Spring form

Four of Baltimore's best bakers present their interpretations of spring -- in seasonal cakes with the rite stuff

Focus On Cakes

March 16, 2003|By Text by Peter Jensen | Text by Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

Spring is the season for celebration, from proms to weddings and graduations. And the icing on those good times is, well, cake.

To mark the arrival of the Great Defrost Cycle, we asked four of Baltimore's most distinguished pastry chefs to create something unusual for the season. The results show that, while it can be comfort food, cake certainly doesn't have to be boring.

1. The Philosopher-Artist

Duff Goldman, Charm City Cakes, 2708 N. Calvert St., Charles Village

Goldman's cakes are unconventional. That's a given. But how many bakers would see spring shaped as, well, a spring? Or maybe it's a model of a planetary orbit.

"I think of it as sculpture," says Goldman, 28, who graduated from Uni-versity of Maryland Balti-more County with a degree in philosophy and physics.

Goldman chose white cake with lemon curd and blueberry filling as the ideal starting point. He uses fondant frosting to get the impossibly smooth finish. Those are fondant spheres held by bamboo skewers that are circling the cake.

Charm City Cakes is a one-man show, creating cakes exclusively by special order (starting at $125), but Goldman likes it that way. It gives him time for his music (he's a bass player for a rock band) and an occasional foray into performance art.

He can re-create this four-tier vision of spring to serve you (and 139 of your closest friends), for $1,120.

Baking tip: When decorating cakes, Goldman advises: "Don't be afraid to use inspiration from wherever -- a pattern of wallpaper or a fabric or a landscape. ... The coolest designs in the world didn't come from bakers."

Charm City Cakes: 410-908-4508 or www.charmcitycakes.com

2. The Master

Joseph Poupon, Patisserie Poupon, 820 E. Baltimore St., Baltimore

Mangoes don't go into season until May, but Poupon is buying from Brazil's crop until then -- his Huatulco cake depends on the fragrant fruit. Named after a Mexican beach, the cake features two layers of almond dacquoise (a flourless cake) covered in mango and lime mousses.

The sides are made from cookie dough, the top is glazed with mango and garnished with some pineapple leaves and slices of lime. The effect is downright tropical.

"We try to be innovative but not crazy," says Poupon, 46, who has owned his downtown bakery since 1986 and added an outlet in Washing-ton six years ago.

Poupon considers the appearance of his confections important, but not as critical as the flavors inside. He created Huatulco two years ago when he was looking for a way to improve on a lime-flavored cake. The sweetness of mango turned out to be the perfect complement.

The 8-inch cake serves 8 to 10 people, and sells for $27.

Baking tip: Tired of baked goods that stick to the pan? Poupon is a great fan of Silpat, the French-made silicone mats that are stick-proof, don't require greasing, and can be used over and over.

Patisserie Poupon: 410-332-0390

3. The Decorator

Jamie Williams, SugarBakers, 23 Mellor Ave., Catonsville

Williams, a former interior designer, brings her sense of style and spring to the creation she calls her May Queen, a three-tiered wedding cake with roses -- some hand-painted, some piped buttercream and a bouquet of real ones on top.

Her recipe calls for yellow butter cake with strawberry mousse and almond cake with amaretto buttercream and raspberry filling. The cake is iced with buttercream frosting before a layer of fondant, the soft candy-like final coating, is applied in smooth sheets.

This isn't a casual dessert, but she'll re-create it on demand -- for about $1,000. It serves about 140 people.

"Today's bride wants something fairly simple," says Williams, 48, whose bakery also supplies a variety of far less expensive cakes to some area caterers, restaurants and hotels. "Spring and flowers seems like a natural."

Baking tip: Williams uses sugar syrup, created by heating up equal parts of water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved, to help keep cakes moist. After baking, she applies it to the cooled cake with a pastry brush. For an added touch, she sometimes adds a splash of liqueur.

SugarBakers: 410-788-9478 or www. sugarbakerscakes.com

4. The Chef

Spike Gjerde, Hudson Street Bakery, 2400 Boston St., Canton

Gjerde created a spiral-shaped confection by baking sheets of roulade (flexible dough made with beaten egg whites) layered with a vanilla-flavored Licor 43 cream and rolling them up jelly-roll style with candied kumquats and pistachios.

The cake is then covered with thin buttercream icing. The fan-shaped decorations are made of white chocolate.

"We've had a heck of a winter and people want light and spring-like flavors," says Gjerde, 40, co-owner with his brother Charlie of several Balti-more restaurants including Joy America and Spike & Charlie's.

Gjerde, who got his start in Baltimore's baking scene by apprenticing for veteran Baltimore pastry chef Joseph Poupon, expects his creation soon to be on the dessert menu of his seafood restaurant Atlantic, where he serves as executive chef. It can also be ordered from Hudson Street for $16 and serves 4 to 6 people.

Baking tip: To create the decorative chocolate fans, Gjerde melts the candy in a bowl over hot water, spreads it thinly on a baking sheet and then chills the sheet until the chocolate is firm but not hard. A spatula gently scraped against the chocolate creates the effect.

Hudson Street Bakery: 410-675-4565 or www.spikeandcharlies.com / hudson.html

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