Behind the Scenes: Cafeteria Confections


Madeline Phuong

Many look forward to the delightful bite of cafeteria cookies on the daily or of cinnamon rolls on the monthly, but who is behind the making of these scrumptious confections? Deb Hart, baker for Homestead High School, started working for the school’s food services in 1997.

“(Baking) is what I always did my whole life,” Hart said. She began working in bakeries right out of high school, having participated in 4H in her childhood.

She bakes a different cookie recipe every day of the week. Once a month, she prepares the icing and cinnamon-brown sugar mixture for  cinnamon rolls during the week. A total of about 1,500 rolls requires tens of pounds of powdered sugar and cinnamon for the icing and filling, respectively. On the long-awaited day of, Hart arrives thirty minutes early to start, roll out and assemble the dough.

“I try to have it all rolled out and in the oven by 8:20 to 8:30 am and then we start icing at about 9:30 am before it’s time for lunch,” she said.

The original Homestead cinnamon roll recipe is about 50 years old. Over time, the cinnamon roll recipe (whose dough is also the hot roll recipe) has undergone various changes in line with nutrition guidelines. The shortening of the original recipe has changed to trans fat shortening, regular margarine and finally trans fat margarine. Not only is the recipe adjusted to these guidelines, but it must also be made to stay consistent under other factors. “With weather changes, cookies will turn out a little different some days,” Hart said.

Although her job is a taxing one, Hart enjoys “getting to see all the kids at lunch and talking with them.”


Cinnamon roll recipe (makes 750)

All-purpose dough (for cinnamon rolls and hot rolls)
1 qt sugar
½ qt dry milk
3 tbsp salt
3 tbsp dry eggs
7 lb flour
1 ¼ lb shortening
⅓ cup yeast
½ gallon water

White frosting
50 lb powdered sugar
4 lb butter
2 tbsp salt
¾ cup vanilla extract
14 cartons of 2% milk
Add water to adjust

Cinnamon sugar filling
75 lb brown sugar
5 lb cinnamon

  1. Blend dry ingredients of all-purpose dough for 3 minutes.
  2. Cut in shortening for the dough.
  3. Add very warm water to the dough.
  4. Knead the dough for 15 minutes.
  5. Cover and let the dough sit for 10 minutes.
  6. If making cinnamon rolls, flatten out the dough and evenly spread the brown sugar-cinnamon filling. Roll the dough into a log and cut into slices.
  7. If making hot rolls, form the dough into balls.
  8. Bake at 250 degrees for 45-48 minutes.