‘I really love it,” Gray said. ‘‘... We make people happy.”

The bakery is closed on Mondays, but open 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. the rest of the week. It caters to commuters who drop in for a doughnut on the way to work, and those who stop in on their way home for rolls or mini-pizzas to go with dinner, or a cake or pie for dessert.

The day starts early for employees, who get to the store at 1 a.m. to start mixing bread and rolling dough, then icing doughnut and Danish pastries after they’ve been baked, getting them ready for customers who want breakfast. They’re usually done baking by 2 p.m.

‘‘It’s a nice, comfortable place to work,” said longtime employee and Silver Spring resident Mary Willson, the store’s ‘‘cookie queen” who assembles platters displayed inside the store’s glass counters.

Cupcakes are the current hot seller, with Easter products not far behind. For the upcoming holiday, the bakery is selling cross cakes, a lamb cake, a Peter Rabbit cake and old-fashioned hot-cross buns.

Everything is made from scratch — there are no mixes in the old-fashioned kitchen, which still features the original ovens that were in the facility when Gray’s family moved into the property. And decorations, no matter how ornate, are done by hand. Gray recently finished a two-tiered jungle scene on a cake.

‘‘We’ve done birthday cakes, wedding cakes and then do their children’s birthday cakes,” Gray said. ‘‘I just mailed three coffee cakes to a guy in New York. His wife called and asked if we could send them — that’s what he wanted.”

Gray said she’s gotten to know many of them over the years, including some ‘‘old school” Redskins, like former quarterback Sonny Jurgensen.

‘‘I can’t tell you how many Redskins used to come in to buy cupcakes,” she said.

Members of the current team don’t stop in, but that doesn’t stop her from cheering. Pennants and posters of the football team adorn one of the bakery’s walls.

‘‘It’s a community bakery,” Gray said, adding that it often donates food to nearby Montgomery Blair High School and will often also work with the University of Maryland, College Park. She tries to hire Blair students, like Rachael Bernstein, 16, a Blair junior and Silver Spring resident. ‘‘I always used to come here when I was young and I’d say, ‘I want to work there,’” Bernstein said.

Now, after school and on weekends, Bernstein spends her days behind the counter, and she’s learned quite a bit. She has perfected her change-counting skills and has also enjoyed getting to know customers.

Robert Lorence, one of the store’s regulars since he moved to the neighborhood 14 years ago, likes the bakery because it’s not mainstream like bakeries in grocery stores. ‘‘It’s sort of like an old-fashioned bakery. Growing up, you had bakeries like this,” Lorence said.

‘‘I come here quite a bit,” he said. ‘‘I usually come here for the bread and doughnuts, and occasionally a pie.”

Kate Talbott said she and her son, who live in the neighborhood, often stop by. Last week, they needed to drop by CVS for a prescription. But they couldn’t do that without a treat.

Talbott said she often drops for cookies and cupcakes, and usually picks up something for parties at her daughter’s elementary school.

The food is good, she said, and she likes that the bakery is family-oriented and friendly.

‘‘We just love it here,” she said.