Knowledge of generations turns into a cooking business

Marvin Townsend prepares his baking container for what’s on the list to cook this morning. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Marvin Townsend prepares his baking container for what’s on the list to cook this morning. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Conjuring up all he had learned, remembered and had been taught by three generations of his family, this retired Air Force man now has the time to pursue his passion for baking, and has made a business of it. Marvin and Octavia Townsend own Generations Cakes. Knowing about baking successfully is in the family genes. He’s been interested since the age of seven. Marvin’s logo reads: “Over Three Generations of Love in Every Bite.”

Marvin, originally from Charlottesville, VA, has lived in Gloucester since 2000, moving here from Charlottesville. Four years ago he decided to turn his love of baking into a business, acting on the advice of friends. For many years he had been making cakes as Christmas gifts. “My wife is my right hand person. I do all the baking and most all of the cooking at home. I like my kitchen to myself, but she does all the extra jobs that go along with the business,” Marvin explained, as Octavia followed up with a smile saying, “There are couple dishes I can do better than Marvin.”

Generations Cakes gets its name from Marvin’s great-grandmother, grandmother, his mother and aunts. “These ladies were fabulous cooks. When I was growing up and even as an adult, good food was a very important part of our family. At least twice a month—these days it’s a couple times a year—on a Sunday following church we would all be together for dinner; and the dishes these ladies brought, especially my grandmother’s desserts, you just wouldn’t believe.

“Then, if it was something new, they would sit and judge each other’s cooking. If the finger went by the nose it meant too much lard. If the finger went by the mouth it meant well, it’s O.K. but keep trying. Took me a long time before I brought a dish and even then I was scared of how they would judge it. What I’m doing here is what I believe they would approve of. My family has always carried on the tradition of excellence. I’ve stood in the kitchen and watched them. My grandmother always kept a couple boxes of cake mix on the shelf—not for her use, but when she allowed me to make a cake, she brought out one of the box mixes and let me make the cake. When it was baked she told me “now that’s the way Betty Crocker does it. Let me show you how it should be done.”

“Great-grandmother Lucia Martin was personal cook from 1950-1964 to the Symington family who were board members of the St. Albans School in D.C. All were politicians and lawyers. Mamie Garnett was cook for Leonard

Mecker, ambassador to Romania from 1960-1973, and for Sarah Louise in the remaining ’70s. My mother Gwendolyn Townsend was always cooking for church functions, special events and community functions.”

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