Batter Chatter: Interview with Heather Barranco of Dreamcakes, NY and NJ

Cakes are generally dreamy, but Dreamcakes are especially daydream-worthy: gorgeous confections that taste as good as they look, baked and designed by artist and product designer-turned baker Heather Barranco, who creates these cakes for custom clients and sells through the six locations of metro-NYC area gourmet grocer Eden Marketplace and Garden of Eden. Want to learn more about these sweet treats? Read on:

Tell me about the most recent dessert that impressed you (made by you or someone else). The most recent dessert to impress me? How can I pick just one? I'm impressed by the design of elaborate blown sugar work. It reminds me of when I experimented in glass blowing. I would like to learn sugar blowing. For taste, the most amazing dessert is Italian lobster tails with French cream; it's flaky on the outside and creamy on the inside. Like the food critic in the movie Ratatouille, I love any dessert that takes me back to my childhood. As a kid, my favorite cake was a chocolate cake with banana cream and whipped cream. Now, I make this unique cake combination called Chocolate Bananas Foster. It's a grown up, gourmet version of my childhood favorite with fresh bananas and caramel.

You went to Parsons School of Design. What about cake appeals to you as artistic medium? As an artist, I love experimenting in different mediums. An artist feels the need to express one self visually. I find the multiple senses exciting; taste, smell, texture or touch and of course, sight. I've always been obsessed with desserts from a young age. This medium suits me. I find it also appeals to many people because of the various senses involved. It's almost like you are becoming one with the "beauty" of the cake when you taste it. Along with the senses, I love being a part of my clients' joyous occasions. My favorite subject at Parsons outside of design courses was art history. I love being able to incorporate my clients cultural background into the design and flavor of the cake. Being able to design directly for my clients excites me.

When I worked as a product designer, we were always asked to invent new product concepts for a corporation's marketing team. My designs would be sold all over the world but, I would rarely come in contact with the consumer using my design.

What is Dreamcakes' involvement or relationship with Eden Marketplace / Garden of Eden? Eden Marketplace/ Garden of Eden is a chain of 6 gourmet stores in New York/New Jersey. When I approached one of the owners to sub-lease space in their store, he asked to have my products in all their stores. For a number of years, the owners were actually looking for someone to make gourmet specialty cakes and wedding cakes for their customers. Even though I am the owner of Heather Barranco Dreamcakes, I'm definitely a part of their family. My team and I work 4 out of 5 days in the South Orange flagship bakery of Eden Marketplace. One day a week, I meet with clients in the the NYC corporate office. I love working in their store and being able to build my brand as a part of their gourmet offerings.

Why do wedding cakes always taste different than birthday cake, even if they're the same flavor? Wedding cakes generally taste different from the average cake for two reasons. Many wedding cake designers make the cake as a pound cake because it makes the cake more stable; less likely to fall apart when stacked in tiers or during transport. Birthday cakes are made of lighter, airy cakes. Sometimes they are made with whipped cream--a big no-no for a tiered cakes. I've tested so many recipes to get the perfect balance of light and tasty with stable structure. I have actually received many clients commenting on our taste as being more flavorful and moist then other wedding cakes. I won't compromise taste for design, it's all one in the same. The taste, texture and flavors need to be designed as well as the visual beauty.

Your flavor menu is incredibly eclectic. What plays into you deciding to add a new flavor to the menu? I add so many flavors because I want my flavors to appeal to different ethic groups, and various people. My husband is Indian and I've really embraced his culture as well as the Indian style of cooking. This may help to understand some of my flavor choices. I wouldn't be interested in just offering vanilla and chocolate. Like I said, earlier, I like to design the flavor as well as the visual style of the cake. I want people to be able to experiment and try something they've never tasted.

Tell me more about DreamBoxes. Are they like Pandora's box, but opening up a new world of cake deliciousness? DreamBoxes were inspired by print making and lithography. I liked the idea of having uniquely designed cookies that could be collected or gifted. The design would be numbered and then retired.

Tell me the truth. Do you have any junk food guilty pleasures? Sweet or savory? I have so many junk food guilty pleasures that you wouldn't have space in your blog ;) here's a few, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies from Eden Gourmet, German chocolate cake ice cream at Cold Stone as well as Mint Chocolate Chip, ladyfinger blueberry cheesecake, and weird but true, I crave black licorice every time I enter a drug store. My favorite savory foods are Alaskan King Crab, lobster, oysters and my grandmother's tomato salad. I can't stand greasy food.

You have been called a "renowned party-giver". Sweet! Tell me about a memorable party (including the cake). This may surprise you but the best parties I've thrown are all about enjoying the people. When we have big parties for Christmas, baptism, etc. all of my husband's extended family comes from Canada for the weekend at our house. We've had over 35 people sleeping in our house for a party. We stay up late into the night singing, dancing, and playing the tabla (Indian drum). We sleep everywhere in the house, including the screened in porch. As a family, we cook together elaborate meals. I'm around cake all the time lately so I usually want to make other unique desserts for my family functions. Seeing my children happy with their loved ones is important. I like lots of people surrounding me. This is fun to me. 

The day after an event, you have some slightly stale but mostly still good cake. What do you do with the leftovers? If I had a really delicious, day old cake...I would never throw away good food unless it is spoiled or processed junky cake. You can warm stale cake in the microwave to bring back some if it's flavor and moistness. I always have lots of people around. Serve it with some tea and coffee.

What's next? With my background in product design and manufacturing, I would like to eventually build our own line of unique designer kitchen products. We also have some really interesting projects and media in the works, which I can't discuss. I will keep you updated as projects solidify.

Want more? Visit

Batter Chatter: Interview with Town Crier Bakery of Pennsylvania

In the Philadelphia suburbs, there is a magical place called Town Crier Bakery. It's open seven days a week, and they specialize in carbohydrates of all sorts: cakes, cookies, pies (some even square! See pictures below), and bread. What's not to love? If you, like me, want more of the story, then you're in luck: I recently caught up with some of the ladies behind the baking magic, Kerry & Roseann Burns. Read on:
So...what's your story? The Town Crier was my husbands dream sine he was 13 years old. He started in local bakeries washing pans. It was not until he was almost 40 did it become a reality. I remember Kerry telling me he was eyeing a location in Peddlers Village, I told him yeah ,yeah go for it, never thinking it would happen, that is until the day he told me he quit his job for this bakery dream. I said oh boy here we go!!! Hard work indeed but it really does give you gratification, not just in the waistline but in the people you meet and the events you help shape.
I have heard of something called Philadelphia Butter Cake. Is this a real thing? How is it different from, say, pound cake? Butter cake is indeed a VERY REAL thing, the only thing it has in common with pounds cake is butter and the word cake! Philadelphia buttercake is a German tradition using sweet dough rolled out into a square foil pan and filled with the butter topping. The dough rises along with the gooey topping which at this point has melted and slightly soaks the dough. Bake at 400 degrees for a golden brown sweet addictive goodness!!!
I see something called a George Washington cake on your menu. What's that? George Washington cake is actually a spice cake, it has been a staple in my shop and in all the bakeries I have worked in for over 30 years, our spice cake uses cakes crumbs as it base and is mixed into a cake batter with spices molasses and topped with a warm fudge icing striped with a with soft fondant icing. INCREDIBLE EATS!
Do you consider yourself "known" for a particular type of baked good? if so, what? Why? We have more than a few--our pound cake is a favorite of many customers as well as my most popular cake, the forementioned buttercakes are a crowd pleaser. We can’t forget our old fashioned Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns with nuts raisins or just plain you can’t loose. The words I hear most often from customers as they enter my store are OMG , this smell alone adds calories, and WOW what variety of items you have.
I have a personal question. When I go into a bakery, sometimes I will specifically ask for a particular baked good in the case--usually "the big one". When I do this, am I being an annoying customer? No you are not, customers like yourself when they say they want the biggest or the most icing is a chance for our staff to engage you and your visit truly a memorable one!
What are the busiest times of the week at your bakery? Friday, Saturday, Sunday between 12 and 5 with Saturday being our most busy day!
What is your most popular icing? Buttercream, fondant, or ganache? Our French Buttercream, soft and not so sweet looks like marshmallow as it smoothes on cakes!
I like to say that there is no bigger bummer than a bad dessert. In your opinion, what makes a "bad" dessert? If it is to have a filling it is the “where the beef ?” when you expect a filling you should never have to search for it, but if it is dry then it is a killer. You never hear the comment my cake was to moist, but man was that a dry dessert ouch that is a death sentence.
Tell me a junk food guilty pleasure (sweet OR savory) honest. I have two fresh mozzarella with plum tomatoes (not junk) but I can not pass it up ever! The second one is Chocolate chip cookies, where ever I am at I MUST try the competition's chocolate chip cookies, even if I am away from home. I just love cookies.

What's next for the bakery? We are toying with a Center City location, and work to keep our menu fresh and unique, while still keeping the traditional menu in place. Our newest items the cupcake bar with over 20 different varieties and toppings is a huge hit and our ability to service customers who require gluten free or sugar free products continues to expand our customer base.

Want more? Find Town Crier Bakery online here. Follow them on Twitter here.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Jana Rosenlieb of The Cake Diva

Dude, that's a cake! Photo: Barbie Hull PhotographyLast week at CupcakeCamp Seattle 2011, I met a new friend: Jana Rosenlieb, aka The Cake Diva. She impressed me instantly in two ways: number one, she was adorable (see pictures below if you don't believe me), and number two, she was toting the most intricately constructed Fremont Troll inspired cupcake masterpiece. I loved her already, and so will you, after reading this interview:

So. Cake Diva. Tell me baby, what's your story? I grew up helping my Grandma Yancey (My Mom’s Mom). She made extra money Baking cakes, and catering. I was her helper. I licked beaters and grabbed eggs from the fridge. My Grandma was born and raised Amish. Everyone loved her cakes, and… well all of her cooking!
When she was finished baking, and cleaning up.  She would let me mix up crazy concoctions. I would mix eggs, flour, and sugar, salt and pepper. You name it! I would always try to get my Papa to eat it but he would refuse. He’d always ask “you trying to kill me girl?” My Grandma Yancey, my Mom and my Grandma Phifer (my Dad’s Mom) all taught me what I know. My Grandma Phifer was born and raised in Mississippi. She and my Grandpa also had their own catering business in Ohio before I was born.

I love baking and always have. My First apartment did not even have a stove or an oven. I had a hot plate and sunbeam fry skillet. But I had this great floor to ceiling tiled bathroom that steamed up better than any sauna. So I made coffee cake. I scrubbed my tub and filled it with hot water and filled this large bowl up with water so it wouldn’t float away and took my bread dough in to let it rise shut the door. I then baked the coffee cake in my sunbeam fry skillet. If you place a small rack inside and turn up the heat it acts like a tiny oven. Who knew tight? When it was finished that coffee cake was the fluffiest, and flakey coffee cake I had ever had. My Mom and Dad still talk about it.

About a year ago I was laid off. So I started rethinking what I was going to do next. So I decided to try cake baking for extra money like my Grandma. I started spreading the word that I bake. I bake for friends and friends of friends for “donation” for supplies.

I also entered last years “Cupcake Camp Seattle” and placed 2nd in the ‘Healthiest category’ with my “Vegan White Chocolate Mocha Cupcake”. In a vegan white chocolate Starbuck’s like cup.

Cake or pie? Cake always but then again I have never been known to turn down a great slice of pie!

Pants or skirts? Skirts! My sweet and very handsome husband is all REI and granola… and I am all Diva and skirts. He rolls his eyes at me and just says I love you!

Yes or no? Yes most likely….

Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Hmmm...Chocolate covered Strawberries!

What aspect of cake makes you channel your inner diva? Ohh man so many aspects. The smooth velvety texture, the sweet yummy melt in your mouth goodness. There are endless possibilities, all the different recipes, and the artistry. I think quite possibly Congress could settle many debates, if only cake was served at the meetings. Cake indicates fun and parties. Who can argue while eating something so delectable? Perhaps it is because they did not have “Cake Diva Cake”!

What is the last delicious thing you ate? I ate one of my Vegan Gluten-free Chocolate Stout cupcakes. They had a whiskey ganache filling and were topped with a homemade Vegan Bailey’s style Irish Cream, butter cream frosting.  (That sounds a bit pompous huh…sorry) but I had not had the chance to taste it before leaving for Cupcake Camp. Well not this particular batch anyway. So when I got home. I was cleaning and grabbed one and was like this is awesome HAHAH.
Seriously though. We went to Vegas in February. I ate gnocchi with a marinara/ bolognese (which is marinara and fettuccini alfredo love child) sauce made with a white wine reduction, and imported Italian mascarpone cheese and it was topped with baby arugula. The flavors just danced in your mouth!  Man I am getting hungry!

Any plans to open a retail location? Yes, eventually! I would love to have a retail location or café style dessert place! I want to build clientele but it’s hard when you don’t have a commercial kitchen. Yet you need a commercial kitchen to build clientele but with out the clientele you cannot afford the commercial kitchen…AHHH… catch 22!

Please, tell us something I might not know about or expect of you. Surprise us. My son and I wrote 2 children’s books. It was something we did just to pass the time during the summer. I illustrated them, and he and I co-authored them. They are called “The Adventures of Angel and Mr. Kitty” depicted after our own crazy cats. They are available on or our website-

What is next for you and your business? I want to continue growing my clientele and get a commercial kitchen space. I want to be a household name. Maybe I will even have my own cooking show someday. I want people to dream about the Cake Diva! You know that song “Georgia on My Mind” and the lyrics say-

I said Georgia,
Ooh Georgia, no peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

Well I want those lyrics to go something like this.

I said Cake Diva,
Ohhh Cake Diva, one piece I find
Just a sweet, sweet slice keeps Cake Diva on my mind

...but before the music fades out, be sure to visit The Cake Diva online here! And on Facebook here!

Batter Chatter: Interview with Krystina Castella, Author of Many Awesome Cookbooks

Robot Cookies by Krystina CastellaIn case you hadn't gathered it by all of the recent features on this site centered around Krystina Castella and her books, I'll tell you straight up: Krystina Castella is kind of my cake hero. Well, not just cake: my cookie, cupcake, and popsicle hero too. The thing is, her books aren't merely recipe books--they're thoughtfully and cleverly orchestrated works of art, each one a veritable compendium of creative confectionery ideas in addition to being full of delicious recipes. She's very prolific, too: in the past year alone she's released Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine, and BeerA World of Cake, and Crazy About Cookies: 300 Scrumptious Recipes for Every Occasion & Craving (the latter two within weeks of one another! But this busy lady wasn't too busy to catch up with a sweet spy, and I'm delighted to say that she's just as delightful to talk to as her work is to read:

CakeSpy: First off: what is the last baked good you ate?

Krystina Castella: I had a cinnamon roll this morning! I got it at a great Cuban bakery called Porto's Bakery. They're pretty big, there's a line around the corner all the time.

CS: I just want to tell you, I love the sidebars in your book A World of Cake .

KC: Thank you! Actually the book started with the sidebars--I started writing the recipes around them.

CS: In one beloved sidebar, you mention that there are two types of cake artists--the ones who are cake makers, and also the ones who are inspired by cake. But you seem to  be...well, both! So, which are you?

KC: I think that I am both, but if I had to pick one, I am the one that uses the cake as a medium. When I'm developing recipes I am thinking about designing the cake--the texture and flavor and shape and construction and colors. 

CS: As a designer, is it hard to spend so much time designing something that will be consumed fairly quickly?

KC: Actually, that's something that I love about cake and baking--the product is consumed. I am not much of a consumerist, I don't have a lot of stuff. I think it's a difference between a producer versus a consumer mentality. I get my gratification from creating--once I've made it, I'm already moving on to the next thing. With food, it's nice that you can consume it and then move on!

One of my favorite parts about designing a cake is having the end experience in mind. How do the form and flavor come together to make it what you want it to be? Take wedding cake, for instance. There is a big event about the first slice, but then you don't see the cake afterward--it's put together with dowels and things, and it disappears to the kitchen and comes back sliced. Cupcakes on the other hand stay up the whole time, and you actually see what you get! I think that this may be a contributor to the popularity of cupcakes at weddings.

CS: Speaking of which...what kind of wedding cake did you have?

KC: I had a different flavor for each layer--there was a hazelnut layer, a sponge layer, and there was a fruitcake layer--because traditionally this is the layer from which you take a slice to keep all year. Not many people do this anymore, though.

CS: Speaking of love, you tell a great story about how you froze the popsicle you were eating when your now-husband first called you for a date, and as a sort of good-luck charm kept it for several years in the freezer. What kind of popsicle was it?

KC: It was a pink lemonade popsicle.

CS: It strikes me that your recent release, A World of Cake is not merely a recipe book--it is proof that cake is not merely cake, it is society, culture, life and what does cake mean to you?

KC: To me, the most interesting thing is that it is so common across cultures. It's the one food that you can tie to just about every celebration, everywhere in the world. To me, cakes get me excited every time there's a party. The act of making and sharing a cake is very exciting--and knowing the stories and experiences from various cultural heritages makes it even more interesting.

CS: That is something I love about cake too: it always comes with a story.

KC: And really, that is what inspired the whole book--there was a bake sale where I work, and there were all these cakes: rice cakes, moon cakes, fried cakes, milk cakes...and I was just like "tell me more!" and they always had a story behind them, and they are really connected to these cakes, which is really fun.

CS: You say in A World of Cake that Devil's Food Cake is your favorite to eat...but in your research, what is a cake that really intrigued you?

KC: I think the cakes shaped like hamburger and fries in Japan are pretty funny, the fact that they disguise cakes so that they don't look too feminine so guys can eat them in public without being embarrassed is a riot to me. The other one is the cake made to resemble the spine of the deer / rack of venison cake, which was served when meat was scarce--they made cakes to look like meat to bring liveliness to the celebration, I found these offbeat stories really interesting. It was important to me to include the classic, expected cakes, but also to include these cakes that are kind of "underground" that people don't know about.

CS: Can you tell me a bit more about the process of finding recipes for your book?

KC: I spoke to food historians, food folklorists, and librarians to find cakes, but I also learned a lot from talking to readers from my cupcake book--readers from around the world would become involved in the process. In my process, I feel as if it weren't for these relationships via internet and being able to talk to people all around the world, this book wouldn't have been possible. I learned about the stories that might not have been deemed "important" enough in the past. I was also able to use my students--I teach students from around the world, and there was an outpouring of ideas from them.

CS: Do your students get to benefit from your recipe testing?

KC: Yes, they do! I bring a lot of them into school, or leave them by the coffee cart. 

CS: I'll bet that makes you popular.

KC: Exactly.

CS: You had two books come out in the same month--Crazy About Cookies and A World of Cake. But obviously, the process of creating them takes much longer. long did it take for these books to come about?

KC: A World of Cake took the longest--I got the idea about 7 or 8 years ago, and was thinking about it for a long time, working on the cupcake book, and once that book came out and became popular, I knew that A World of Cake would take a long time, so I did the Pops book, all the while still collecting cake recipes and testing them, and working on a deal with sterling to do a series -- Crazy About Cookies is the second in a series. There are more in the works, one coming out next year--I can't talk about it yet, but from the time I started really editing and researching and working on it, it was three years from beginning to end. I was very involved with very aspect--the design, all the photos, et cetera. I oversee everything.

CS: At the risk of asking an annoying do you it all? Are there more hours in your day than there are in mine?

KC: People are always asking if I have a super-human gene. I don't know--what I do I have always done, I have been developing products since I was ten, making t-shirts and selling them to stores, and then was also on the swim team...was always very active. My full time professorship is 12 hours a week, which allows me a lot of extra time outside of my job to have projects going. But also, I managed a home manufacturing company for 10 years, so I had to become very good at organizing and managing. I'm also pretty good at decision-making and knowing when to move on. I don't have super powers, but I do work a lot. I try to help others through my work with the Design Entrepreneur Network.

CS: In Crazy About Cookies, you mention Girl Scout cookies as one of your gateways into the world of cookies. Do you still eat them?

KC: I do! Although it's sad to me that every year they make fewer and fewer in the box. Now, you have to get like 3 boxes to have the same amount of cookies! One thing that disappoints me is that I'm often buying them from the parents versus from the girls's a whole different world. I do find it sad that you don't find kids out there finding the entrepreneurial spirit of selling them, but I still buy them. 

CS: What cookies are you baking for Christmas?

KC: I'm going to make a midcentury gingerbread house, and I just got the idea to make a gingerbread trailer park. Maybe some mobile trailers. For us, the cookies I'll be making are the seven-layer cookies featured in my book. Those are my favorite.

For more of Krystina's work, check out her site here; you can also learn more about her most recent books on their individual sites--here and here.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Heather Rousseau of SugarHigh Bakery

It's time to go to Michigan. Well, virtually, at least--unless you're lucky enough to live near Frankenmuth, MI, which is where SugarHigh Bakery is located. The gorgeous cakes are enough to inspire a road trip alone, but let's get to know the owner and business a bit more, shall we? Here's the CakeSpy interview with owner Heather Rousseau:
CakeSpy: Since I can't be in Michigan right now, can you give me a quick rundown of what I'd see if I were to walk into your bakery?

Heather Rousseau: Our colors are pink, black, and white and everything is decorated accordingly. I try to include everything and anything I think is "cool." The wall to the right of our entrance is decorated with a mini gallery of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), which you may be familiar with. They are mini works of art with the main requirement being that they are the size of a playing card. I collect cupcake-themed ATCs, so this is where I display my collection.

When you walk into the bakery you will run into our 12-flavor gelato case. We make our gelato in-house, using all fresh fruits and no artificial flavorings. You'll then see one display case holding 30 flavors of cupcakes--jumbo size, because bigger is better.

Next to that case is our case where we have generally about 5 different flavors of cookies and also have chocolates, BIG buckeyes, chocolate covered bacon and other miscellaneous goodies.

CS: What is your first baked good memory?

HR: The first thing that comes to my mind was at my best friends 8th birthday party when I saw my first gourmet cake. Her mom brought in a cake that was ROUND...(not a sheet cake!?) and had ribbon wrapped around the sides. On the top was fresh flowers. I was completely in awe. Even more so when she served the cake and it had a layer of cream cheese and a layer of strawberry filling. I didnt even know it was possible! From then on, I was hooked.

CS: What made you decide to open your own bakery?

HR: I've always wanted to open a bakery. It was always in the back of my mind. Every time I worked somewhere else the entire time I always thought, "I can do it better, I can do it faster, I can do it more efficient, I can sell more, etc. etc. etc." The final push was last year when I was working at a bakery in my home town after I moved back from Chicago and she did not want to decorate the cupcakes - she said, "We will sell them anyway so don't waste your time" That was when I really realized nobody was EVER going to do it the way I wanted to, and doing it myself was the only option.

CS: If you could go back a year, what advice about opening a bakery would you give yourself?

HR: I guess most importantly I would tell myself to delegate tasks. I still struggle with this. I try to do everything myself, and sometimes that causes areas to lack since it doesnt get my undivided attention.

CS: You recently got married. What kind of wedding cake did you have? 

HR: Yeah I did! We actually got married in Riviera Maya, Mexico last August 6th. I actually had two wedding cakes - First cake was at our actual wedding in mexico and our wedding package came with a cake...and it was so guady. It was amusing to us to think that I decorate cakes and we had an ugly cake :) It was two single-layer "tiers" so it was very flat. Maybe 4" tall total. It had no borders, but very large and over sized marzipan "roses" stuck sporadically throughout the entire cake.

Our second cake I made for our reception we had in Michigan. At the time we were living in Chicago (I went to The French Pastry School) and I arrived in town the night before. I got to baking. I made the entire cake tres leches. I had all these plans of design, but my husband and I could not agree on a single design. He wanted very traditional and simple. I wanted something a little loudee - after all, finally I had a blank canvas in front of me that I could do WHATEVER I wanted, try out new techniques, etc. and my husband was being boring.

SO, I settled on the idea of just doing a simple upside down cake. Because we were so rushed, I brought the un-iced cakes to the reception and then started looking around the hall for things I could use to decorate it There was no plan, but here is what we came up with. Im sure we were a site to see, husband and wife, dressed up, assembling our cake :)

CS: For those interested in pursuing baking as a career, how important do you think it is to attend culinary school?

HR: I think that formal schooling is important depending on what specifically you want to do with baking. Doing what I do - mostly cake decorating, etc. I think art classes would be more beneficial. If you want to work in a fine dining restaurant or in a fancy hotel, then schooling, degrees, training is more important in landing a job. In any baking specialty area, I think on the job training is key and most important above all. I recommend working at as many places as possible, learning as much as possible - even if it means working for free.

CS: In your opinion, what makes a perfect sugar cookie?

HR: I'm definitely not a "cookie-eating" person, so the perfect sugar cookie to me has to taste decent, but most importantly hold its shape when baking, so that when I decorate them, they have nice clean edges and you can tell what the shape is even before icing is added.

CS: Cake gossip alert! At a previous catering job, you created cakes for many a celebrity. Which was the most exciting job and why?

HR: Definitely the most exciting job for me was catering for Semi-Pro that was filmed in Flint, Michigan. That one was the most exciting for me for a number of reasons: one, this was the first movie production that I catered for, so it was all "new" to me; two, this was my first pastry job, and I was getting to make desserts for real live celebrities; three, it was one of the longest jobs we worked on, and four--we were able to interact alot with the cast and crew and I got to meet Will Ferrell & Woody Harrelson among others. 

CS: Are there any types of baked goods or sweets that you would consider regional specialties in your area? 

HR: There are always cherry products and apple products around, so I try my best to incorporate local ingredients as much as possible. Right now I have pumpkin cupcakes from a local farmer, caramel apples and caramel apple cupcakes for sale.

CS: What's next? 

HR: As I sit here typing there is pounding and saws being heard next door to me - we are in the middle of expansion and will be doubling our store. We are going to extend our store front, enlarge our kitchen and begin offering lessons and birthday parties, among other ideas.

In Michigan? Get your sweet self over to SugarHigh Bakery for a visit, they're located at 925 S. Main Street, Suite G1, Frankenmuth, MI!

For more, check out their website and Facebook page! Oh, and you know, follow them on Twitter!

Batter Chatter: Interview with Emily of The Divine Cupcake

What happens when a midwife and a sound engineer decide to open a cupcake business? No, it's not the plot line of the latest reality show (although perhaps it should be)--it's the story of The Divine Cupcake, a custom-order cupcake business in Eugene, Oregon which is upgrading to retail storefront set to open on March 5. Want to know more? Here's an interview with proprietress Emily Downing-Moore.

CakeSpy: You are also a midwife. Do you ever offer combo specials--say, delivery and a dozen cupcakes?

Emily Downing-Moore: I wish! Maybe if I was in a small private practice, but as of now I'm in a group practice, delivering around 50-60 babies a month between us, so that would be a lot of cupcakes to coordinate! A lot of our women are also loyal cupcake customers though!

CS: How does it feel to be making the jump from custom order bakery to retail storefront?

EDM: It feels awesome! It's been our dream since we started the business, and we are so excited that its grown to a point where we can make the leap. I'm most excited to be able to offer people a variety of flavors, because up to this point if you ordered from us it was one flavor per dozen.

CS: Are your offerings going to change at all with the transition?

EDM: Yes! We will be able to offer more variety of flavors and we will also be offering Organic espresso, teas and drinking chocolate. We have a huge list of cupcake flavors to start experimenting with now that we have a bigger kitchen! We will also be making specific tea-cupcake and coffee-cupcake menus so people can see what drinks go with specific flavors the best.

CS: Because it's the question that everyone asks me, I'm curious about your response: why cupcakes?

EDM: We get asked this all the time as well! We usually say why not?! Everybody loves cupcakes! We chose them because they are fun to make, and the creativity you can infuse into cupcakes is endless. They are the perfect size dessert, and there is no better feeling than seeing people's face light up with a huge smile when they seem them.

CS: What is the first cake you remember baking?

EDM: Chocolate, of course!

CS: If you had to pick a flavor that you'd say is "very Eugene"...which would it be?

EDM: I asked Eugene what flavor they thought was "very Eugene" and the list was hilarious. I actually meant what flavor off the menu but you should check out the facebook page for all the responses. Hilarious! From that list it looks like I need to make a blackberry & a hazelnut cupcake. If I had to pick one from the current menu, I'd say the Electric Pumpkin. The name catches the eye of everyone, and they always ask me what makes it "electric." You can decide on your own why I might say it's the most "Eugene", but really... there's only food ingredients in it!

CS: Can gluten free cupcakes really be delicious?

EDM: Yes! However, the texture will always be different from a wheat cupcake, so as long as you can eat it without the expectation of that being the same, the flavors are delicious. Lemon is my favorite!

CS: Any special events for opening day?

EDM: Free Cupcakes, Live Music & the Emerald City Roller Girls will be skating around the parking lot.

Want more? Luckily, The Divine Cupcake is all over the interwebz. Check them out on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and on their website. And if you're lucky enough to live in the Eugene area, hit 'em up starting on their opening day, March 5; the retail storefront is located at 1680 W. 11th Avenue in Eugene, OR.

Batter Chatter: Interview with of Bredenbeck's Bakery, Philadelphia PA

Interview with Karen of Bredenbeck's Bakery, Philadelphia
Karen H. Rohde is the owner of Bredenbeck’s Bakery, a Philadelphia tradition since 1889. Initially opened by a Bavarian immigrant baker, Bredenbeck’s was later turned over to the bakery’s longtime employees, Otto and Walter Haug, Rohde’s grandfather and father. The two owned and operated the bakery until Rohde opened the bakery’s current location almost 27 years ago. So what is life like for someone who so clearly has deep roots in baking? Let's see:

CakeSpy: You spent your childhood living above Bredenbeck’s bread and sweet bakery. When you opened the current Bredenbeck’s, what made you decide to stop baking bread?
Karen Rohde: My dad and grandfather’s bakery was a full line bakery, so they baked both bread and sweets. When I opened in Chestnut Hill, I initially had breads and sweets, but the public taste changed to crustier breads and my ovens couldn’t make that, so I stopped making bread all together.

CS: What was it like working for your grandfather and father?
KR: My father was my mentor. He treated people fairly. He appreciated all the hard work they did for Bredenbeck’s. I continue in the same mind set.

CS: What were Bredenbeck’s Bakery customers like when you were a child? Have they changed over the years? If so, how?
KR: When I was a child, there was a bakery on every block. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore. Customers today thank us for being in business. They see so many small businesses that close because they can’t compete with large chain stores. So, they don’t take us for granted.

CS: What inspired you to continue your grandfather’s and father’s legacy by opening a Bredenbeck’s of your own?
KR: I always wanted to have my own business, whether it was a child day care or something to do with food. I really wanted to open a restaurant. My father suggested I open my own bakery since I spent so much of my life working at his bakery.

CS: You’ve owned this business for almost 27 years. How have the products changed?
KR: Diets have changed. People don’t necessarily indulge they way they used to. Instead of half or whole cakes, I now have individual slices or pieces to cater to those folks.

CS: Do you prefer sweet or salty food?
KR: Salty!

CS: If you were trapped in the bakery and needed to eat baked goods to sustain, what would you dig into first?
KR: Oh, that’s a tough one. I’ll say our custard éclairs.

CS: What’s your favorite time of year for the bakery? Why?
KR: Summer – May, June. That’s when the Ice Cream Parlor half of Bredenbeck’s is open. So, the whole building--Ice Cream and Bakery--are producing delicious teats.

CS: What’s the absolute favorite treat of Philadelphians who come into your shop?
KR: Strawberry shortcake. We’ve made it the same way for 70 years.

CS: What’s the most popular cake flavor among brides/grooms?
KR: Raspberry swirl pound cake. It’s decadent, and a crowd pleaser!

CS: What’s the most unique/crazy cake you’ve ever created?
KR: We created a gigantic cowboy hat cake for a convention at the Spectrum in Center City. It was so huge that it had to be assembled on-site, and on a flatbed---because they had two horses pull it around the main floor!

CS: What makes Bredenbeck’s unique?
KR: We are one of the few bakeries who still invest the time and love to create authentic German cookies each holiday season. Our whole staff is so creative, and you can tell by the way we go all-out to decorate the store and change our product lines for each season. We are so proud of our top-notch customer service. We always, always, always do our best to accommodate our customers. And we refuse to compromise our quality just because prices go up—we use the best ingredients and always bake from scratch.

CS: Baked good trends come and go...are there any desserts of yester-year that you'd love to see re-emerge? Or any that you were happy to see go?
KR: I'd like to bring back our Butterscotch Loaf. The basic recipe is a cinnamon bun roll with nuts that serves 8-10 slices. It was baked in a loaf pan that was coated with cinnamon bun smear. While it was still hot after baking, it was turned out and the loaf was covered with the caramelized smear. Our customers would send these to the solders in Vietnam. I have recently thought about bringing it back, but we are already selling so much comfort food that I'm trying to keep our selection diverse.

Fruit cake is recipe that I put away back in 2000 and will not bring back! I wanted to go into to the new millenium without fruit cake. I never liked it! It costs a lot to make, and it's so notorious for being the "unwanted holiday treat," that it really did not sell very well. Johnny Carson joked that there is only one fruit cake in existence, and that it gets passed around the country!

Check out the bakery in person at 8126 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118 or online at

Batter Chatter: Interview with Karen Rivera-Gorski of The Painted Cake in NJ

For the Cakespy Crew, the holidays mean New Jersey. For us, it's the NJ Shore (Belmar to be exact), where Head Spy Jessie (Mrs. Cakespy), Mr. Cakespy, Cake Gumshoes Bridget, Kenny and Margie converge for the end of December. And what better way to celebrate New Jersey than through interviewing a skilled NJ baker? Happily, we recently discovered the work of the amazingly skilled Karen Rivera-Gorski, proprietress of The Painted Cake, a custom cake studio based in Northern NJ which specializes in beautiful custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies. We were wowed by Karen's sugar decoration savvy, and were eager to learn more; here's what we discovered in a recent interview:



Cakespy: You trained in Pastry Arts, but it looks like you didn't go out on your own right away. Can you tell us the story of how The Painted Cake got started?
Karen Rivera-Gorski: After pastry school, I apprenticed at trendy NYC bakeries and studied with well-known sugar artists for a couple years. I started developing my own vision for a custom-cake studio, and began experimenting with different recipes before I created The Painted Cake’s cake menu. The top priority for me when I was developing the menu was taste; cakes have to taste as good as they look! When I found myself fulfilling a lot of cake requests through referrals and word of mouth, I knew it was time to venture out on my own.


CS: How did you come up with the name for your bakery?
KRG: I was working on a cake one day, and the name just popped into my head! I thought “The Painted Cake” conveyed the type of custom design work we do.

CS: You do some really involved, lovely fondant cakes. How long does it take to make a specialty cake like for instance the Yankee’s cap and shirt cake?
KRG: The time it takes to complete a specialty cake always depends on the size and design. The Yankee cake currently featured on our website took approximately 20 hours to complete. The actual baking of our cakes is the last step of the cake making process; however, detailed sugar decorations are often made well in advance as they can sometimes take days to complete!

CS: You do not currently have a retail space; you primarily work by special order. Do you think you would ever be interested in having a retail location?
KRG: We would consider a retail bakery only when we felt it would not compromise the high quality of our ingredients or attention to every detail of our cakes. Right now, we are lucky to be able to provide a level of quality and service that differentiates us from many bakeries.

CS: It looks like wedding cakes are your specialty. For what other types of occasions have you provided cakes or desserts?
KRG: We love making wedding cakes, but The Painted Cake specializes in custom-designed cakes for all occasions. We receive many requests for birthdays, bridal showers, baby showers, graduations, and corporate events.

CS: What is your most popular cake flavor?
KRG: That’s a tough question; it’s a tie between our Valrhona Chocolate cake with chocolate raspberry ganache and chocolate mousse buttercream and our moist Red Velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

CS: You've worked in Michigan and NYC. How were the dessert scenes in those places different from NJ?
KRG: I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1999 and I loved living in Ann Arbor. I didn’t work in pastry at that time, but I can say that Michigan did not seem to be as cupcake- crazed as the East coast! Zingerman’s cafe in Ann Arbor is a foodie’s dream. Luckily, they have an amazing mail-order business, so anyone in the country can enjoy their goodies!

Cakespy Note: Click on the link above, you won't regret it.


CS: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one type of dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KRG: Valrhona chocolate cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache and home-made marshmallow frosting.

CS: Have you ever had a cake get crushed in transit or any emergency? If so, what did you do?
KRG: Luckily, we have never had a cake disaster en route to an event; however, we always bring an “emergency cake kit” complete with extra icing and sugar decorations as a back-up!

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake?
KRG: Whenever you can take a few minutes to enjoy a really good piece of cake after your busy day is the best time!

CS: What is your favorite beverage accompaniment with cake?
KRG: Hands down, Gloria Jeans coffee with cream and sugar.

CS: Cupcakes are ridiculously popular! Do you think they'll ever go out of style?
KRG: Definitely not! Cupcakes are here to stay.

CS: What are some of your favorite cookbooks, or who are some bakers who inspire you?
KRG: The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, is certainly a staple for all bakers. I am really inspired by Tish Boyle’s recipes and writing style (e.g., The Cake Book). In addition to being an extremely talented food writer and recipe creator, she is also the Editor- in- Chief of Chocolatier Magazine - a wonderful magazine for the professional pastry chef or the passionate home chef!

CS: Any advice for bakers just getting started?
KRG: Baking as a profession takes LOTS of hard work and long hours; but if you have a strong passion for baking, it makes it all worth it. Being a pastry chef is a wonderful and rewarding career.

CS: What is next for The Painted Cake?
KRG: We hope to have more podcasts available on our website in 2008 that will focus on cake demonstrations and providing baking and decorating tips! Stay tuned...


Batter Chatter: Interview with Paul Verano of the Confectional (Via Cakespy Seattle)

Recently, the staff at an acquaintance's office got in a discussion over whether cheesecake is indeed a cake (just look at the name!), or a pie (it's got a crust!). The discussion became a heated debate, such to the point that they phoned a major cheesecake company's headquarters to find the answer (cake).

Mystery having been solved, we set out to find more about this silky, indulgent treat; who better to turn to than The Confectional, the Pike Place Market purveyor of creatively flavored full-size and mini cheesecakes, as well as adorable chocolate-covered cheesecake truffles? In a recent interview with owner Paul Verano, we learned about what makes a cheesecake great, regional cheesecake preferences, and even got a cheesecake confession:

Cakespy: So. You are part Colombian, living in Seattle, with a cheesecake shop that was realized in Wellington, New Zealand. This all sounds very cosmopolitan! Can you fill in the blanks on how you got started?
Paul Verano: I was born in the US, but lived in Colombia as a child. I've been a baker since I was four years old, well actually my first 'baking' was a no-bake cookie, but that seriously set the ball in motion and I was immediately into the oven with the next thing. In college I would bake massive rich chocolaty cakes that my friends fawned over. I tried out cheesecakes and came up with my Cookies and Mint Chocolate cheesecake straight away. This is on my menu today and remains my all time personal favorite flavor.

For the next several years I would take my cheesecakes to parties and they proved to be extremely popular. Several friends started ordering them for their own parties and for weddings. Eventually, when my partner and I were living in New Zealand our friends there pretty much pushed/encouraged me further than anyone had before into opening a business.

So my first store was in Wellington, New Zealand. We opened in May of 2004. It was delivery only back then. Here in Seattle we opened our first storefront in December of 2006. We are about to celebrate our one-year anniversary in the Pike Place Market.

CS: What made you decide to locate in the Pike Place Market?
PV: When we moved back to Seattle a friend who knows Kurt Dammeier of Beechers, Bennett's Restaurant, etc. suggested we sit down with him and discuss the possibilities of opening a store in Seattle. He immediately loved my product and after our first meeting said we had to look into the Pike Place Market as it would be the perfect venue for my cheesecakes. My partner and I left that meeting and walked across the street to the Pike Place Market offices. On the rental board was a space available which is now our 490 square-foot store. It was very karmic and I'm very happy with how it all transpired.

CS: Do you ever barter lunch for cheesecake with your neighbor vendors?
PV: Absolutely! One of the great things about working in the market is that most vendors will trade or at least have a 'market discount', as we do. The community in the Pike Place Market is fantastic. There is a bit of competitiveness for some vendors, but for the most part everyone is excited to help everyone else out. We are asked constantly where the best of this is, or best of that is. "Where's the first Starbucks?" is the most asked question.

CS: You're called "the Confectional", a clever take on "The Confessional". Do you have any cheesecake confessions to share with us?
PV: Hmmm. A cheesecake confession of my own...well...yes. I actually like the batter of my cheesecakes more than the baked product. But isn't that true for cookie and cake batter, too? You just can't sit down and serve a batch of batter for dessert, now can you? But oh, don't tempt me. I've been known to blow people away with unexpected desserts. Oh, and I can't suggest enough, if you're up to it, warming up my cheesecakes (oven or microwave) and serving them with your favorite ice cream. Oh my word.

CS: We imagine that you get quite a few out of town visitors. Have you noticed any trends in cheesecake preference for people from different parts of the world?
PV: The biggest trend was fully expected after having such a great 'test market' in New Zealand. It's that our most popular flavor is the Raspberry White Chocolate. It's the most popular by DOUBLE the next flavor! For some reason the Kahlua White Chocolate seems to be very popular with the Asian community. And southern Americans often ask where the Amaretto Cheesecake is, (and clearly it's pronounced Ameretta in the south...I love it!). Really, all our cheesecakes seem to sell equally. The only other thing I'll say is that most people that approach our display case are enamored with our 12 main flavors, plus seasonal flavors, and can have a difficult time choosing which one to get. It's amazing how often someone will get an extra cheesecake flavor to try later... a good problem to have!

CS: Where do you get your recipes?
PV: I have created all of my recipes, sometimes from suggestions of flavors and following a hunch and working it out. My cheesecake truffles were invented in my home kitchen just two weeks before opening the store and have proven to be extraordinarily popular, and are pretty much to-die-for. There's also my Colombian Hot Chocolate. A thick European-style drinking chocolate that is designed after my Grandmother's recipe. In Colombia the hot chocolate is about as thin as water, but in my store I get to decide how thick the chocolate is, and I just don't mess around. Not too overpowering, but enough to remind you that chocolate can be a serious happy-inducing pill. We start with melted dark chocolate, organic whole milk, and like my Grandmother's, I have a bit of Colombian coffee and just a hint of her signature spices.

CS: Have there been any great cheesecakes in your past that have inspired your baking efforts?
PV: While there are many incredible cheesecakes, cheesecake makers and cheesecake styles, I find that my personal favorites are the ones that are absolutely naked and most simple. That's why there are three ingredients in my base. As simple as it gets. Then adding the flavors to 'dress them up' is all about balance. It's chemistry at it's tastiest. I'm not sure I have an inspiration from somewhere else. So many recipes are just too sweet. We have a much lower amount of sugar in our recipes than most that I've seen/tasted.

CS: Would you say that your cheesecakes are "New York" style, or "Italian" style? Or something else?
PV: We are closest to a "New York-Style" cheesecake, but I go for a slightly denser, in-your-face version. In fact we call our New York-Style a "Seattle's New York-Style"...that is to say that we Seattleites often consider ourselves a bit 'heartier' than New Yorkers. More rugged in the Northwest, eh? And our crust is a bit of heaven. We use Maria Biscuits from Spain, which make a beautiful crust. Most graham crackers have partially hydrogenated oil, and again we try to keep it as pure a product as we can. Maria biscuits are very simple, elegant and make a great crunchy crust.

CS: What is the most important aspect in making a great cheesecake?
PV: Keep it simple. As pure as you can. Do not over or under mix. And love making it. If you love the making and the baking and pay special attention to detail, they'll taste it!

CS: What is your most popular flavor at the shop?
PV: Raspberry White Chocolate--although, our holiday flavors are definitely winning right now! Those are Pumpkin and the Cranberry White Chocolate...with a hint of Cardamom.

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor?
PV: Cookies and Mint Chocolate, but whenever I taste one of the others I get a little bit giddy because they are all so good! My other top favorites are actually our 'richest' cheesecakes, the Coconut Cherry Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Chocolate and the Quadruple Chocolate. See a trend there? Everyone has a different favorite. All our staff have their own faves and are asked often enough that we've listed their favorites on each sign in the display case.

CS: Some people are scared of cheesecake because it is "fattening". Any response to this?
PV: Indeed. For some people it's a viscosity issue and they will simply NEVER like cheesecake. We've actually converted some of these people and now have loyal fans that wouldn't dream of eating a cheesecake before. As for fattening: there's a lot of concern about carb counting vs. fat, etc. What I can tell you is we have a very reasonable sized individual serving that's completely satisfying. That alone is a saving grace, and without consuming a giant American-sized portion of a so-so product. On top of that our Raspberry White Chocolate cheesecake is about 320 calories, which is far less than most of our customers guess. Some flavors a good bit less, and others a bit more calories. I like to remind people that if they're that worried about 320 calories, then after you eat it, go for a brisk walk for 20 minutes, or enjoy the Pike Place Market for an hour, and it's pretty much null and void, no?

CS: In your opinion, what is the best beverage accompaniment for cheesecake?
PV: Coffee, espresso, Earl Grey tea, and if you're enjoying our Mochaccino cheesecake, a nice, full-bodied red is something else. Oh, or a fine chocolate port on the side or drizzled right on our Seattle's New York-Style cheesecake. Whew!

CS: What is next for The Confectional?
PV: Our next goal, after getting through our first full holiday season in the Pike Place Market, will be to work toward opening a commissary baking space, as well as a second location.

The Confectional is located at 1530 Pike Place, in the Pike Place Market (not far from that first Starbucks). For more information, visit

Batter Chatter: Interview with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes, Pittsburgh

Well, we're just going to come out and say it: it's pretty hard not to like cute guys who like to bake. And if they actually know what they're doing and have a savvy sense of design? All we can say is, magic ensues, such as in the case of Dozen Cupcakes in Pittsburgh. The owners, James Gray and Andrew Twigg have backgrounds in baking and graphic design, respectively; this expertise shows in their dense, buttery and impeccably decorated cakes and adorable shop. Pittsburgh has clearly responded: business has grown so much that a second "Bakeshop" location featuring brunch and other baked goods will open later on this year. Cakespy recently had a chat with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes; here's what we learned about getting buzzed on cupcakes, the dessert scene in Pittsburgh, and the story of the Andy Warhol Cupcake:

Cakespy: What is your most popular cupcake flavor?
James Gray: Cosmo. It is a vanilla butter cake with vodka soaked cranberries, lime buttercream tinted pink and rolled in pink and white sanding sugar. We finish it off with a lime wedge and a couple dried cranberries. People are crazy about it!

CS: Do you sell anything other than cupcakes? If not, do you think you ever will?
JG: We sell only cupcakes here and for now that is all we will sell. There will be more sweet treats in the very near future at another location.

CS: Hey, you're in Pittsburgh. Where is the Andy Warhol Cupcake on your menu?
JG: I started with a Warhol cupcake about a year ago when I first started. It had different vibrant colors of royal icing with little royal pansies in the center. I might bring them back in the future. They were really fun.

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor from your menu?
JG: Right now I would have to say the spiced apple cake. Apple cake is simply the dreamiest cake for me. The little bits of apple in the cake are a delight. We frost it with a caramel buttercream and a drizzle of real homemade caramel. I have to be careful when we make them because I could eat a lot of them!

CS: We've heard that "Pie is the new cake". What are your thoughts on this?
JG: I don't think pie will ever take the iconic stand that cupcakes and cake have in this country. Pie is a bit more difficult to make and eat. Although I love some pie!

CS: What in your opinion is the best time of day to eat cake?
JG: I would say between 2-3 o'clock. This is when most people need a little pick me up. And if you can hold out until then, it really makes it that much more exciting.

CS: What are some of the other popular desserts in Pittsburgh?
JG: Biscotti! We have the best biscotti here. And almond torte. These seem to be the faves.

CS: What, if anything, makes a "bad" cupcake?
JG: Oh, easy. Bad frosting. Like using vegetable shorting instead of butter. And a cake that has no flavor and is too spongy. At Dozen are cupcakes are like little cakes. Not traditional cupcakes. The cakes tend to be a little more dense and flavorful. Old Fashioned-style. If it tastes like the cakes grandma used to make then it will be yummy.

CS: Would we get buzzed if we ate your cosmo cupcake?
JG: Unfortunately no! The alcohol is baked out in the process. But we do have buttercreams that have straight liquor in them! If you were a light weight (extremely light) you might feel a little buzz.

CS: You do weddings and sweet sixteen parties. Holy high maintenance! Have you ever had any nightmare customers?
JG: Actually we haven't. Most of the customers who come to us are absolutely great and easy going. We also do everything to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible.

CS: Will cupcakes ever go out of style?
JG: Maybe someday. It will be a while though. These things have so much trend factor it's crazy.

CS: What is next for Dozen Cupcakes?
JG: We are working on Dozen Bake Shop. It's our full bakery line with Sunday brunch opening later this year or early next year. We are totally excited to bring a home-style bakery to Pittsburgh. We are opening in the hottest neighborhood in Pittsburgh right now, Lawrenceville. A mini burgeoning Brooklyn! There are lots of independent boutiques and many new restaurants and cafes opening up along Butler Street. I think the reception is going to be off the hook. At least, that's what we are hoping!

Dozen Cupcakes is located at 1707 Murray Ave, Pittsburgh; they are online at

Batter Chatter: Interview with Marlene Goetzeler of Freeport Bakery


(All photos provided by Freeport Bakery; thank you!)



We saw this great quote in a recent DailyCandy feature:

"Cupcake baker" has officially replaced "handbag designer” as annoying It profession.


And while certainly we love cupcakes, maybe there’s a slight point there—with the vast quantity of cupcake places opening up, it can be hard to know who’s good and who will last. So it was immensely refreshing to come across Freeport Bakery, an institution of a bakery based in Sacramento that’s been serving up sweet treats (not just cupcakes!) since 1987. They’ve been open through various cake and bakery trends, but customers keep on coming back for their European-inspired cakes and tortes; with a new, expanded location coming soon, they’re certainly doing something right. In a recent interview, co-owner Marlene Goetzeler dished on the cakes she's seen come and go, how sweet life is with a German baker husband, and introduced us to the PIMS cake:

Cakespy: How did you get started as a baker?
Marlene Goetzeler: Walter is my husband and partner. He grew up in Bavaria, above his parents' bakery. He came to the US when he was in his twenties to travel and see the states. He had gone to baking school in Germany and worked in bakeries since he was about fourteen. I do the business end (the "not sexy" part, I know...) and he takes care of the baking part.

CS: Do you remember what the first sale was on your first day open, over 20 years ago?
MG: I remember selling my first cake. It was the Fruit Basket.

CS: Where do your recipes come from?
MG: We work with familiar recipes and then add our style to them. Walter brought a lot from Germany. We also have a great and talented staff. We think of things we liked when we were younger and things that we like as adults.

CS: What is your most popular cake flavor?
MG: Has to be the golden buttermilk. Personally, I'm chocolate girl but I can eat that any time.

CS: Have certain cake flavors gone in and out of fashion during the time you've been baking?
MG: I remember Dobash Torte being requested all the time years ago. More than flavors, it's cakes. Like tiramisu. OMG! Trend of all trends. Or chocolate cake with raspberry couli.

CS: What is this PIMS cake we see on your menu? Is there a story behind it?
MG: My head cake decorator (she's been with us 19 years), my manager (she's been with us since '91) my assistant (since '89) and I go away together after the holidays for a few days every year. We eat really good food and laugh a lot. I brought along some PIMS cookies that someone gave me in a Christmas basket. We were drinking wine and eating. I ate one of the
cookies and said we really need to make a cake with these flavors. When we got back into town, Carol, the decorator, took me up on it. It is fantastic.

CS: What is your personal favorite dessert item (doesn't have to be something from your bakery, but it can be)?
MG: Walter makes fantastic homemade vanilla bean ice cream. We bring home some chocolate cake and eat it with the ice cream. Otherwise, I can eat one of our napoleons just about anytime!

CS: What, to you, is the most important factor in making a "good" cake?
MG: From a bakery owner's standpoint? Consistency. A wonderful cake that will taste great today and when you order it a month from now. No recipe changes. No surprises about the flavor. When you cook, you can change a recipe. When you bake you stick to the recipe. From a person who loves baked goods? It has to have fresh ingredients and a really good frosting. (Cakespy Note: We concur about the frosting!)

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake?
MG: Are you kidding? Right now!

CS: What do you think of the cupcake popularity that seems to be sweeping the nation?
MG: I admire the flavor combinations some people are coming up with. They sound fantastic. My grandmother and grandfather came to visit us every Sunday. My grandmother brought a huge shirt-box box full of chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles. We devoured them by Tuesday. We make cupcakes at the bakery with a recipe that is as close as we can get to my memory of my "grandma's cupcakes." And we will keep making them after this wave has passed.

CS: Any future plans for Freeport Bakery?
MG: We recently signed on with a developer to move the bakery to a new location. It's only 1/4 mile away but a much larger location. Our little bakery is bursting at the seams. We have over 50 employees and we are open seven days a week. Too much going on for our little space. We will be able to do more with more space but what that is, is a secret for now.

CS: Do you have any advice for those interested in starting a bakery today?
MG: Work in one. For a long time. Do every job you can. Good luck.

Freeport Bakery recently celebrated its 20th anniversary (!). They are located at 2966 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; online at