ECU Excels

ECU alumna creates unique cakes for Our State magazine

Feb. 8, 2012

Rachel Castro
ECU News Bureau

Pimento cheese and country ham are classic North Carolina favorites, but few Southerners expect to find those treats nestled near the pecan or pumpkin pies.

The February issue of Our State magazine may change their minds.

In that issue, East Carolina University alumna Wendy Perry is reinventing Southern favorites with five quintessential North Carolina cakes centered around the state’s favorite foods: Krispy Kreme, country ham, pimento cheese, Nabs and Pepsi.

Her Country Ham Maple Cake with Red Eye Buttercream Frosting is on the cover of the magazine.

The home economics education graduate contributes to Our State magazine, conceptualizing recipes and styling dishes. Perry met Our State editor Elizabeth Hudson in October of 2010 at the same fair where she won a blue ribbon for her sugar-free ketchup creation.

Perry frequented the North Carolina State Fair every year as a cooking contest judge and was joined by Hudson on the judging panel. The two exchanged business cards but Perry never imagined she would receive a call from the magazine.

“They contacted me about two weeks later and said they were starting a new section in the magazine where they would be featuring church/community cookbooks and needed someone to prepare the foods,” said Perry. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Just a couple of weeks later, she was preparing recipes at the Our State photography studio.

Now Perry meets monthly at the studio and prepares recipes from cookbooks chosen by the community as a food stylist for the magazine. Perry recently became a recipe developer for the magazine as well.

“If I could have ever picked one magazine to be a part of, Our State would be it,” said Perry. “Standing in line at the grocery store and glancing over and seeing my cake on a magazine cover is still surreal to me.”

“The Pepsi ‘n’ Peanuts, Nabs and Country Ham Cakes are the most ‘outside the box’ of the five cakes,” she said.

As a student at ECU, Perry had no idea what she wanted to do with her degree, she said.

She enjoys teaching in small group settings such as private children’s classes, one on one or cooking classes that “folks have chosen to come to,” as opposed to the mandatory class setting in schools.  

In addition to food styling, recipe creating and teaching, Perry also works as an outdoor living consultant, designing and building outdoor kitchens and showcasing them on her website, Living Inside Out.

“I’ve been sort of a ‘home economics nomad,’ working here, there and everywhere doing this, that and the other,” said Perry. “I’m not a gal who can stand monotony and seem to thrive on variety. This gal doesn’t fit inside a box, and my current cakes are evidence of that.”

ECU honored Perry’s individuality in 2007 with selection as one of the university’s 100 Incredible Women Alumni and, two years later, she received the ECU College of Human Ecology’s Legacy of Leadership Award.

After attending a few other schools first, Perry landed at ECU in ’78.

“When I figured it out and got to Greenville, I managed to stay on honor roll and dean’s lists because it was where I belonged,” she said.

Now a dedicated alumna, Perry makes it to Greenville for Pirate football games whenever she can.

“When I hit the Greenville city limits, I can literally feel my blood pressure drop and a peaceful feeling comes over me like putting on an old, favorite pair of shoes again,” she said.

As for her next endeavors, Perry is beginning to work on a cooking contest and cookbook along with some recipes for George’s Barbecue Sauce in Nashville.

“I created a Barbecue Cake in the process, too, so maybe you’ll see that one soon in Our State,” she said. “I made it using a couple of North Carolina sauces; it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen.” Maybe too, she says, readers will see her Red Velvet Hushpuppies.

But for now, her secrets are safe with Our State.



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