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Tuesday
Dec252007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Karen Rivera-Gorski of The Painted Cake in NJ

For the Cakespy Crew, the holidays mean New Jersey. For us, it's the NJ Shore (Belmar to be exact), where Head Spy Jessie (Mrs. Cakespy), Mr. Cakespy, Cake Gumshoes Bridget, Kenny and Margie converge for the end of December. And what better way to celebrate New Jersey than through interviewing a skilled NJ baker? Happily, we recently discovered the work of the amazingly skilled Karen Rivera-Gorski, proprietress of The Painted Cake, a custom cake studio based in Northern NJ which specializes in beautiful custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies. We were wowed by Karen's sugar decoration savvy, and were eager to learn more; here's what we discovered in a recent interview:

Cakespy: You trained in Pastry Arts, but it looks like you didn't go out on your own right away. Can you tell us the story of how The Painted Cake got started?
Karen Rivera-Gorski: After pastry school, I apprenticed at trendy NYC bakeries and studied with well-known sugar artists for a couple years. I started developing my own vision for a custom-cake studio, and began experimenting with different recipes before I created The Painted Cake’s cake menu. The top priority for me when I was developing the menu was taste; cakes have to taste as good as they look! When I found myself fulfilling a lot of cake requests through referrals and word of mouth, I knew it was time to venture out on my own.

CS: How did you come up with the name for your bakery?
KRG: I was working on a cake one day, and the name just popped into my head! I thought “The Painted Cake” conveyed the type of custom design work we do.

CS: You do some really involved, lovely fondant cakes. How long does it take to make a specialty cake like for instance the Yankee’s cap and shirt cake?
KRG: The time it takes to complete a specialty cake always depends on the size and design. The Yankee cake currently featured on our website took approximately 20 hours to complete. The actual baking of our cakes is the last step of the cake making process; however, detailed sugar decorations are often made well in advance as they can sometimes take days to complete!

CS: You do not currently have a retail space; you primarily work by special order. Do you think you would ever be interested in having a retail location?
KRG: We would consider a retail bakery only when we felt it would not compromise the high quality of our ingredients or attention to every detail of our cakes. Right now, we are lucky to be able to provide a level of quality and service that differentiates us from many bakeries.

CS: It looks like wedding cakes are your specialty. For what other types of occasions have you provided cakes or desserts?
KRG: We love making wedding cakes, but The Painted Cake specializes in custom-designed cakes for all occasions. We receive many requests for birthdays, bridal showers, baby showers, graduations, and corporate events.

CS: What is your most popular cake flavor?
KRG: That’s a tough question; it’s a tie between our Valrhona Chocolate cake with chocolate raspberry ganache and chocolate mousse buttercream and our moist Red Velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

CS: You've worked in Michigan and NYC. How were the dessert scenes in those places different from NJ?
KRG: I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1999 and I loved living in Ann Arbor. I didn’t work in pastry at that time, but I can say that Michigan did not seem to be as cupcake- crazed as the East coast! Zingerman’s cafe in Ann Arbor is a foodie’s dream. Luckily, they have an amazing mail-order business, so anyone in the country can enjoy their goodies!

Cakespy Note: Click on the link above, you won't regret it.

CS: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one type of dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KRG: Valrhona chocolate cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache and home-made marshmallow frosting.

CS: Have you ever had a cake get crushed in transit or any emergency? If so, what did you do?
KRG: Luckily, we have never had a cake disaster en route to an event; however, we always bring an “emergency cake kit” complete with extra icing and sugar decorations as a back-up!

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake?
KRG: Whenever you can take a few minutes to enjoy a really good piece of cake after your busy day is the best time!

CS: What is your favorite beverage accompaniment with cake?
KRG: Hands down, Gloria Jeans coffee with cream and sugar.

CS: Cupcakes are ridiculously popular! Do you think they'll ever go out of style?
KRG: Definitely not! Cupcakes are here to stay.

CS: What are some of your favorite cookbooks, or who are some bakers who inspire you?
KRG: The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, is certainly a staple for all bakers. I am really inspired by Tish Boyle’s recipes and writing style (e.g., The Cake Book). In addition to being an extremely talented food writer and recipe creator, she is also the Editor- in- Chief of Chocolatier Magazine - a wonderful magazine for the professional pastry chef or the passionate home chef!

CS: Any advice for bakers just getting started?
KRG: Baking as a profession takes LOTS of hard work and long hours; but if you have a strong passion for baking, it makes it all worth it. Being a pastry chef is a wonderful and rewarding career.

CS: What is next for The Painted Cake?
KRG: We hope to have more podcasts available on our website in 2008 that will focus on cake demonstrations and providing baking and decorating tips! Stay tuned...

For more information, to order a cake (do it!), or to find out more about The Painted Cake, visit thepaintedcake.com.

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