A Catholic Chef in the Shadow of the Tetons — and a Recipe for Apple Cake
If I had not felt called to serve the Church,” says Sarah Beth Dippel, “I would still be baking.”
A native of Denham Springs, Louisiana, and now a resident of Jackson, Wyoming, Sarah Beth Dippel has focused much of her adult life on cooking and baking exemplary goodies. She was even once known as Sarah Beth at Catholic Chef in Lake Charles.
Although culinary work played a key role in her daily life, so did her Catholicism. “I am a cradle Catholic,” she said. “I was always at church with my mom. She was a convert and that kind of affected how our family related to the faith. Dad is a cradle Catholic, and we have always been very involved. All of our family friends went to the same church.” She noted that her mom, Susan, worked as the parish secretary for 20 years.
Even as a youngster, Sarah Beth found great delight in cooking, especially in baking. “My real love,” she said, “is to bake. At the end of a long day, I would go home and bake. I would bring baked goods to work. Now, on a Saturday, I start thinking, what am I going to bake today?” She met her best friend, Kate Tasman, in college at Loyola University New Orleans.
Considering her birthplace, the food-faith connection is probably rather natural. As she noted, “In South Louisiana … food and faith are hand in hand."
After college, Sarah Beth had several careers, working first as a photojournalist and then going to culinary school, at Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. There she studied patisserie and baking, then worked for chef John Besh in New Orleans, Louisiana. After that, Sarah Beth worked for a casino that had a French pastry shop, where she used her baking skills. She even pondered about opening her own baking shop, but God had other plans for her.
“I started volunteering at Our Lady Queen of Heaven in Lake Charles, Louisiana,” she said. “I got really involved with my faith there and became a youth minister. I moved to Jackson, Wyoming, to be the faith formation director at Our Lady of the Mountains. I love working in ministry and also in the kitchens. If I had not felt called to serve the Church, I would still be baking.”
She still attends Mass at Our Lady of the Mountains right below Grand Teton National Park. There she met her husband, a member of the Knights of Columbus and an altar server. “Our first date was to decorate the church Christmas trees and then he asked me out for a cup of coffee,” she said.
What will inspire her to start her cooking and baking again? “Maybe the Lord asked me to do something else,” she said. “It is pro-life and youth ministry.” She does bake and cook for family and friends, and her parents came up to spend the summer. As she noted, she cooked dinner for the family every night, and one of the beauties of them all eating together is like Jesus at the table with his disciples around him.
The couple is looking for a small town in Wyoming to retire to, and one of the towns they visited recently had a little bistro run by a lady chef. “I talked to her about my baking background, and after I told her about my baking degree, she offered to hire me if we move there,” Sarah Beth said with a laugh.
* * * * * * *
Recipe: Maw-Maw Barnett’s Apple Cake
Serves 12 to 16
- 1 c./8 oz. vegetable oil
- 2 ea. eggs, room temperature
- 2 c./7.1 oz. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c./4.5 oz. pecans, chopped and toasted (350 degrees for 7-8 minutes)
- 1 jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
- 3 lg. apples, diced
- 3 c./15.6 oz. ap flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 t. salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the Bundt cake pan.
Combine oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients (tip: always add wet to dry) in increments until all is well combined. Stir in the pecans, cherries and apples. Pour into a 12-cup Bundt pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. The cake will spring back to the touch when done. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the pan to cool completely.
For high altitude:
- Subtract 2 T. sugar
- Increase liquid 2-3 T. (i.e. add 1 egg or 2-3 T. oil)
- Increase 2-3 T. flour
- Decrease baking soda to 1/2 t.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
For a gluten-free version substitute King Arthur 1-to-1 baking flour for the all-purpose flour. It works beautifully in this recipe.