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Wedding cakes employ tasty talents

Making them is both an art and a science

Thursday, January 26, 2012
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A detail of Mallozzi's work.
A detail of Mallozzi's work.

When it comes to creating a special wedding cake , you need more than flour, eggs and sugar.

You even need more than imagination.

You need some artistic skill.

There are many wonderful cakes to be had in the Capital Region, thanks to the talents of local bakers at places such as Crisan in Albany and Villa Italia in Schenectady.

Bobby Mallozzi comes from a family of wedding cake -makers. His parents began baking them back in 1967, shortly after they opened Villa Italia. Mallozzi, who learned the craft from his sister, has been creating wedding-day confections for 21 years. He decorates every cake made at Villa Italia, and in a good month, that could be as many as 100.

Brides- and grooms-to-be who cake -shop at the Schenectady-based Italian bakery have their choice of seven types of cake , ranging from marble to rum; 12 fillings, including chocolate mousse and cannolli; and four frostings.

Once the cake 's been baked, filled and assembled, it takes about 45 minutes to decorate, Mallozzi estimated.

Customers can opt for one of the bakery's stock designs or work with Villa Italia staff to come up with a unique look.

Mallozzi has decorated a Boston Celtics wedding cake complete with wood parquet floors made from airbrushed fondant.

For more information

Crisan Bakery and Edible Art Gallery: 197 Lark Street, Albany. 445-2727, crisanbakery.com

Villa Italia Pasticceria: 226 Broadway, Schenectady. 355-1144, http://www.villaitaliabakery.com

He's created a forest-themed cake with trees, a teepee and a fire pit, and he sculpted the frosting on another cake to look like birch bark.

Metallic airbrushing, which gives the frosting a shine of pearl, gold or bronze, is popular, Mallozzi said. But he's also been noticing a trend toward nostalgia.

"It's reverting back to the traditional wedding cakes of 20, 30 years ago. People are looking for the columns between the cakes , they're doing some of the old fountains. People are bringing in pictures of their parents' cakes and asking us to replicate them," he said.

All fancy decorations aside, Mallozzi said taste is the most important part of a wedding cake .

"It's nice for the photo op to have a beautiful-looking cake , but the wedding cake is one of the last things that your guest is going to be able to taste at your wedding, and you definitely want to leave a lasting impression."

Crisan Bakery and Edible Art Gallery, run by Claudia and Ignatius Calabria, is another popular Capital Region destination for brides and grooms in search of an extraordinary wedding cake .

The Albany bakery's roots are in Romania, where, in 1990, Loan and Florica Crisan began selling cake at a local outdoor market. In the years since, the Crisans' operation spread to other sites in Romania and, in 2008, to Albany, where Loan and Florica's daughter Claudia and son-in-law Ignatius Calabria are creating cakes for the Capital Region. Claudia's parents still own 3 places around Arad, Romania.

According to Claudia, "They really love what they do and work very well together, which is really inspiring after observing them for decades now."

Crisan Bakery and Edible Art Gallery is on Lark Street in Albany, in the old Carosello Bakery, which Claudia and Ignatius renovated.

Claudia first tried her hand at decorating cakes back in her parents' shop in Romania when she was 13. She studied art in Romania and at the Royal College of Art in London and then in the U.S., where she earned a degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She studied fine art, crafts, goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewelry.

Claudia's talents are very diverse, which helps her when it comes to creating the most elaborate and unique designs. Her husband, Ignatius, acquired his baking and gelato-making skills at Cofetaria Crisan in Arad, Romania.

When it came to Claudia's own wedding cake , her mother had complete control over it. Claudia said, "It was gigantic, white chocolate, gum paste flowers, numerous tiers, it looks like an Italian Baroque fountain -- it was fantastic and of course delicious!"

It takes time to create a special wedding cake . The more elaborate the detail, the more time it takes. Most details are made in parts a few days before, as they need lots of time to dry, after which they are put together right before the delivery of the cake or sometimes at the event site. The Crisans create no more than three wedding cakes a weekend, with both Claudia and Ignatius working on each cake as a team both baking and decorating.

At Crisan, as with most wedding cake bakers, the process begins with a tasting and then lots of discussion about color, theme, mood, styles and materials.

Crisan uses traditional Romanian recipes for their cakes . But they have ventured elsewhere, creating cakes flavored with such things as lavender and beet.

Once a decision is made on the cake itself, the process moves on to the frosting (buttercream, anyone?) and then the design, "details [that] can include anything from fresh flowers to handmade fondant sculptures to our featured spun sugar designs and sugar art," said Claudia.

Crisan's most popular cake features a matcha buttercream.

Extravagant cakes have become an expected part of many weddings, thanks in part to reality TV shows such as " Cake Boss" and "My Fair Wedding," which showcase some of the best in the business.

"The only problem we run into [with this] is pricing because many shows don't include details regarding how expensive sculpted and animated cakes can become," Claudia said.

Pricing for cakes from Crisan all depends on the design of the cake that is chosen by the bride and groom. Cakes are priced per serving from $3.75-$8.75. If you're planning on adding fondant, ganache or rolled marzipan, that will add an additional $1-$3 per serving, with labor and decoration being added to the base total.

While every cake is special, some have definitely stood out over the years, including a recent cake for the wedding of an opera singer and a painter. The cake was based on one of the artist's paintings and was intended to reflect the couple's extravagant personalities and wedding style. The cake could only be described as "a mixture of a Jackson Pollock and a peacock," Claudia said.

Although Claudia and Ignatius never get to see the look on the faces of their clients following the delivery of the cake for the big day, they do receive lots of happy emails from the newly married couples along with pictures of the big day.

While wedding cakes are their passion, the Crisans also bake cakes for other occasions. And you can count on them for sugar corsages for bridal showers as well as cupcakes, either for the wedding or the wedding shower.

"But our cakes far outshine a cupcake design," Claudia said.

 

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