Bake at 180 degrees then upload to TikTok: Meet the 70-year-old baker who’s gone viral


All I want to do is lick my fingers. Each one is thoroughly speckled with cinnamon-laced brown sugar soaked with warm melted butter. I’m dimpling this hard-to-resist mixture into a supple potato-powered dough, which will soon be baked in the 19th-century beehive oven blazing away beside me.

“That’s very good. Keep going,” encourages Sister Deborah, my 70-year-old instructor for this afternoon’s baking class at the 200-year-old Winkler Bakery. I’m in historic Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, learning how to make sugar cake, a favorite in Moravian culinary culture, a German-influenced, Czech-adjacent cuisine that came to this region with Moravian settlers who founded Salem in 1753.

Just four-foot, nine-inches tall, Sister Deborah (known as Deborah Crews when she is off-site) is dressed in modest garb, traditional in the bakery’s founding era: Frilled white bonnet, blue and white plaid apron, and flower-freckled blouse. The only inkling of modernity are her glasses. A quick look at my phone would reveal another notable connection to the 21st century: TikTok stardom.



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