Rosemary Littman Has the Competition Licked When It Comes to Making Uncommon Cakes

updated 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Rosemary Cheris Littman doesn't like to bake cakes in the shape of football fields or basketball courts. You can buy those at any bakery, she reasons. She also refuses to concoct any confection that's pornographic. With those exceptions, Littman, a 50-year-old housewife from Teaneck, N.J., has proven that anything is possible with a spatula and some 18" by 12" cake pans.

For Shirley MacLaine's 50th birthday, Littman baked a cake in the shape of a pair of dancing legs. In 1981 John McEnroe was served up a creation resembling the Wimbledon trophy, which he had just won for the first time. Littman's edible endeavors sometimes are so lifelike they are mistaken for the real thing. When she made a cake in the shape of a Heineken bottle resting in a tub of ice, a thirsty partygoer grabbed for the bottle and ended up with icing oozing between his fingers.

Liftman's foray into frosting began in 1974 when a neighbor commissioned her to make a cake for her husband's birthday. "I asked her what kind of foods he liked, and she mentioned spaghetti and meatballs," says Rosemary. A few days later the first butter-cream tribute to Chef Boy-Ar-Dee was born. Littman reluctantly accepted a fee for the cake—and she was in business. "I was starting to charge $35 for a cake, and I was dying of guilt," admits the quintessential Jewish mother, who works alone. These days her "average" cake fetches anywhere from $450 to $750, but she has charged as much as $1,300.

Life in the Littman house can get pretty sticky when Rosemary, who bakes about 40 cakes a year, is up to her elbows in icing. "My son Edward would come downstairs for a snack," reports Littman, "and there would be mixing bowls and butter cream all over the place. He'd throw up his hands and say, 'Ma, make some room, will ya?' " Husband Wally, an advertising executive, is used to dining out when high-caloric constructions are in the works.

"I am an artist," says Littman, whose other sweet-tooth creations have included a pair of boxing gloves for Muhammad Ali and a portrait of Liz Taylor in icing. (Taylor wrote Littman a thank-you note, now hanging in Littman's kitchen.) This queen of confection always checks one last thing before she begins a cake—she makes sure it will fit through her kitchen door. After that, it's Batter Up.

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