When it comes to wedding or fancy occasion cakes, I am sad to admit that I usually don't have very high hopes. Often, the look trumps the taste, which can range from oversweet to too-dry to simply flavorless. This assessment is based on having tasted quite a few wedding cakes in my time--including the five at my own wedding (no, really).
So when the owners of Starry Nights Catering & Events in Kirkland recently invited me over to their commercial kitchen to try out their cakes, I have to confess to feeling slightly wary. They assured me their cake was the best, but doesn't everyone say that? No way were we going to miss the chance to see for ourselves, so Cake Gumshoe Kris and I headed over.
Starry Nights' exterior is fairly nondescript, but inside there is a reception area that is decorated in deep, dramatic blues--inspired by the famous painting which provides the company's namesake. In the back, they have a large commercial kitchen in which we were greeted by a sweet, sugary aroma, and saw cake decorator Melanie working on cakes. So far so good.
They do cakes by custom order--mostly wedding cakes, but they also do party or occasion cakes too. In fact, they were working on the pretty Mother's Day Cake shown at the top of the post when we arrived.
We both tried a tentative forkful. I tried the Elegant Lemon first. Upon taking a bite, the lemon taste hit almost immediately, yet it was not overpowering--neither too sweet nor too tart. The creaminess of the frosting and added hint of raspberry were a perfect complement; the butter dissolved perfectly into the cake as it melted in your mouth. Sweet thoughts swirled in my mind, finally settling on a buttercreamy, sweet conclusion: this is good cake. Looking at Kris, I could tell she agreed. Yum.
We sampled the rest of the flavors, and found that while certainly we each had flavor preferences, it was clear that each and every one of them had a well balanced, not too-sweet flavor, and incredibly moist cake.
In my opinion, the not-so-secret ingredient to their success is that they think of their cakes as things that will be eaten, and not just as centerpieces--and therefore are committed to making cakes that taste good. They tend to shy away from super-sweet fondant and gumpaste in favor of melt-in-your-mouth, subtly sweet fillings and luxuriously buttery frostings; they use quality ingredients and keep things fresh (except in rare cases, cakes are never frozen, and are baked to order). The flavors, while sophisticated, are not complex to the point of distraction.