Andrea Parks discovered both a passion and a talent for baking at a young age as she served her own chocolate-chip cookies at family gatherings. However, it wasn’t until 15 years later, when she was laid off from her corporate job, that she finally seized her chance to tap into that drive. She began mixing the baking knowledge she’d gained from her mother and aunt—a professional pastry chef—into each original recipe as orders from friends and families started pouring in. Now, at her own bakery, Parks whips up batches of her signature moist, gourmet cupcakes in a variety of innovative flavors, such as coconut mojito, lemon meringue, bacon, and strawberries and cream. She and her team of bakers cap each handheld cake in sweet, delicate icing and can craft eye-catching custom designs and corporate logos upon request. They thoughtfully put such finishing touches as personal messages or the likeness of local cupcake thieves onto each custom cake they craft.
In the 1960s, Margaret took her first trip to Paris and fell in love with the sights and sounds that filled the teeming streets. But mostly, she fell in love with the flavors. "I ate my way through that city," she says with a laugh. When she returned to the States, she could not find anything that measured up to what she'd tasted in France, so Margaret, who'd been cooking since the age of 10, began trying her hand at re-creating the flavors and textures that left her enamored with the City of Lights.
When she opened her first shop in 1983, she began crafting croissants, brioches, and tarts. Now, in her appointment-only headquarters, Margaret and her team continue to create those French confections as well as custom cakes, which serve as impressive centerpieces at weddings and natural habitats for tiny, well-dressed couples. Fondant and marzipan from Switzerland shield the towering creations, which are filled with Belgian chocolate and locally grown fresh fruit. Popular creations include a cake steeped in strawberries and Grand Marnier, a chocolate-raspberry mousse torte, and a princess cake, which layers spongy vanilla génoise, raspberry preserves, and Amaretto cream filling.
Margaret especially relishes the challenge of sculpting unusual cakes. In her kitchen, she holds her breath while putting the finishing touches on a batter-based construction sculpted into the shape of a stack of tires, which she is building for the wedding of two Jeep lovers.
When it comes to toppings, Hot Brick Pizza doesn’t scrimp. The restaurant offers limitless combinations of meats and veggies including sausage, spinach, and marinated mushrooms. But while the flavors come piled high, slices aren’t weighed down thanks to the shop’s healthy focus, which sees chefs using only unbleached whole-wheat flour for their dough and forcing each pepperoni to do 20 pushups before allowing it to rest atop melted cheese.
Experienced baker Sepi, her husband Mark, and their daughters, Shakila, Shay, and Nirvana, spend family time at C'est Si Bon Bakery making a visually stunning and delicious array of wedding cakes, cupcakes, Persian cookies, and French pastries. Along with help from a close-knit staff of long-time employees, the family conjures creamy chocolate mousse cups, delicate chiffon opera cakes, nutty halva, and cupcakes customized with colorful decorations of buttercream frosting, custard fillings, and playful shapes. The bakers' well-honed dessert-making skills shine forth in their cakes, from multi-tired wedding cakes of smooth fondant and shiny sparkles to graduation cakes with frosting mortarboards and diplomas baked inside.