Miniature cakes are definitely better, say pastry chefs who delight in creating tiny cakes with multiple delicious and minute layers that are filled, glazed, frosted, drizzled—and then decorated. These sophisticated sweets can be as elaborate as an old-fashioned wedding gown or as chic as a Chanel suit. And they taste as good as they look.
"Sales of individual cakes and pastries are skyrocketing," says Kim Moore, co-owner of two elegant pastry shops named Finale in the Boston area. "It has to do with people’s desire for something personalized. When you first see your own beautiful dessert, your heart leaps and a little voice says, ‘This was made just for me!’"
Whether it’s what Kim and business partner Paul Conforti, both Harvard MBAs, call the European invasion of the American palate, or something closer to home (Americans invented cupcakes, after all), it’s clear that beautifully decorated, delicious miniature pastries and cakes, whether Franco-American or totally New-World inspired, are here to stay.
Cecile Gady founded Cakework in San Francisco 20 years ago and is known as both an innovative designer and an excellent baker whose cakes are as tasty as they are beautiful. This artist and perfectionist says, "The trend is to offer guests individual cakes at all kinds of parties, including weddings. I especially want brides to love their cakes," says Cecile. "And at home parties, it’s a bonus not to have leftovers."
In Las Vegas, where too much seems to be just barely enough, Jean-Philippe Maury is the Bellagio Hotel’s executive pastry chef. He also co-owns the hotel’s patisserie and café, where light meals, elaborate desserts, and French pastries are served. "When you see my cake on your table, you say, ‘This adds to my celebration. It is exquisite.’ What better way to note an anniversary than to have a new version of your wedding cake—or the cake you wish you’d had at your wedding?" he asks.
At the Jean Philippe Patisserie, the small, ornate cakes are as varied as the decorative motifs. They sell for $12 and up, sweet reminders of the occasions they commemorate. At Cakework, Cecile’s sophisticated, refined cakes are wrapped in white chocolate and start at $15 per person, based on the design and its intricacy. And at Boston’s Finale, the miniature personalized pastries and cakes are sold for $4.75 to $10 for a 4-inch cake.
Intricately decorated small cakes are fragile and are not available by mail order. But ask a local pastry shop to create its own version. These Finale cakes could serve as inspiration. Their mousse cake is made with three kinds of chocolate—bittersweet, milk, and white—and covered in ganache. A strawberry Bavarian cake is white cake layered with fresh strawberries and a vanilla Bavarian cream.
Finale cakes are made with such high-quality ingredients as 64 percent Valrhona Manjari bittersweet chocolate from France and the richest cream and butter available. Only mousses are used as filling.
Yes, miniature cakes can be made at home, but these little beauties are labor-intensive. Handsomely decorated, diminutive cakes require extra attention to detail. Syrup-drenched cake layers cannot simply be frosted, because few icings will keep the moisture of the syrup from seeping through and ruining the cake’s appearance. A completely smooth, unblemished finish requires rolled frostings such as fondant, marzipan, or white chocolate.
Even simple projects require plenty of time, say
the creators of these unique cakes. Cecile, for example, often spends entire days designing and decorating her specialty cakes—not just the tiny ones, but the full-size towering confections she’s known for.
Finale owners Kim and Paul, who opened their first Finale in 1998 and their second four years later, have high hopes for their bakeries and dessert cafés, including plans to open a third one soon.
"It’s a tough business because of the long hours and attention to detail it constantly requires," says Kim. "But we’d start our business all over again because we’re here with a specific message—a passion for super-premium desserts," she says. "We want to do for desserts what Starbucks did for coffee, which is to educate people about quality. Once people understand that better chocolate, finer cream, richer butter, and the most careful baking techniques really matter, we think the business can’t help but grow. It’s all about wanting the best."