Mary Lou Groff's cakes are worth drooling over. I did. Groff was the head cake decorator at the Merritt Bakery and Restaurant in Oakland.
I worked nearby so whenever I visited the bakery to buy lunch in the 1990s, I gazed at the beautiful cakes in the display cases. I knew Groff through our church in San Leandro, so I took an extra interest in the cakes.
There were cakes for every happy occasion — weddings, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s day — and they were always beautifully decorated with flowers, edgings etc.
Groff, 72, learned the art of cake decorating at the Baskin-Robbins store that she and her husband owned in Oakland. She first learned by experimenting and later took a class at the Piedmont Community Center.
After they sold the store, the mother of five went to work at Lucky's as a cake decorator for 12 years before she was hired by Merritt Bakery.
“After working for Lucky’s for 12 years, I wanted to work in a different atmosphere so I started working at the Merritt Bakery as the head cake decorator.”
She retired from Merritt Bakery in 2008 and has been since been teaching beginning and advanced cake decorating classes at the , Chabot College in Hayward and at the Castro Valley Adult School.
The 30-year resident of San Leandro keeps her decorating tools packed neatly in a box. She has flower nails, pastry bags, tips, spatulas and icing colors. With the help of these tools, she creates “beautiful, stunningly unique cakes.”
Not surprisingly, she also likes to paint landscapes, which adorn the home she shares with her husband of 50 years, Paul Groff. The couple has 12 grandchildren and has been foster parents to 59 babies.