Icing on the Cake
For three bakers, love is a many-layered thing as they compete to create the cake that best says "Bethesda."
Inspired by all the cake-decorating shows on reality TV, we found ourselves wondering: What would Bethesda look like in buttercream? We put that question to three local bakeries, which each re-imagined the community as a cake, with all the little touches that make life here so sweet.
Trolley Tour of Bethesda
THE CREATOR: Marge Schinnerer, 62, owner of the 7-year-old Bethesda bakery Just Cakes, is the granddaughter of professional chefs. With a passion for desserts, Schinnerer made her first pastry—a lemon meringue pie—at age 10 when her mother handed her a cookbook and said, “You know how to read, don’t you?” A Chevy Chase resident who has lived in Montgomery County for 35 years, Schinnerer got her professional start with her own mail-order pound cake business. But she always had wanted to own her own bakery, and when the youngest of her four children left for college, the kids told her it was time to stop talking about it and do it. So in 2003, she opened Just Cakes while completing a certificate program in pastry techniques at L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda. Schinnerer says the key to pastry is “fresh, fresh, fresh, with the best ingredients you can buy. It’s so simple.”
THE CREATION: The Bethesda Circulator Trolley, because “you see the trolley everywhere and you get to see all of Bethesda from it—plus it’s free!” says Just Cakes decorator Maris Justusson.
THE PROCESS: A team of six worked on the four-tiered vanilla cake, which has buttercream frosting and is covered in fondant (a decorating material akin to edible Play-Doh). Each of the layers is carved at an angle and stacked and decorated to give it a topsy-turvy look. The red trolley on top was constructed of Rice Krispies treats covered in fondant. A road wends its way around the cake, with area hotspots along the route and whimsical buildings cut from Day-Glo-colored fondant set against a background of sky blue fondant. The biggest challenge: Everything on the cake is on a slant, fighting the forces of gravity.
4849 Rugby Ave., Bethesda
Pop-Up Book Cake
THE CREATOR: French-born Patrick Musel, 56, is co-owner of the 4-year-old Praline Bakery & Bistro in Bethesda. Growing up relatively poor, Musel used to marvel at the creations in bakery windows and longed from age 6 to make pastries people could afford. He eventually went on to work under famed pastry chef Roland Mesnier for 10 years at the White House, and as pastry chef at Filomena in Georgetown for five years. “There are two aspects of pastry. One is the show business part. But the most important part is the taste,” says Musel, who has lived in Bethesda for 30 years.
THE CREATION: The popular Barnes & Noble corner at Bethesda and Woodmont avenues. “It’s a fun part of Bethesda—it’s nice to see people gather there,” Musel says.
THE PROCESS: Musel’s team of three took photographs of the corner, then worked their decorative magic for a week to create this vanilla sponge cake with vanilla buttercream and chocolate ganache glaze. To evoke this favorite part of Bethesda, the two-layer cake is topped with a third tier designed to look like a pop-up book, with two-dimensional depictions of the corner’s landmarks—the bookstore; Bethesda Row Cinema; Mon Ami Gabi restaurant, with a fictitious offshoot of Praline Bakery next door; the fountain; Clayboys shaved ice cart; and the red Bethesda Circulator trolley. The biggest challenge: the tiny shaved ice cart with its proprietor, made of fragile chocolate.
Praline Bakery & Bistro
4611 Sangamore Road, Bethesda
Inspired by all the cake-decorating shows on reality TV, we found ourselves wondering: What would Bethesda look like in buttercream? We put that question to three local bakeries, which each re-imagined the community as a cake, with all the little touches that make life here so sweet. When the featured appeared in Bethesda Magazine, we asked our readers to vote on their favorite cakes on BethesdaMagazine.com. Which cake do you think won? The results appear below this story.
Carousel of Color
THE CREATOR: Randi Goldman, 47, has been owner of the nearly 30-year-old Creative Cakes custom bakery for more than two years. Intrigued at age 10 by the beautifully decorated creations her mother brought home from cake decorating classes, Goldman took a job after college as a cake decorator at the former Sutton Place Gourmet in Bethesda and worked as a pastry chef in a Northern Virginia bakery. She later baked and sold cakes from a commercial kitchen in the basement of her house, before opening Something Extra Cakery in Gaithersburg, which she then merged with Creative Cakes in Silver Spring. “I’m a Jewish mother and I like to feed people—it’s a tremendous pleasure,” says Goldman, who grew up in Potomac and now lives in Gaithersburg. “But why make a lamb chop when you can make an éclair?”
THE CREATION: Goldman was inspired by the variety of activities in Bethesda. Each tier of her cake represents a different Bethesda pastime, with “fine dining” at the top (a table draped with a fondant tablecloth topper over a “lace” fondant tablecloth, set for a meal); swimming on the watery blue second layer; shopping, represented by girly pink and featuring representations of the staff’s favorite stores; and finally, golf at the local country clubs, with sand traps filled with edible sand.
THE PROCESS: She worked with two employees to construct the four-layer cake, which has different flavored layers: double chocolate with ganache filling on the bottom; red velvet in the middle; and white chiffon with raspberry filling on the top two tiers, all covered in Swiss meringue buttercream. The biggest challenge: “The top layer gave me a headache,” Goldman says. Lopsided at first, it had to be adjusted and the centerpiece for the dining table redone after it proved too small.
8814 Brookville Road, Silver Spring
We asked our readers to choose their favorite cake. The results: First place, Pop-up Cake by Praline Bakery & Bistro; second place, Trolley Tour of Bethesda by Just Cakes; and third place, Carousel of Color by Creative Cakes.