Archive » May 22, 2008
Montecito Chef of the Month
By Lana Marme
Her Work Really is the Icing on the Cake
Does a Pucker Up excite you? Or perhaps you’re more the Barry White type? Maybe you’d like to Wiki Wiki or even Meet Me in Paradise?
We’re talking cakes here -- and not your ordinary variety. Jennifer Williams is the ultimate cake expert who effortlessly creates these amazing concoctions. It all started at a girls’ night out, where Jennifer met Teri Gaither, founder of Chocolate Cake Cafe. Four years ago, Teri started her business with friends Christy Parker and Kim Curtis and had to move out of town about a year ago. That’s when Jennifer stepped in and gladly took her place in the business locally, while Teri has started a branch in Marin County. Although Jennifer had never taken so much as a single class in cake baking and decorating, she knew at the tender age of nine that she was destined to bake. She has fond memories of the first éclair that she baked, and when her mom had to go to work, she continued to perfect her baking skills. The first cake that Jennifer baked for the Chocolate Cake Cafe was for a little girl.
“I put a little Limoges lamb on the top,” Jennifer says. “And the girl still keeps that lamb by her bedside.”
In her life before cakes, Jennifer was an assistant buyer for Neiman Marcus in Dallas. She soon became so disenchanted crunching numbers that she took a position working for a premier florist, Avant Garden, where she became a flower buyer and manager.
“Flowers are my true passion,” Jennifer says, which comes in handy when she decorates her fabulous cakes. She purchases the fresh flowers at Florabundance of Carpinteria, the cocoa from Santa Barbara Chocolate Company, and the baking chocolate (for ganache) at Robitaille’s in Carpinteria. “I like to stay local for all of my ingredients,” Jennifer explains. “I can also do organic cakes on request.” The flowers and ribbons that Jennifer uses are seasonal so that her cake masterpieces have a different look depending on the time of the year and the occasion. Westmont recently ordered her Swinging Monkey cake for graduation festivities and she is delivering 150 cupcakes to Marymount’s auction. She recently baked 24 individual mini cheesecakes for a media executive who wanted them for his birthday celebration. This Little Piggy’s corporate office prefers Jennifer’s Pucker Up concoction, while Cappello & Noel’s office tries a new cake flavor, taking a poll to determine which flavor is the majority favorite. Westmont parents are also standing clients of Jennifer’s, and she finds herself baking cakes on a weekly basis for students’ birthdays. Carolyn Diani and Hilary Doubleday recently enjoyed Jennifer’s cake for their individual celebrations. And she just received a phone call to ship her famous brownies off to Alabama for a radio talk show host. “Now my baked goodies are traveling,” Jennifer says. Her friend and founder, Teri, is planning to open other branches of Chocolate Cake Café this spring in addition to the one in Marin County.
The most popular cake on Jennifer’s menu is THE Chocolate Cake, followed by Wiki Wiki, a super moist coconut cake, and Mr. Capone’s Mascarpone Cheesecake. Cakes are decorated with bouquets of beautiful fresh flowers and colorful grosgrain ribbon, then carefully placed in big Tiffany-style boxes and tied with brown and pink satin ribbon. Jennifer will even deliver the cake right to her client’s doorstep.
“I like to keep everything very specialized -- very boutique-y,” she says. “I specialize in both corporate and individual all occasion cakes: birthdays, baby showers, luncheons, and, of course, weddings.”
Asked about her fabulous frosting, Jennifer explains, “I do not use fondant. I prefer the look and taste of ganache -- it’s not perfect -- that’s the beauty of it.
“The consistency of the frosting is key. You have to get a feel for it. And the more you do it, the more you learn about it.”
Has she ever experienced a “flop?”
“Once I forgot to put butter into my brownie batter and instead added double the amount of chocolate,” Jennifer says. “I ended up giving the brownies to a friend who devoured them.”
And as far as Jennifer’s children Regan and Robert are concerned, they’ll never eat a store bought cake again.
“My husband Rob won’t touch my cakes, though, since he’s on a fitness kick,” Jennifer states. Ann Marie Powers of Montecito Country Kitchen, Jennifer’s friend and bookkeeper, says she hates cake. “But Jennifer’s cake is definitely worth the calories,” she says. www.chocolatecakecafe.com
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