As if the arrival of June’s warm weather isn’t enough of a reason to celebrate: Father’s Day, graduation parties, and neighborhood barbecues all take place this month. And what’s a good party without a great cake? Whether you’re looking for personalized pastries to delight guests at your next celebration, or just a midsummer-night’s treat, try a customized cake by one of these local bakers.
Corsino Cakes, owned by Derek Corsino, is a specialty cake shop based in Red Hook that creates decadent desserts to suit a variety of taste buds, personalities, and price ranges. “We can make anything from a basic six-inch round to the crazy topsy-turvy cakes you see on TV,” he says. “And I can work with anyone’s budget; I’ve made cakes from $20 to a couple of thousand.”
Corsino, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, says he grew up in an artsy family, where his creative side was encouraged. “I was in a culinary arts program at Arlington High School, and from there went to the Culinary Institute and swore off cakes. But one day, I was working on one, and I was legitimately happy, so I decided to make a business out of it.”
When purchasing a specialty cake, especially for dads or grads this summer, Corsino advises tying in the person’s hobbies and interests. For instance, one request he’s received was a graduation cake for someone who was into music, theater, and record collecting. Corsino made a round cake topped off with a microphone, Playbill, graduation cap, and a record — all made out of sweet, edible materials.
For Father’s Day, “Dads usually like our shirt cakes, which look like a folded shirt. We’ve done a lot of button-downs with a tie and even Hawaiian shirt styles,” he says. There’s also the wine bottle cake, shaped into a bottle of vintage vino.
If you plan on throwing a barbecue or dinner party with no particular theme, Corsino suggests a customer favorite — which sounds like a chocolate-lover’s dream. “Our most popular order is a chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache, mousse, and buttercream,” he explains. “The outside is rolled with a smooth fondant and topped with chocolate roses that taste like Tootsie Rolls.”
Although Corsino Cakes began less than two years ago, Corsino, at age 22, has been busy in the kitchen for almost half his life. “I’ve been baking for about 10 years,” he says. “I really love the creative side of it.”
“I love food, and I love art, and baking is a way I could mix them together,” says Laura Vreeland, owner of Laura’s Sweets in Warwick. The self-taught baker began creating cakes just over 20 years ago. “When I became a mom, I started baking for my kids’ birthdays, and it became both a hobby and a passion.”
The bakery opened three years ago, but for the past year Vreeland has been doing all the work herself. “I hand-make everything, down to the little figures and flowers on cakes. If I need help, my husband is my partner.”
One of her best-selling creations, the Brown Derby, is a chocolate cake topped with fresh whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, and ganache. (“It’s just fabulous,” she gushes.) But for graduation celebrations, she suggests something a bit simpler: cupcakes. “Trust me, I have four kids — two who have graduated — and I know from being there; you have kids coming and going all day,” she says. She offers some motherly advice: “Stick a few cupcakes in the fridge; that way, if you have an outdoor party, you can keep them cool and take them out as you need to.”
Her solution for a Father’s Day cake is just as simple and sensible. She proposes making a cake that incorporates some pieces of dad’s favorite candy bar sprinkled in. “You can take a box cake, put in a layer of buttercream, and crumble some Snickers in there, or some other candy he likes.”
Having been “raised in restaurants,” she says she’s very particular about the ingredients she uses, generally sticking to all-natural fixings and fine chocolates. “I try to use the best quality everything,” she says. “You can taste the fact that I love what I do.”