Table Talk: Let them eat cake
CHARLESTON, W.Va. --When Sara Lane opens her cupcake business in Capitol Market next week, she'll fill the bakery case with elaborate cupcakes and cake pops she learned to make from master chefs Duff Goldman and Buddy Valastro. Cafe Cupcake will be open Friday through Sunday.
A self-taught baker, Lane acquired her knowledge from frequent viewings of "Ace of Cakes" and "Cake Boss" while she cared for her small children at home. She's only been in the cake-making business for about two years, but her creations rival those featured on the television shows.
"I was watching those shows and thought I could do that," she said. "I TVRed them, then slowed them down to catch all the details. I recorded all the baking episodes on Food Network." She scrutinized the background of the sets to see what products the professionals used and ordered them for herself.
She credits her baking techniques to Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Cake Bible." Beranbaum wrote a dissertation on baking and emphasizes the science of baking and the importance of exact measurement and precisely executed techniques.
The first cakes she made were cupcakes for family and friends. She quickly progressed to carved and 3-D cakes like a four-tiered Arabian-style cake she recently made to order for a special event. The teal-colored icing was trimmed with gold stencil to resembled damask and raspberry-colored flowers out of sugar and marshmallow.
Lane applies skills she learned in the sculpting, painting and graphics classes she took in college as she decorates cakes in the shapes of diaper bag with baby shoes and teddy bears, a frilly shopping bag with high heeled shoe, and three-tiered cake featuring the character Andy from "Toy Story," all with edible accessories and trims.
She makes two to four specialty carved cakes a week from her Cross Lanes home, where she juggles cake-making and decorating with the demands of two toddlers, Patrick, 3, and Alexander, 1. Her 14-year-old daughter Morgan helps with some decorating. "She's a perfectionist, which is great," Lane said.
When Cafe Cupcake opens, Lane plans to slow down her custom cake business while she establishes herself in her first retail operation. The cupcake business should prove more time-efficient as she streamlines production into three to four varieties she'll offer daily, instead of creating new designs for each custom cake.
Chocolate chip cookie dough-filled cupcakes, her signature item, will definitely be in the bakery case, as will three or four other flavors that she'll rotate. Most will be baked in Lane's signature brown cupcake liners. Initial flavors in the rotation will probably include:
* Southern Red Velvet, buttermilk red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and chocolate or cream cheese filling.
* Birthday Surprise, vanilla or chocolate cake with confetti sprinkles.
* Ding Dong, chocolate cake with white cream filling dipped in ganache and with little white squiggles piped on top.
* Hot Fudge Sundae, hot fudge cake with a scoop of vanilla bean frosting, topped with ribbons of fudge ganache sauce and topped with chopped nuts with cherry.
* Tiffany, mint chocolate chip cake decorated with Tiffany blue-tinted mint butter cream and a little white bow.
* Cookies & Cream, vanilla or chocolate chip cake, cookies and cream filling and frosting with crushed Oreo cookies on top.
* Truffles, devil's food cake with ganache inside and on top.
* Apple Strudel, vanilla cake with apple pie filling, butter cream frosting and streusel topping.
Her initial cake pops, basically cake balls on lollipop sticks, will start as Oreo truffle flavored and decorated in seasonal colors. She'll also have red velvet, chocolate, vanilla and nutter butter.
"We can make cake pops in basically any flavor we offer," she said.
In addition to the classic flavor combinations she finds on-line and in the "Cake Bible," Lane experiments with flavors.
"I like to do modern combinations not used before," she said. She recently made Italian ice lemon tiramisu cupcake that is filled with mascarpone and whipped cream, brushed with lemon ice syrup and topped with whipped cream and mascarpone filling. She sprinkles crushed ladyfingers or lemon zest on top.
"It has a fresh, clean lemon taste. It's a lot of flavor," she said. "I've probably tried hundreds of flavor combinations."
Lane will replenish the bakery case daily, with about 14 dozen freshly baked cupcakes and cake pops.
"I'll bake early in the morning, before the kids wake up," she said. "That gives me the rest of the time to spend with my family. I think this business will fit well with my life."
Baking at 4 or 5 a.m. is normal for bakers who supply fresh goods to stores that open mid-morning. The cupcake counter will be open Friday through Sunday during market hours. Lane will trade her whisk for a skillet when the cupcakes are frosted and decorated and her children clamor for breakfast. An employee will staff the bakery counter.
Cupcakes cost $3 to $3.50 each, $15 to $18 for a six-pack and $30 to $35 for a dozen. For Halloween, she'll decorate cupcakes with fondant shaped and colored like candy corn and plans seasonal treats for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Cafe Cupcakes, 304-415-2520, email email@example.com or visit Café Cupcakes or Custom Cakes LLC on Facebook.
Reach Julie Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1230.
Sour Cream White Cake
(used in the candy corn cupcakes)
3 egg whites
1 cup sour cream, whipped
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cup cake flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
BEAT egg whites until stiff. Add vanilla. Fold sour cream into egg whites.
SIFT flour and all dry ingredients; add alternately with cold water to the egg and sour cream mixture.
DIVIDE batter in two bowls and tint one yellow and the other orange with food coloring, gels or paste. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
STARTING with the yellow batter, fill cupcake paper 1/3 of the way. Next, add a 1/3 of the orange batter. Batter should fill the cupcake liners no more than 2/3 of the way.
BAKE in a 350-degree oven until the top springs back. Allow to cool in cupcake pan for 3 minutes, remove and allow to cool completely on a vented rack.
FROST with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
CREAM butter and cream cheese in a mixer until light and fluffy; add vanilla. Slowly add confectioners' sugar until incorporated. Mix well. Refrigerate any leftovers with cream cheese frosting.
TOP with candy corn, or set out a cupcake topping bar and let the kids decorate them with their choice of sprinkles and decorations.
Tip: Fill a freezer bag with frosting. Snip of the end and it makes a disposable pastry bag. Clean up is easier.