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Naked vanilla cake by Renee Conner Cake Design. Courtesy photo.




Fantastical flavors

LaShunda Allen, chef and owner of Ooo La La Creative Cakes in Meredith, has noticed lately that many of her customers are increasingly willing to branch out with their cake flavors and look to something other than the standard chocolate and vanilla. 
“It seems like there are a lot less of the vanilla and marble plain people and more people wanting a wow and tasty fantastic cake,” she said.
Unique flavors she’s introduced lately include Irish coffee cake with Bailey’s soaked into a chocolate cake and the Big Breakfast, a bacon cake with maple buttercream, jelly and crushed bacon on the inside. Both cakes started solely as cupcake flavors, a good way to test the waters of a unique flavor before dedicating it to an entire cake. 
“A lot of the mousses, the creaminess of having that on the inside of their cupcakes, it’s like a little surprise,” she said. “So a lot of the cupcake flavors that had mousse … are now cake flavors.” 
Lisa Aubin, head cake decorator at Dutch Epicure Bakery in Amherst, said Dutch Epicure makes sponge cakes, which are very light and not too sweet, so they’re able to pair them with myriad fillings, like with the truffle cake, mocha ganache, passionfruit charlotte and gianduja gateaux, to achieve the perfect balance.
“[It] opens it up to mix and match. If it was sweet it would be competing with the fillings,” she said. “We can use raspberry, lemon, strawberry, all kinds of stronger flavors and [it] matches well and still comes out a nice light cake.”
Dutch Epicure Bakery makes an array of charlottes — defined by their makeup of sponge cake, mousse, ladyfingers lining the outside and a garnish of fruit or chocolate curls — such as the chocolate mousse, mango lime, passion fruit and berry charlotte varieties. 
Denise Nickerson, owner of The Bakeshop on Kelley Street in Manchester, has brought out a number of new cake flavors recently, like champagne, chocolate infused with lavender and a chocolate cinnamon that has a “hint of cinnamon to kick up the flavor,” she said. She likes to take a traditional flavor and add in just a taste of something unexpected.
“We’re doing a lot of margarita cakes, Irish cream cakes, we do a red or white wine cake so different liquor ones lately,” she said.
At Frederick’s Pastries in Amherst, general manager Jennifer Wojtaszek said that flavors like key lime margarita will make their way to the forefront as the weather gets warmer, but their signature purple velvet torte — purple pound cake with cream cheese frosting in the middle and buttercream on the outside — is the most popular.
A torte, a multi-layered cake with fillings and frostings that tend to be more decadent, is a crowd-pleaser at Frederick’s. Wojtaszek said they’ll make them with crushed Oreos, crushed M&Ms and other ingredients that add a nice crunch.
Renee Conner, owner of Renee Conner Cake Design, noted that while most of her customers still opt for the traditional chocolate or vanilla, she’s had some foodies lately looking for savory cakes, the call to which she answered with lemon basil, Earl Gray tea with lavender, chocolate with chili and chai spice cakes.
 
Make mine a mini 
Among New Hampshire bakers it seems like cake in its full form — albeit with many varying styles — still reigns supreme, but some cake makers do offer choices to folks who want a nice cake taste without the commitment.
Finesse Pastries makes petit fours, which are bite-sized cake squares cut from a large sheet pan then decorated individually. It also has smaller versions of all of its cakes, perfectly suited for one or two people. Finesse’s display case is often lined with these colorful petit gateaux, from savoureux and success to citron and mogador.
Frederick’s Pastries has an array of cake truffles, which General Manager Jennifer Wojtaszek described as denser than a cake pop and not on a stick. 
“It’s our baked cake mixed in with different frostings and flavors and you roll them in a ball and dip them in chocolate,” she said, like the purple velvet cake truffle rolled in cream cheese frosting and white chocolate.
Frederick’s also has cheesecake cups, miniature single servings of their full-sized cheesecakes.
“We make a New York-style plain cheesecake and then we layer it with fruits, frosting and a top layer of cake and frosting to finish it,” she said. 
Cheesecake cup flavors include margarita, mocha brownie, purple velvet, strawberry mousse, carrot and turtle. 
Dutch Epicure Bakery goes small with a cupcake of the month.
“[It’s] a good option to try some flavors together and possibly turn them into cake flavors later on,” said Lisa Aubin, head cake decorator. “They’re smaller and easier for people to try instead of buying an entire cake.”
Deborah Vandeberghe, owner of Private Island Cakes in Windham, has made cake push pops in the past, which she does by layering cake and frosting. So far she’s only done them for a show, but said she’d make them for a customer looking to have a neat sweet for a party.
 
Buttercream or fondant?
One of the divisive and longer-running debates in the cake-making world centers on using buttercream frosting or fondant for decorating. 
LaShunda Allen, chef and owner of Ooo La La Creative Cakes in Meredith, likes to use fondant because it opens up possibilities for what she can do with the interior of a cake, so the flavor on the inside doesn’t have to play any role in the design of the cake’s exterior.
“When it comes down to making a really beautiful, standout, wow designer cake I prefer to use fondant,” she said. “It gives me so much more flexibility.”
Fondant can serve as a protective shell around the cake, opening it up for heavier decorations and more delicate details like thin ruffles, which is one of the reasons Renee Conner, owner of Renee Conner Cake Design, likes to use it.
“Buttercream, you’re going to tell it’s frosting,” she said. “The fondant designs can be more elegant and refined. … Almost anything you can do in fondant you can do in buttercream — it just won’t be as sharp.”
Conner puts a layer of buttercream under fondant when decorating so folks can have the aesthetic of fondant along with the taste of buttercream.
Though she appreciates fondant’s merits and uses it when needed, General Manager Jennifer Wojtaszek and the staff at Frederick’s Pastries prefers buttercream simply for its superior taste. 
“Taste always comes first; that’s why we don’t do a lot with fondant,” she said.
“It’s great and all to cover a cake with fondant, but the art of it is using your piping bags and frosting the cake without crumbs and getting it nice and smooth and beautiful using just the [buttercream] frosting,” she said.




Layers of delicious
Discover a new favorite slice

03/10/16
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com



 For many people, getting a custom-made or specialty cake is reserved for special occasions like a wedding or milestone birthday. But why wait for a big celebration? In New Hampshire, fancy cakes are more than just tiered and decorated masterpieces (though the Granite State does those pretty darn well too). From German kuchen to modern French entremet, bakers throughout the state offer all kinds of inspiration to help you find your new favorite cake.

 
Specialty slices
Mixing up the flavors inside a traditional American cake is one way to find a new favorite slice, but if you want a totally different taste, here are a few more worldly cakes that you can get right here in New Hampshire.
 
French entremets
Described as “very traditional, but the most modern of all pastries” by Creative Director Bryson Perkins of Triolo’s Bakery in Bedford, entremets are a light sweet made up of many texture components such as cake, ganache, cracklings and mousse.
“It’s very light, not heavy like the American version of the cake,” Perkins said. 
Typically a seven- or eight-inch round, it’s made in an entremet ring either by pouring, spatulaing or piping the ingredients in. With so many layers, entremets make for an intense baking process and can vary greatly from flavor to flavor. One may be made with three mousses and no cake, use a glaze on the outside instead of a ganache or be filled with caramelized nut cracklings, orange essence and a light chocolate meringue.
Each bakery has its own version for the flavors and methods of making entremet, Perkins said, and he wanted to bring his signature take on it to Triolo’s because it’s uncommon in the state.
“You don't typically see it around in New Hampshire [and] we want to change the face of how people view cakes,” he said. “No entremet is exactly the same. It's a house specialty.”
Encompassing the idea of entertaining, entremets are more than just a tasty treat. Perkins said the components on the outside tell the story of the inside of the cake, like his chocolate fantasia entremet topped with a pool of chocolate ganache and a small nest-like piece on top relating back to the chocolate mousse interior and other decadent aspects.
Other interesting options from Triolo’s include a Kona tiramisu entremet — named after Perkins’ hometown in Hawaii — made with ladyfinger sheets, Kona coffee, tiramisu mousse and Kahlua whipped cream. There’s also a chocolate grand marnier with chocolate orange cake, Grand Marnier mousse and caramelized white chocolate mousse.
Perkins said creating the outside of an entremet has to be done with careful consideration of how the cake will cut. 
“You have to make sure the knife cuts cleanly without removing any decoration, that’s typical European protocol,” he said. “Keep it nice, knife cuts without having to remove any garnishment with hard flowers or wires in it. So we would do ganache or glazes and the decoration on top would be a tempered chocolate decoration.”
 
German kuchen
Before laying out the options you might find if you head over to German John’s Bakery in Hillsborough, there are a few things to know about kuchen, the German term that describes a number of cakes and cake-like desserts.
“Kuchen itself is a generic word so you’ll see flat ones [with] apple and plum ... and streusel that, out of lack of another description, [we] tend to call those cakes, but they are a yeast-raised base so more like a [semi-sweet] fruit pizza,” co-owner Judi Heer said. “And then if they start getting layers and cream, the same cake becomes torte.”
Heer said the main thing to keep in mind when it comes to German cake and pastry is it’s not “sticky, gooey, sweet,” but rich. The process for making German cakes is different from American cakes in that the batter is thicker and pressed in the pan, making for a more porous consistency.
At German John’s you’ll find käsekuchen, a cheesecake Heer said is a cross between a German and an Italian recipe.
“The German would be made with a specialty cheese and when we moved here you couldn’t find it anywhere, [so] we made this cake with ricotta and I really love it,” she said. 
More of a summer option, the base of the käsekuchen is similar to shortbread.
Also in the warmer months you’ll find tortes with fresh strawberry, mocha and sahne or cream. Right now German John’s is in the midst of its chocolate cake month featuring an array of chocolate cakes throughout March — chocolate pear, black forest cherry and an authentic German chocolate cake, chocolate-based cake with a rich chocolate buttercream.
Heer said that German-style kuchen don’t have fondant or American buttercream frosting but instead use a type of frosting made with powdered sugar, buttercream and milk that cooks like a pudding. Another option for topping German kuchen is whipped cream filling or frosting, stabilized with gelatin, in different flavors. Kuchen may also have shaved chocolate, chocolate pieces or fruit toppings, but other than that Heer said it's minimal decorating, though occasionally they’ll use a sieve to create a design on top with powdered sugar.
 
Polish pastries
Magdalena Randall’s specialty at Polish Princess Bakery in Lancaster may be breads, but for the holidays she’ll cross over to the sweet side with makowiec — a Polish poppy seed roll strudel — and Lithuanian honey cakes. 
“If we compare it to anything in America it’s the gingerbread,” Randall said of the honey cakes. “The difference is we use honey instead of molasses and honey is this old, traditional sweetener. And then the spices like ginger and allspice and clove, sometimes black pepper.”
Moist and dense, honey cakes are made with butter, sugar, flour, eggs and plenty of honey and spices. Sometimes walnuts, almonds or orange peel will make their way into the batter, but that’s left to the discretion of the baker.
Randall likes her honey cake fairly plain, with a bit of icing or lemon juice. Sometimes she layers it with jam, marmalade or apple butter (the “American influence on me,” she said) or covers it in chocolate ganache for the holidays.
Around Easter you’ll find babka. Randall said in America it’s been categorized as a bread, but it’s really a sweet, yeast-leavened cake. It can be baked with saffron, golden raisins and almonds. Another holiday treat is kugelhopf, a dome-shaped or bundt cake with rum raisin that Randall said in Germany is traditionally baked in a clay pan mold whereas in Poland they use metal pans. 
 
French gateaux
The gateaux at Finesse Pastries in Manchester are nothing like a “Betty Crocker vanilla cake,” according to head chef and owner Chelsey Erickson. 
“Most French cakes are a sponge [cake] and then they’re soaked in a flavored syrup,” she said, giving the example of a chocolate and cherry cake that’s made with a chocolate cake soaked in a cherry syrup.
Texture plays an important role in French cakes, so selections such as the coffee & cognac and savoureux feature a dacquoise, in which a nut like hazelnut, peanut or almond is piped in to add a crunchy layer.
“In our absolute, we have our soaked cake and then we put in the hazelnut nougatine so it’s kind of like caramelized hazelnuts,” she said.
As Perkins noted, there isn’t a set formula for French cakes, though they often involve more than just layers of cake and mousse. Erickson said sometimes she’ll use two mousses or, to keep a cake from being overly creamy and soft, she’ll add a ganache and component of crunch.
The cakes at Finesse are a hybrid of traditional French style and personal touches, Erickson said. Some, like the opera cake, follow the classic presentation, while others may take the key flavors with a unique spin, like the meringue sticks atop the coffee & cognac.
One notable difference between Erickson’s cakes and traditional French cakes is the use of peanuts.
“Peanuts are a no-no in France. ... They don’t really like peanut butter,” she said. “The chef that I studied under said peanuts belong at a bar.” 
But here, the peanut butter cake at Finesse that Erickson said tastes like a giant Reese’s Cup is extremely popular.
 
Southern king cakes
Traditionally king cakes are associated with New Orleans and Mardi Gras celebrations in this country, but you can find the large cinnamon-roll-like sweet in New Hampshire, too. 
Denise Nickerson, owner of The Bakeshop on Kelley Street in Manchester, said her king cakes, decked with icing and yellow, green and purple sprinkles, were hot sellers during Mardi Gras several weeks ago. 
She also made a Christmas king cake last year simply by changing the icing colors and baking a gumdrop into the cake instead of a small plastic baby. Part of the cake’s tradition is to bake a small plastic baby into the king cake, and whoever gets the piece with the teeny child must supply the cake for the next party.
Prepared in the same manner as a cinnamon roll, king cakes are hand rolled into a round or oval shape (picture a piece of cinnamon roll shaped like a wreath laying on a table).
Nickerson’s version of the king cakes stick close to the traditional version with rolled cinnamon, though in New Orleans you may find some with cream cheese or fruit filling.
 
 Now Trending
“In our little corner of New England, we kind of tend to pick up trends from New York and California a little after they start them, so things that we at first might be against, they work their way in,” Renee Conner, owner of Renee Conner Cake Design, said.
While New Hampshire might not take on all of those trends right away, cake makers definitely noticed some key themes they think will be big this year.
 
Made of metallic
Gold-painted sequins, edible glitter, disco dust, edible paints and gold and silver leaf are just a handful of ways folks are “adding a little bit of bling” to cakes recently, LaShunda Allen, chef and owner of Ooo La La Creative Cakes in Meredith, said.
“I love metallics on cakes,” Conner said. “I think every cake should have a little metallic touch, like a little gold, copper, silver somewhere on there.”
Airbrushing silver or copper paint onto a cake or pressing gold leaf right into a fondant design is a surefire way to make sure a cake has glamor and relays the essence of elegance that this is no grocery-store cake.
Metallics have been popular at Frederick’s Pastries recently as well — they even had a cake with metallic touches as a display piece. Wojtaszek thinks the trend is very visually appealing, whether you use metallic powder or edible 14-karat gold sheets — but doesn't love the trend because it doesn’t come through on taste.
“Everyone wants gold, shimmery stuff,” she said. “But it doesn’t taste good.”
 
Nothing but naked
Already trending in the wedding circuit and other parts of the country, requests for naked cakes have been popping up more and more in the state for those who like a simpler touch to elegant cakes.
Naked cakes are done just like other tiered cakes, with layers of cake and frosting, except there’s no buttercream or fondant covering the outside. You just see the inside layers, unless one chooses a semi-naked cake, which just has a very thin layer of frosting around the outside of the cake.
“It’s kind of a challenge to make because you can’t hide,” Wojtaszek said. She thinks that naked cakes really put a decorator’s technical skills to the test. “When you’re frosting a cake that has less design on it it’s harder to hide things so it needs to be perfect.”
All of the cutting and levels that are usually hidden in a cake have to be perfect, and it also needs to be made much closer to the deadline to ensure freshness.
“You can’t make it until like an hour and a half before it’s out the door,” she said. Since there’s no frosting, there’s nothing to preserve the cake and keep it moist.
When she first had customers coming to her for naked cakes, Conner admits she was pretty opposed to the idea.
“I was like, ‘That’s not a decorated cake,’” she said. 
But after time she came to appreciate them for their simplicity and the versatility of how with a few simple decorations—like fruit, sugar flowers or real flowers— a naked cake could be natural and rustic or rather chic.
 
Drip it
One trend she saw surface in the state just at the end of 2015 that she thinks is going to take off in popularity is drip cakes. She explained that drip cakes are often naked cakes that have brightly-colored ganache applied to the top and edge of the cake so it slides down and solidifies, creating the look of melted ice cream drips.
“So you can see the naked cake and then a little bit of ganache in there,” she said. “Everybody’s trying to put their spin on it so there are these new things popping up with all these special touches to it.”  





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