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TLC's 'Cake Boss' offers sweet creations from family recipes

| Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010

It's been a sweet year for "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro.

In March, the master baker of Carlo's City Hall Bake Shop in Hoboken, N.J., was the $10,000 grand-prize winner in the Food Network's "Battle of the Brides" wedding cake challenge. In November, he was asked to create a custom-designed rock star cake for Miley Cyrus' 17th birthday party in New York City and a food-inspired cake to help celebrate TV cooking-show host Rachael Ray's 500th episode.

He also created a cake that he personally presented to R&B star Rhianna at a Nov. 24 launch party for her latest album. The cake was made, at her request, of chocolate batter with chocolate mousse filling.

Valastro's late father would be proud of his accomplishments.

Not only has the fourth-generation baker kept his promise to his dad to make the family business a household name in his hometown, he has brought national attention to his family's bake shop through the hit TLC reality show "Cake Boss," which is in its second season.

Valastro's wedding and specialty cakes feature family recipes in flavors like vanilla cake with lemon French cream and fresh raspberries, red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, black and white cake with hazelnut cream and devil's food cake with chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries.

He plans to share some of his sugar art techniques and "demonstrate some fun desserts" in the Pittsburgh area Saturday at Giant Eagle Market District stores in Bethel Park and Robinson.

For Valastro, a typical week at the bakery includes orders for 20 to 40 wedding cakes and 300 to 600 birthday cakes. He supervises a staff that includes his mother, four older sisters and three brothers-in-law.

The biggest challenge in working so close to his family?

"Sometimes it gets personal, but we do our best to try to keep things separate -- business and personal," he says. "It's family, so you love them and you hate them. Sometimes, things get a little heated, but at the end of the day they are your family."

Valastro prides himself in that all of the shop's cakes, pastries and cookies are made from scratch, with no artificial flavorings or preservatives, and are freshly baked every morning.

Many of his designs are over-the-top elaborate, such as the wedding cake he made for a couple of vanilla sponge batter with chocolate fudge between the layers, sugar flowers and ivy vines and a Plexiglas bird cage with live doves inside.

Another wedding cake depicted a 4-foot-tall Leaning Tower of Pisa in pound cake and buttercream filling that required Valastro to construct an inner support system out of PVC pipe so the cake would lean, but not fall over.

One of the largest cakes he ever made was an entire cityscape of New York City featuring nine 5-foot-tall buildings including the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. It was designed for the Grucci family of New York, a fireworks company, and had to be wired to shoot fireworks when it was delivered.

"The Leaning Tower of Pisa cake was one of the most spectacular ones -- the amount of detail that went in to that cake was awe-inspiring," the baker says.

"We recently did a cake for NASCAR as a life-size race car, which took about four days to make. Without naming which ones they were, we've done some cakes (costing) upwards of $10,000."

Valastro says his imagination sometimes is limited by the consistency of the batter itself.

"A lot of times, the issue becomes what we can and can't do with cake. We had this one Mardi Gras cake that a client wanted and they wanted masks all made out of cake," he says. "Now chocolate we can do -- but cake, that's not possible, so that was a little frustrating."

And, there's always the potential for disaster in the delivery of an elaborate dessert created by Valastro and his staff.

"In terms of transporting, it's always a fun time hoping the cake gets there the same way it left the bakery," he says.

When it comes to creating a "dream cake" for a celebrity or other famous person, Valastro knows who he'd like to have as a client:

"I'd love to do a cake for the president. I don't even care which one. Just to say I did a cake for the president would be an awesome experience."

Red Velvet Cake

This "Cake Boss" recipe is from a Food Network Challenge "Surprise Birthday Cakes" episode.

• 3/4 stick butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

• 1 5/8 cups cake flour

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 1/4 cups sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 large eggs, room temperature

• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• 3/4 cup buttermilk

• 3/4 teaspoon vinegar

• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 ounce red food coloring

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 medium-size sheet pans, or 2 8-inch-round cake pans.

In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. In an electric stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar at medium speed. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and then the cocoa powder. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Stream in half of the buttermilk, then slowly add half of the flour mixture, then the rest of the buttermilk and remaining flour.

In a separate bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda, and mix into the batter. Add the red food coloring and combine well. When it is mixed thoroughly, divide mixedbatter evenly between mixedcake pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans. Slice, as desired, and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Carrot Cake

This "Cake Boss" recipe is from a Food Network Challenge "Surprise Birthday Cakes" episode.

• Butter, for pans

• 2 cups flour

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 teaspoons baking soda

• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

• 4 large eggs

• 4 to 6 medium-size carrots, grated

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch sheet pan or 2 8-inch-round pans.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Using a hand mixer, stream in the oil, and then beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in the carrots until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans. Slice, as desired, and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Buddy's Beach Cupcakes

Buddy Valastro shared his recipe for "Buddy's Beach Cupcakes" on "Good Morning, America" the day "Cake Boss" premiered on TLC:

• 2 cups flour

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 3 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup shortening

• 1 cup whole milk

• 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

• 4 egg whites from large eggs

• Buttercream icing ( see recipe )

• Blue icing gel

• Brown sugar, for decoration

• Beach-theme sugar toppings, for decoration

• Small paper umbrellas, for decoration

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, shortening, milk and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the egg whites and mix at high speed until fluffy and smooth, for approximately 2 minutes.

Fill the liners 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter. Do not overfill. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans then remove from the pans, and place on wire racks to cool completely.

Ice the cupcakes with Buttercream Icing. After they are set, add a thin layer of blue icing gel over the Buttercream Icing to add the look of water. Then, lightly sprinkle brown sugar on half of the cupcake to add the "beach." Decorate with beach-theme sugar toppings, or add a small paper umbrella to finish the look.

Makes 8 or more servings.

Buttercream Icing

• 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

• 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick) softened

• 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

• 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted (approximately 1 pound)

• 2 tablespoons milk

In large bowl, cream the shortening and butter with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl often. When all of the sugar has been mixed in, the icing will appear dry. Add the milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep the bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For best results, keep the icing bowl in the refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored for 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

Makes about 3 cups of icing.

Creative planning

On the wedding Web site The Knot , Valastro offers advice for future brides on planning for their perfect wedding cake:

Think beyond sugar flowers. You can do almost anything in sugar -- from bows and ribbons to leaves and butterflies. Let your imagination run wild.

Not all cake shapes are created equal. Topsy-turvy wedding cakes are tough. While they look amazing, there's always the chance that they'll topple over because they are unbalanced. Another disadvantage: You have to use pound cake, which isn't a traditional wedding cake flavor.

A topper can make or break your cake. If you have an elaborate dessert, adding a topper might not be a great idea, but if you have a simpler one, a topper might do the trick.

Go with crowd-pleasing flavors . Because I'm a traditionalist, I like white cake with cannoli cream filling and fresh strawberries or raspberries.

Eat your top layer sooner rather than later. Eat the first layer after your honeymoon instead of waiting until your anniversary. Then go back to the baker on your anniversary. Some bakers will throw in a free small cake on your one-year anniversary. If they don't, just ask.

Get real baker reviews. Ask around to see what other brides say. Maybe one baker specializes in one thing and another in something else. You wouldn't buy a car without doing some research. The same goes for your wedding cake.

Be prepared for your design meeting. Bring swatches of your wedding colors, other cake designs you like, pictures of your dress and anything else that inspires you.

Let the baker do his job . Don't micromanage. You should meet and go over the design, but after that, let the baker work his magic.

Be upfront with your baker. Explain what your budget is and work together. The baker will want to give you the best wedding cake possible, because his name is on the line, as well.

Additional Information:

Buddy Valastro

What: TLC's 'Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro personal appearance

When and where: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at Giant Eagle Market District Store, Bethel Park, and 2-3 p.m. Saturday at Giant Eagle Market District Store, Robinson

Details: or

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