A baking bonanza

Open Space Arts, a community theater in Reisterstown, is all about the arts — specifically theater. But this month, the nonprofit will be dropping its scripts in favor of spatulas as it hosts its first community Bake Off.

"We really wanted to do something to welcome spring in again so we thought it'd be fun to have a good-natured competition and have people make some fun little treats and things like that and you can compete for prizes. We're going to have things for winning in different categories, and bakers will also get to sample everything else that everyone's made," said Elora Maisenhelder, co-artistic director and costume designer at Open Space.


The competition will be held outside of Open Space Arts' building at 16 Hanover Road from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 23.

Proceeds from the event will go toward funding OSA's annual playwright's festival, which will be held the first and second weekends in August.


"Summer Playwright's Festival is a collection of 10- to 15-minute plays. We usually put on six or seven of them in a night and our theme this year is 'topsy turvy' and all of the shows are directed by people within the company," Maisenhelder said. "We have a bunch of different directors and then actors can be cast in multiple shows and we do all the work ourselves and put it on at the end of the summer."

Anyone is welcome to enter the bake off with an entry in up to three of four categories: cookies, cakes or cupcakes, pies, and bread.

Competitors can share a table for $10 each or purchase a full table space for $20. That fee also gets them samples of other bakers' goods.

Entrance for attendees is $5. Drink tickets will be available for $1 apiece or $5 for a six-drink ticket.

"Well be offering bottles of waters, probably cups of milk given the nature of the event and things like that," Maisenhelder said.

Bakers have to sign up by completing a form online and submitting payment by April 16. They are asked to make sure their baked goods are cut into bite-sized portions and prepared ahead of time.

"They should bring them and they should bring about enough for 50 people to take samples," Maisenhelder said. "So they should be cut or baked into sample sizes enough for one or two bites and enough for about 50 people to be able to partake."

And, to ensure safety for everyone sampling the tasty treats, Maisenhelder said bakers should bring an ingredients list or allergen warning, if applicable.


"I would definitely recommend writing up an ingredients list especially if your food might contain allergens or anything like that just for the safety of the public," she said.

Once everyone has tasted the baked goods, winners will be determined by popular vote.

"We're going to set up sort of a ballot box I guess so the attendants to the event will go around, they'll sample all the baked goods and they get to cast their vote for their favorite in each category and then we count their votes and whoever has the most votes wins," she said.

Jeny Timmel, of Windsor Mill, said she plans to bake cookies as part of the competition. As more of a cook than a baker, she said, she hasn't quite nailed down a specific type of cookie, but she has an idea of what she might bring.

"I'm currently leaning towards a chocolate chip caramel sea salt thing," she said. "I feel like even if my baking is not amazing that combination cannot go wrong."

Timmel said she's been involved with Open Space Arts since she was a child, participating in plays and productions from middle school through college. She said the theater helped her develop into the woman and the teacher she is now.


"I guess Open Space [was] so meaningful to me as a student and it really helped shape who I am today. It gave me so many strengths and so many opportunities that I really do want to give back and because I'm a second year teacher I don't really have a lot of time to give but I can definitely donate and give back in other ways."

Events like this, she said, help her remain involved with the organization that gave her so much.

"[The bake off] sounds like a fun thing to do and it's an easy way to stay connected with Open Space. I've been in theater basically my entire life and it's hard not being in a show but I do want to maintain my connection with Open Space. It's really about connections with the people and the community more than showing off my amazing baking skills," she said.

Nina Knoche has been the president of the board of directors at OSA since 2004. As the owner of Sofi's Crepes, in Owings Mills, she has plenty of baking experience, and said she intends to show off her grandmother's pound cake at the bake off.

"I think it's a great idea. I think it'll be fun. I'm excited to showcase my grandmother's pound cake recipe. I'm not going to give out my recipe but I hope my cake wins," she said.

While she wouldn't reveal the secret behind the cake's decadence, she did say that it comes out differently every time she makes it, "depending on how warm the butter is, how long you beat the butter and the sugar together," and other factors.


"But I like it because it's not overly sweet and it's a pretty dense but moist pound cake with a slightly buttery, crispy golden outside," she said.

In addition to baking, Knoche said she's also looking forward to trying what other bakers are bringing to the table.

"I love pie and so I will be hitting the pie table and I love savory stuff, too, and I hear that some people might be bringing some bread which I think it might be wonderful, getting some great artisanal bread would be wonderful," she said. "I love food. I wouldn't own a restaurant if I didn't love food so it's right up my alley."

The event is a way to not just raise funds for the summer festival, but also spread the word about what Open Space does in the community, Maisenhelder said.

"Most of our fundraisers are to fundraise but also just to get our name out into the community and bring people in and introduce them to the wonderful world of Open Space," she said.

At the bake off, Knoche said, people will get not just a taste of some of the area's best home cooked treats, but also a "taste of Open Space" — a sense of what the nonprofit is all about.


"Because I think they really do a wonderful job at making art accessible to everyone and making people feel welcome no matter your income level, no matter your education level — they really believe and it's true that everybody can make art and they find people's gifts and they help people build on the gifts that they have and the art that comes out is better for it," she said.


If you go:

What: Open Space Arts' Bake Off


When: 1 to 4 p.m. April 23

Where: Outside of the Open Space Arts building, at 16 Hanover Road in Reisterstown

Cost: Competitors can share a table for $10 each or purchase a full table space for $20. Entrance for attendees is $5. Drink tickets will be available for $1 apiece or $5 for a six-drink ticket.

Registration: Competitors must register online by April 16.

For more information or to register: Visit