By Dawn M Chiossi
Take cakes for example: When people inhale the scent of sweet cakes baking in the oven, the very scent conjures up youthful memories of warmth, of home, of comfort, and of love–even for the oldest among us.
Fluffy and flavorful, there’s something wonderful about celebrating with a cake. The taste of these baked foods seems to trigger memories of celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and the like. Even just the idea of a cake brings to mind visions of enjoyment, of socializing, and of celebration.
Any kind of cake at all can bring on that feeling, to those purchased in the grocery store, to homemade, to cakes from a bakery. For so many people in this area of New Jersey, bakeries are often a haven: a place to get mouth-watering treats for a special occasion.
A specialty cake from a bakery is both ornamental and decorative, something that surpasses the ordinary. They are edible creations, and can even be considered works of art. They begin with a specific vision in mind, formed, crafted and baked by expert hands. Cakes and cake decorations are a thriving business: It’s an artistic way for any cake decorator and baker to feature their own creations. People see it all over, from cruise ships, to bakeries, to special events, the result is a cake that is a thing of beauty.
And Sweet Passion Cakery in Warren is no exception. They have recently competed and won on the brand new Food Network Show Winner Cake All hosted by Giada De Laurentiis. Their episode aired on May 13th. For co-owners and best friends, Lauren Vicari of Florham Park and Gail Kingman of Warren, they not only won the $10,000 prize, they received so much more.
During Winner Cake All, contestants demonstrated their skill and creativity by not only creating intricate cake toppers, but also massive themed cake display inspired by the biggest names in TV, sports, restaurants, and more.
Winner Cake All is a series of stand alone episodes in which originally four teams compete in round one. When round two comes around, three teams compete, making a cake for a client, having a mere five hours to do so. Sweet Passion was featured on the very last episode.
Founded eight years ago and opening their current kitchen in Warren three years ago, Sweet Passion Cakery is a boutique cake shop that specializes in custom cakes, uniquely made for special events. As well as being moist, and delicious, these cakes are stunning works of art. In fact, they are so beautifully crafted, it may even be a shame to slice them up to eat them!
At Sweet Passion Cakery, cakes are custom made, by appointment only. That means that from design to delivery, the owners will work closely with customers giving their time and attention to each cake. They provide the personal touch, making sure the details are unique and beautiful: Every cake isn’t just a confection, it is a masterpiece.
For Vicari and Kingman, it’s about creating as well as baking. For these cake artists, it is a passion and a pleasure. The name of Sweet Passion’s episode on Winner Cake All was entitled “A Candy Coated Wedding,” where contestants were challenged to make an over the top candy-themed cake decoration. Their VIP Clients were Rosie O’ Neil and Josh Resnick, owners of the gourmet candy company, Sugarfina.
Sweet Passion was tasked with creating a wedding cake for them in round two, featuring their amazing candy, and to reflect their style and brand. Their clients asked for a tropical flavor, not too sweet and to add dark chocolate for Josh.
Immediately, the wave of creativity surged for both Vicari and Kingman, and they knew exactly what to do: A coconut cake with coconut cream cheese icing, a fresh pineapple compote, and a layer of chocolate ganache infused with coconut rum.
“They loved our cake!” both Vicari and Kingman enthused, “They thought it was so elegant and what they were looking for. We brought in elements such as blue ombre, their famous paper flowers that are in their stores, a cake stand featuring their logo look, candies spilling down the cake, and Sugarfina Golden Ticket to represent their third date when Rosie and Josh went to see Willy Wonka, and the idea for Sugarfina, a candy store for grownups was born.”
Warm and gregarious, these co-owners are best friends as well. Always having been inspired by cake shows, Vicari and Kingman first began their journey in the world of specialty cakes when they tried their hand at making a custom cake for Vicari’s husband’s 30th birthday. They were hooked soon after!
Ironically, when they started creating cakes, neither Vicari or Kingman had a background in baking or any background in culinary experience at all. Instead, they had a sheer love of baking. For Vicari, it stemmed from her husband’s grandmother, and for Kingman, it was just something natural and something she always wanted to do.
Enveloping themselves in flavorings, ingredients, textures and tastes, seeing what worked well, what didn’t, and what wowed their customers, the love that Sweet Passion Cakery has for their baking shines in their creations.
The cake flavors and fillings at Sweet Passion Cakery are guaranteed to make your cake sing. From vanilla, chocolate, and chocolate and vanilla marble, almond, banana, carrot, coconut, coffee, lemon, Parisian love, pound, pumpkin spice, red velvet and thin mint.
Fillings include: whipped vanilla, whipped chocolate, banana cream, caramel, chocolate blackout, chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate ganache, chocolate mousse, coconut, Parisian love (a mixture of coconut and pistachio rose), cream cheese, fresh berry compote (raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry), fresh strawberry chiffon (can substitute with other berries), key lime, lemon curd, mocha, Oreo, peanut butter mousse, swiss meringue buttercream, tiramisu, vanilla bean custard, whipped lemon, and white chocolate mousse.
Their favorites range from Vicari’s husband’s grandmother’s pie dough filling cake, to lemon cake with strawberry chiffon filling, to chocolate cake with blackout filling.
No matter the cake or the filling, both Vicari and Kingman will put their all into cakes, and the end result is always something beautiful such as their poker chip cake, Louis Vuitton Handbag, wedding cakes, and so much more.
With such beautiful and luscious cakes gracing their business, the idea to share it by competing on the Food Network Show Winner Cake All came from Kingman, who is a Food Network enthusiast. “I really had to talk Lauren into it,” she joked.
The process was a long one, in which contestants had to go through several interviews, but once they did, the utter excitement set in for both owners. “When we were flying out to LA, it was like, this is it, we’re here! We’re doing it!” exclaims Vicari.
Both Vicari and Kingman describe that competing on the show was something completely unexpected. In fact, instead of working in an actual kitchen, contestants made their sweet confections outside in a tent. “It was crazy but cool,” states Kingman. “It was awesome being there and overlooking the cliffs outside LA.”
While it was understandably daunting for Sweet Passion and all of the other contestants, it was a challenge that they eagerly grabbed on to with both hands. “During the competition, you aren’t in your own space, or your own kitchen, so you are out of your element. It was so much fun! It was the kind of experience where you had to know how your team worked, you had to lean on each other, and use each other’s strengths.”
For Vicari and Kingman, who have been friends for a solid 14 years, they had that down. So, what was it like meeting Food Network personality, Giada DeLaurentiis? “I was starstruck, I’m such a Giada fan,” enthuses Kingman. “She was sweet. It was great meeting her,” adds Vicari.
“All the judges were amazing and gave us great feedback,” Kingman discloses. “They all stressed how talented we were and how impressed they were with our creation in such a short amount of time.”
Win or lose, it didn’t matter to Sweet Passion Cakery, stating that they really went on Winner Cake All more for the experience and exposure instead of wanting to win.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Vicari shares. “Our goal was to represent our bakery well as a team, to show off our skills and talents as baker’s well, and to have fun no matter what we were doing.”
This wasn’t the first time that Sweet Passion featured their cakes on TV either. They made a cake on TV’s The View for Nabisco’s 15th Anniversary and also on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 where they made a Masquerade Cake.
In closing, both Vicari and Kingman have this to say: “We generally max out at doing four to five cakes a week, just to ensure the quality that all our customers deserve. Once we get a customer, they are customers for life!”