Lutz Olkiewicz

Jo Hormuth and Micki LeMieux learn the art of specialty frosting from chef Lutz Olkiewicz at the Sara Lee Offices. Tribune archive photo by MIlbert Orlando Brown

Long before gaudy, gooey cupcakes became America’s default dessert, there was Lutz Olkiewicz. During his 25 years at the Drake Hotel, Chicago's grand master of sugar created delicate pastries, elegant cakes and intricately decorated tortes. Olkiewicz, who died Monday, gave thousands of Chicagoans many sweet memories.

The Tribune's Margaret Ramirez wrote a lovely obituary for Lutz that celebrates his mastery of the pastry art. Skim through stories written about him over the past 40 or so years while at the Drake and then the Kitchens of Sara Lee. They describe a man with marzipan in his soul who baked some 8,000 wedding cakes plus quite a few confections for celebrities (Lucille Ball, Muhammad Ali and Pope John Paul II, though not for the same event).

He was an award-winning master of his art, but never a snob and always ready to share his knowledge and coach the less adept in the magic of sweets, whether it involved shaping loaves of fruit-studded stollen (his recipe was legendary) or explaining the intricacies of genoise, that classic French cake (to this reporter). Venture into his domain in the vast kitchens of the Drake and you’d be met by his intimidating figure: A stiff white toque perched atop his head, broad shoulders, snow-white chef jacket. But there was always a twinkle in his eye and wit to spare.
A few pronouncements? When moistening layers of genoise with apricot brandy: “Just perfume the layers. Too much alcohol can make the cake offensive.” Or “It should be moist enough to cut like butter.” On Marzipan? “A pastry chef’s creative artist material.”

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday at Haben Funeral Home in Skokie. A sweet memory? His recipe for rice pudding printed in the Tribune in 1983.


Lutz Olkiewicz’s Rice Pudding
8 to 10 servings
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Egg custard:
2 cups milk
3 eggs
2/3 cup each: sugar, half-and-half
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 drops yellow food coloring
Pudding mixture:
1 cup regular rice (do not use instant-cooking rice)
2 cups milk
3 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup golden raisins

For egg custard, mix 2 cups milk, eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 2/3 cup half-and-half, salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and yellow food coloring. Pour through strainer. Reserve.

Meanwhile, mix rice with 2 cups milk in top of double boiler. Cook until rice is just soft. Remove from heat; stir in 3 cups half-and-half, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix well. Stir in egg custard; mix again. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle raisins on the bottom of a buttered 9x13-inch baking dish.  Spoon pudding mixture over raisins. Partly fill a larger pan with boiling water. Set pudding casserole in underpan. Water should come halfway up the sides. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Serve when custard is lukewarm and begun to set. Custard should be made the day it is to be served.