The children of Rosalie "Doll" Laboe knew that their mother was an artist, one who could help them turn an ordinary school project into something extraordinary, but it wasn't until later in life that Laboe's creative vision found mass appeal.
From the kitchen of her Minnetonka bakery, It Takes The Cake, Laboe built a legion of fans with her showstopper creations: a reproduction of the renovated Milwaukee Road depot in downtown Minneapolis, complete with skating rink and hotel; a wedding cake that incorporated not only lights, but live fish, swimming happily in a bowl; a cowboy boot that looked so real the recipient didn't realize at first that it could be eaten.
"It was like making a sculpture, but she was using edible ingredients," said her daughter, Vicki Siskin.
Laboe died of brain cancer Oct. 8. She was 73.
Family members and friends remember her especially for the bakery she opened at age 60 with her husband, Jack.
Her baking career began when she went to work in the 1970s for a friend's father's business, the legendary Lincoln Del bakery, after moving to Minneapolis from her native Baltimore with her first husband, Frank. As a young woman, Laboe had always exhibited an artistic sensibility, Siskin said.
After Lincoln Del, Laboe was a co-owner of Rainbow's End bakery in St. Louis Park before she and Jack launched their own bakery. She quickly became known to her customers as someone who could sculpt anything out of cake. A chocolate mocha cake recipe was featured in the Star Tribune Taste section's 35th anniversary publication in 2004.
"The cases were always full of good stuff," said Sue Zelickson, a food reporter for Minnesota Monthly and a friend of Laboe.
It was the kind of place where children knew they could get icing "flowers" laid in the palm of their hands. And it was icing, not frosting. "She would say that frosting is the gross, canned, store-bought icing that comes nowhere near as tasty as her buttercream icing was," said her granddaughter, Isabella, speaking at Laboe's funeral.
For all that she did for the world of desserts, Laboe herself was nutrition-minded, and didn't like to eat sugar, said her family.
She was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago. Her daughter said she fought the illness with grace, selling her beloved bakery in 2010. The friends she made there stayed with her.
"That was the main thing about my mother that was so incredible," said Siskin, "that bakery, that was a place where people would come and talk about their lives. Her customers all became her friends and her extended family."
Laboe is survived by her husband, Jack; daughters Vicki Siskin and Gail Linsk; son Michael Katzovitz; stepchildren Mark, Steven and Scott Laboe; a brother, Barry Friedman; two sisters, Susan Nohelty and Debbie Iwanczuk; four grandchildren, five step-grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
Services have been held.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747