It's always flattering when your dessert is the party's favorite. Carousel Cakes—and its bite-size offshoot, Cupcakes by Carousel—knows this feeling well. The bakeries' creative confections have received commendations from every corner of the media, from Time Out New York and InStyle to The View and, perhaps most notably, Oprah, who featured their red-velvet cake in O Magazine and named their blue-velvet cake one of Oprah's Favorite Things in 2012. "Gayle fell hard for this blue velvet cake with cream cheese icing and sugar snowflakes," the media icon gushed. "Just add coffee, milk, or a flute of champagne." The treats also sweeten meals at more than 1000 restaurants, including Zabar's and the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Aldo & Gianni Ristorante and Sear Restaurant in Closter, New Jersey.
As a sister company to the family bakery that Martin Lefkowitz opened in 1965, Cupcakes by Carousel specializes in handheld versions of the treats that won all this acclaim. Besides a mini adaptation of the famous red-velvet cake, the staff creates confections such as the Curious George—a vanilla cake filled with banana custard and topped with peanut butter buttercream frosting and chocolate ganache—and its version of Hostess’s Pink Snowball. All the shop's cakes and pies are certified kosher, and staff can even fill up glasses with swirls of their famous frostings and toppings for clients who like their cupcakes sans cake. Cupcakes by Carousel also lends its hand in local communities. Recently, the Englewood shop raised money for girls' education in developing nations through the nonprofit organization She's The First.
What began as a traditional German konditorei nearly 80 years ago has transformed a lot—by changing its name, adding an espresso machine, and hiring French Culinary Institute grad Cristina Nastasi as pastry chef—but when it comes to the essentials, not much has changed. Rudy's Bakery & Cafe still packs its gleaming display cases with cookies, danishes, cupcakes, and cakes, the latter of which can also be customized for weddings, birthdays, and baby showers for mothers or rain clouds that are expecting. But the spot also features more novel treats, such as gelato and cake pops, along with a range of specialty espresso drinks.
Red velvet cake dipped in dark chocolate, strawberry cake dipped in pink chocolate, chocolate cake dipped then rolled in toasted almonds. The cake-smiths at Cakepops For You never tire of dreaming up new confectionary surprises and delightful flavor combinations for their shop’s eponymous treat. The creativity doesn’t stop there. They’ve handcrafted cakepops in the shape of snowmen, spring flowers, and zoo animals, and their imaginative creations make great centerpieces at showers for upcoming babies, weddings, or mortgage payoffs.
Wide World of Bagels uses traditional bagel-making techniques that have been perfected and practiced by passionate owners Elliot and Scott since 1999. Choose from plain, sesame, poppy, onion, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, egg, rye, blueberry, garlic, whole wheat, eight-grain, and the everything bagel, which is a welcome alternative to other bagel shops' nothing bagels, created by kettle-boiling air and pipedreams. Hand-select a dozen stalwart bageley companions to compliment a tub of creamy store-made schmear and finally complete the circular union of flavor and nutriment. Stop by Wide World of Bagels and gaze through the cavernous aperture of a fresh-baked bagel to reveal the light at the end of the chewy tunnel.
DIY desserts are the main order of business at Planet Swirl, an intergalactic-themed fro-yo shop that rotates 21 different flavors and more than 70 types of toppings. The yogurts come chock full of live and active cultures, and the nondairy fruit sorbets contain no artificial colors, fat, or bad vibes from bummed-out cows. Dispensers also twist out seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin pie, cheesecake, raspberry lemon tart, coconut cream pie, and cookies and cream.
Draped in fondant flowers and bright swirls of buttercream, Buddy Valastro's cakes would catch anyone's eye—but that's especially true for fans of reality TV. The master baker and his visually stunning creations both star on TLC's Cake Boss, which has filmed at the Valastro family's Hoboken confectionery, Carlo's Bakery, since 2009.
Buddy's cakes have also won national notice beyond the show, including features in publications such as The Knot and Brides. And beyond designing delectable cakes for special occasions, Buddy shares his secrets through hands-on cake decorating classes, which are taught by his dedicated team of bakers at locations throughout New Jersey.
A cake decorating specialist for Carlo's Bakery, Gabby Parisi, talked to us about what it's like to attend the bakery's fondant cake decorating classes (buttercream cake decorating classes are also available).
Are the fondant classes beginner-friendly?
“People find fondant intimidating because the tools and know-how aren’t readily available, but when you come to the class, you realize it’s even easier than working with buttercream."
What types of decorations can students put on their cakes?
"We use water and a paintbrush to apply flowers, fall leaves, bows, and other shapes. It’s super easy once you know all the tricks—you can do almost anything [with fondant], it's really kind of magical. Buddy likes to describe it as the Houdini of cake decorating.”
Are classes available at all Carlo’s Bakery locations?
"Classes are available at our Morristown, Red Bank, and Ridgewood New Jersey bakeries as well as at our Jersey City/Lackawanna Cake Factory. There are no classrooms at our Hoboken, Westfield, or Las Vegas bakeries."
What’s the craziest cake ever made in Carlo's Bakery?
"I’m sure a lot of people will be familiar with the cakes from the TV show, Cake Boss. Buddy always says the craziest cake we’ve ever made was the Transformer, or the life-size Nascar cake."