By Matt Ledger
Baking scrumptious desserts is an art form, requiring a delicate touch and enough patience to await that perfect moment when your work has risen to the occasion.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, Cindy Day learned the ropes of producing pastas and pastries in delis and bakeries of grocery stores. Upon moving to Tennessee in 1992, Cindy purchased a historic home belonging to the Baggenstoss family, Tracy City’s longtime bakers. While the Baggenstosses operated the Dutch Maid Bakery, Day was beginning her own business baking cakes from their former home.
Seeking a more dependable income, Day returned to the Sunshine State in 2001 to manage a Publix bakery. “I knew they’re really the best grocery store in the bakery business, and I wanted to improve my skills,” Day says. “I needed to learn some of their little secrets on making the wonderful things that they produce.”
Day kept the historical home, leaving everything behind with eventual plans to return. “We came back every few months to check on it, and on one trip we saw this huge ‘For Sale’ sign in the bakery window,” Cindy says. “I didn’t even know that the bakery had closed.”
She quickly called her husband: “Honey, the bakery has closed, and we need to move back to Tennessee to buy this old bakery. I want to save it, along with all the history inside.”
With her love of vintage items, she wanted to help continue the legacy of the location and preserve the history as much as she wanted her own bakery to run.
The Dutch Maid Bakery had actually been closed for 18 months before Day made the purchase in October 2005. Much of the furnishings had been sold off, but most of the vintage equipment remained. “It became a huge challenge to resurrect something that had been basically laid to rest,” Cindy says. She breathed new life into the 113-year-old structure and managed to open for the Christmas holiday season.
“I knew how important that bakery was to Tracy City,” Day says. “But I had no idea how important it was to Grundy County and even to the state of Tennessee.” State officials have helped the old-fashioned bakery — built in 1902 — with placement in modern tourism campaigns, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has even dropped by.
Origins of ownership
The business’s namesake has a funny irony, since the original owners weren’t from the Netherlands. Like many early residents of Grundy County, Albert Baggenstoss was actually Swiss, originally from the border region between Germany and Switzerland. He registered his new business as the Baggenstoss Bakery and Grocery. When they signed the land deed at the courthouse, the German-speaking store owner signed as “Deutsch,” but the officials wrote it as Dutch. The family cleverly adopted the redesignation and wisely used it when renaming the store during World War II.
The Baggenstoss family owned the bakery for ninety years; brothers Herman and Robert sold it to extended family member Lynn Craig in 1992. A decade later, Craig’s son sold the bakery to Day. The bakery continues to be a family operation; Day’s 82-year-old mother, Fran, helps her in the kitchen, while her children Jessica, Melissa and Joshua often tend to customers.
They’ve also kept some of the vintage feel. Old scales adorn the bakery walls and a Civil War-era bathtub sits inside the storefront. “It’s almost like a working museum when you come here,” Day says. “I like for people to be able to see and touch the antiques we have on display.”
Everything is made from scratch — even using some recipes as old as the business — instead of from the prepackaged ingredients that groceries often use. “The Dutch Maid Bakery was a different style than I was used to,” Day says. The Dutch Maid salt-rise bread took first place during a regional baking competition in 2013. The recipe dates back to when the Baggenstosses moved to the Smith colony settlement near Gruetli Laager, during the wagon train days in the 1880s.
Other recipes were added in the 1920s, when the Baggentoss boys went to milling and baking school. “I still use the same recipes, but I’ve tweaked them ever so slightly to please modern taste buds,” Day says. She believes that Lynn Craig added the Tennessee Whiskey cake recipe, which she expanded in her own saucy way, adding Kentucky bourbon, vodka and even moonshine to other variations.
Shortly after reopening, Day decided to add a few things to her signature breads by layering meats and cheeses to create a cafe lunch spot. She built a new addition to the building in 2008, which dramatically expanded seating for what has become a tourist destination. Day has developed a Sunday brunch and occasionally hosts special dinner events. She didn’t stop there, adding a second location in Jasper, also in 2008.
November and December are some of her busiest months. Her typical day starts as 6 a.m., rotating 100 items through the ovens and filling orders for the cafe. However, this time of year the operation shifts to gingerbread cookies and sweet stollen. Day will make nearly 1,000 of the Dutch Maid Fruitcakes before Christmas Eve, many of which are shipped nationwide to repeat customers who order annually. She even shares some of her techniques during gingerbread and cake decorating classes.
Dutch Maid Bakery
109 Main Street
Tracy City, TN 37387