From Cupcake Wars on the Food Network to Cake Boss on TLC, television viewers worldwide seem to be obsessing over baked goods and how they are made. Whether it’s because it reminds them of being a child or because they dream of one day opening their own bakery, viewers everywhere are feeding into the craze. One lover of sugary concoctions, Robin Cammarota, is taking it a step forward and has begun selling baked goods out of her home in the Bronx.
While growing up, Cammarota would help her grandmother in the kitchen, baking cookies for Christmas and pies in the fall. After her grandmother died, she took over the tradition, and ten years later she is still using those same recipes.
In 2008 Cammarota graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education where she studied baking and pastry arts. She began to work towards making her dream of owning a baking company a reality. The story behind how the Land of Cake Believe was born is both poignant and inspirational.
“When I struggled to figure out a name for the company, my fiancé, John Costello, pushed me. It was like pulling teeth to figure out a name,” said Cammarota. “He thought of Cake Believe and I added the Land of.” Less than two months after the couple came up with the name, John, 25, died from a ruptured enlarged heart. “I stopped baking and decorating for a few months,” said Robin. “It took a while before I wanted to be in the kitchen. When I finally took an order, it was difficult to complete. But I did it.”
Cammarota recently began selling baked goods for profit and continues to work a regular nine to five job. She does all the baking from her home, taking on one to three orders per week and delivers within a 20-mile radius of the Bronx, but clients are welcome to pick up the cakes from her home in the Bronx.
Everything is made from scratch in the Land of Cake Believe. Cakes, brownies, fondant, frosting, jellies, breads and tarts—all made from scratch.
Though her fondant is not vegan, Cammarota has a few vegan options in her repertoire. One of her vegan options is her chocolate avocado cake, and there is talk of making the zucchini and beet cakes into vegan recipes as well. She is also working on making more gluten free recipes.
Cammarota has a wide variety of flavor options. You name it and she will make it. Her cake and filling combination list is endless. Cammarota’s talents aren’t limited to rolling out fondant and piping “Happy Birthday,” she also knows how to make flowers out of gum paste and figures out of marzipan and modeling chocolate.
When ordering a birthday cake for a friend, I saw a chocolate cake with strawberry Bavarian cream. Imagining how amazing it would taste, I sent in my order. Cammarota told me that the Bavarian cream wouldn’t be able to hold up under the fondant. She assured me that she would make a strawberry butter cream that would be just as good. Boy was she right! Normally not a fan of butter cream, I fell in love with the texture and flavor of her homemade butter cream. It was velvety and tasted like real strawberries, unlike store bought butter cream. The flavor was comparable to Breyers strawberry ice cream.
“What is the best flavor?” Cammarota said. “That is really hard to say. In the last few weeks I was told my double chocolate was the best, my red velvet was amazing, my Nutella swirl cupcakes were awesome, and my Oreo cookies cupcakes were beyond comparison. So what is the best flavor? You have to judge for yourself. Me personally, I love the red velvet because it is light and moist. Just this weekend, I made blue velvet, and it was great.”
Cammarota is experimental when it comes to baking; her sense of adventure has led to many great finds in the kitchen. Her Nutella swirl cupcake is the outcome of one delicious experiment. Her most recent baking experiment was inspired by this year’s World Cup finale. She hosted the World Cup (cake) at a local Bronx Underground show. Rather than Spain vs. Netherlands it was Churro Cupcakes vs. Stroopwafel Cupcakes, and though, in the end, Spain won the World Cup, Netherlands’ stroopwafel cupcakes won the World Cup (cake). A few of Cammarota’s other experimental flavors have been Dr. Pepper, blue moon orange, Snickers, Creamsicle and white chocolate macadamia raspberry filled cupcakes as well as a tomato soup cake.
Most cakes are priced between $2 to $5 per serving, with more complex designs costing more.
Robin hopes to own a café. “I’m not by any means limited to funky cakes,” she said. “I want to have a little coffee shop, similar to those in Europe. You can have a coffee and some fancy cakes and sit and relax.”
When Robin is in the kitchen cooking and creating, she thinks of John. “When I’m playing with fondant or thinking of a new recipe, I think of him. I hear him saying, `That looks great babe.’” Robin said that John was the most supportive person in her life and she keeps going because of him. “He saw talent in me and pushed me to be better,” she said. Ten months after John’s death, Robin created a logo, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts for the company. “I have a following, and honestly, it’s because of him. I miss him terribly, but I know he is proud of what I have done.”
I have a co-worker who hates chocolate, something I did not think was humanly possible. In an attempt to win her over with my baking, I decided to make blondies instead of brownies. It turned out to be exactly what she needed. Here is the recipe for my white chocolate chip blondies.
* 3/4 cup unsalted butter
* 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar (packed)
* 2 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
* One good handful of white chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray with Pam a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
In a large microwavable bowl melt butter; add the brown sugar and stir to until well combined. Cool slightly. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing just until a smooth batter is formed.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the white chocolate chips evenly on top. Bake until lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the center come out clean, about 20 minutes.
Cool the blondies in the pan for about 10 minutes before inverting them out of the pan. Cool completely before cutting. Serves 12