“Fasnachts Now Available” is displayed on a big banner in front of Dice’s Creative Cakes in Boyertown, and has been for the past several weeks.
Regular customers who walk into the bakery will instantly recognize the sugary fragrance that surrounds them and are accustomed to the sizzling sound of frying dough — signs that the traditional Fat Tuesday potato doughnut, the fasnacht, is being made. The fasnachts are covered in either granulated sugar or powdered sugar and are traditionally eaten split open with butter and molasses.
Mary Dice, owner of the bakery at 30 N. Reading Ave., said fasnacht actually means “night of fasting” in German and that it was created to get rid of all the fats in a home before Lent.
“So they would take all their fats, flours and shortenings to make these doughnuts and eat them for Fat Tuesday,” Dice said.
She said now people eat them just because they like them.
“They will eat them three weeks before and three weeks after,” she said.
The treat is no longer limited just to the Tuesday before Lent, and the doughnuts have become a tradition of love and memories shared between friends and family. Dice was joined Sunday by childhood friend Karen Galli for an afternoon of fasnacht baking.
“I’ve done it with my sisters and my mom as a kid — now I’m doing it with my friends,” Dice said.
Galli manned the fryers Sunday and took orders while Dice, covered head to toe in flour, rolled out and cut dough. As Galli dropped the dough into the fryer she called them “pillows of love.” Dice said she and her friends describe the dough as pillows because of how soft and fluffy they are right before they go into the oil. The love, of course, comes from being surrounded by friends and family.
“We have girlfriend Fat Tuesday,” Dice said.
She said her friends will come and help her bake during this busy time and will work for doughnuts.
Dice said Galli likes working the register because she gets to hear people’s stories about how they grew up with fasnachts. Dice said eating the fasnachts brings back memories for many of her customers.
“It reminds them how they might have helped their grandparents make them,” she said.
Dice said so many people are grateful she makes them the traditional way and customers claim that her recipe is the closest they found to their grandparent’s recipe. The recipe comes from her father’s side of the family and is three or four generations old. She said hearing stories about people’s memories is what makes baking fasnachts special and that it’s not just about the business.
“They don’t have anybody making them in their life anymore, but they’ll come here because it will remind them of what they had,” she said.
Dice said there was a time when she thought the tradition of fasnachts wouldn’t continue. She said she believed that as the older generation passed away, so would fasnachts.
“I thought the day of having to make fasnachts was going to die out,” she said.
Dice said the history of the fasnacht has continued to be passed down through generations and she is happy to provide those memories to her customers.
Dice added that she expected to be at the bakery until midnight Monday night, getting orders ready for Tuesday morning. Dice and Galli prepared for the possible Monday snowstorm by baking extra batches on Sunday.
Dice has been working long days to meet the demands for fasnacht orders. She said that as of Sunday, about 500 dozen had already been sold and she expects that number to rise to at least 750 dozen by the end of the week.
Although the tradition of fasnachts is still very much alive, few local places actually make the potato doughnuts. Dice said this is because so much work goes into baking them.
“It’s very labor intensive,” she said. “Last year I did 22-hour days because I was by myself.”
She said they make them the traditional way with flour, potatoes, milk, eggs, shortening and yeast. She also said the dough is made the night before so it can rise and has to rise two more times before it’s fried. Although Dice uses her family recipe, she has adapted it for business since she now has to make so many. She said the original recipe had really rough measurements.
“It would say a fistful of lard, a handful of this,” Dice said.
Dice said now that she is making hundreds of fasnachts she has made her schedule flexible to meet demands. She said in addition to the fasnachts already sold, 150 dozen were pre-ordered for Tuesday, but she usually has 300 dozen or more go out the door on Fat Tuesday.
“It’s a lot of work yet it’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Dice will continue to offer fasnachts until supplies run out. The delicious treat can be ordered by calling Dice’s bakery at 610-367-0107.