PLANTERSVILLE – Willie Sue Betts thinks she knows the reason everyone likes her cakes: She makes them all by hand, using only quality ingredients.
As far as Betts is concerned, it’s White Lily flour, Crisco shortening and Blue Bonnet margarine or nothing at all.
“I’ve never even tried a box mix,” said Betts, 80. “I think that’s why people like them so much – because they know they’re made from scratch.”
The youngest of four children born to Georgia and John Betts, she didn’t learn to cook as a young girl. That chore went to her sister, Mattie Lou. Betts was in charge of washing dishes.
In fact, it was Mattie Lou who taught Betts how to prepare meals. But her love of baking cakes came after Mattie Lou died in 1987.
“I enjoy making the cakes,” said Betts. “It’s not a chore. I enjoy doing it when I have the time.”
Some weeks Betts won’t make a single cake, and other weeks she’ll have orders for three or four.
“It takes some time because I have one particular tube pan I use,” she said. “I tried others but they didn’t turn out as well.”
Betts retired from Tupelo Manufacturing in 1998 after working there almost 30 years. Since then, she’s been taking care of her sister-in-law, Evie Betts, who lives in the Union community.
The two women eat all their meals together every day. Evie is particularly fond of baked chicken, creamed potatoes and English peas, although Betts confided that her favorite meal is fried chicken (which she said she doesn’t need), creamed potatoes, green beans, cornbread, salad and tea.
Betts is often referred to as “that cake lady” in Plantersville because of her pound cakes and caramel cakes, but she could also be called “that cemetery lady.”
After Mattie Lou died, Betts took it upon herself to revive and restore two graveyards: Centerhill Cemetery in Plantersville and Union Cemetery in the Union community near Nettleton.
“Before my sister passed, they brought my cousin here from Michigan and buried him in Centerhill,” she said. “The grass was so high then. I said when my sister died and was buried there it would never be in that shape again and it hasn’t.”
Each year, Betts asks for families to donate $25 to help with the upkeep of the property.
“I have family buried in both places,” she said. “That’s why I’m responsible for both of them.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or e-mail them to ginna.parsons@djournal .com.
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal