Denise Makes Cakes - Your best slice of cake in NYC, Queens and Long Island.
No matter what the occasion may be, whether it's someone's birthday, an anniversary celebration, an office gathering or even a romantic date at your favorite restaurant, cake makes everything extra special.
Besides activating our taste buds, cakes conjure up so many memories, not only from our childhood but from our adult years, as well.
From the moment that a beautifully decorated cake is brought to the table, our mouths start to water and the anticipation level is off the charts. Just as soon as the guest of honor blows out the candles and the final notes of Happy Birthday have been sung, we cannot wait to dig in.
We all have our favorite flavors and fillings. That's what makes the world go around. The main thing though, is that there's a delicious slice (or two) of cake, waiting on a plate with our name on it.
Celebration cakes are part of our culture, here in America. If you can dream it, you can bake it. Cakes can be simple and basic or they can go way over the top. But as long as your slice of cake is moist and delicious, then everything's right with the world. It all depends on what your personal preferences may be.
We are, of course, a nation of immigrants. That's what makes America so very special. Through the years, countless ethnic groups, from the Germans and Italians to the Polish and Dominicans, have made their impact felt in our cities' restaurants and bakeries.
Today's young, adventurous breed of bakers and pastry chefs are taking the art and design of baking a cake to a whole other level. They are blending their Grandmother's traditional recipes with contemporary innovation and personality. These game-changing chefs and bakers are not afraid to take chances with their craft.
Today's pastry chefs want to create picturesque cakes that are not only Instagram-worthy, but taste good. Cake is, after all, the ultimate comfort food.
That having been said, however, not all cakes are created equal. It's just human nature that, while we can ALL enjoy a delicious piece of cake, some of us are just not cut out to be bakers.
And, when you have wedding or birthday celebration or a sweet sixteen party coming up, the best thing you can do for yourself and your guests is to leave the baking to the professionals.
When having the most beautifully decorated and delicious cake is important to you, there is only one pastry chef who you need to call. Her name is Denise Passarelli and she is the founder of Denise Makes Cakes.
In business since 2013, Denise Makes Cakes is making tremendous inroads in a super-competitive industry. Sure, there may be many other cake companies out there, but none of them have Denise's flair for design or personal touch. As far as Denise is concerned, each cake that she creates is the most important cake she will ever bake. There's no one size fits all approach here, that's for sure.
Denise takes great care with the ingredients that she puts into her cakes. Everything is top quality, from local organic eggs to the flour. That's the foundation of a great cake. If the ingredients aren't good, neither will be your cake.
Chef Passarellis' fascination with baking began at a very early age.
Denise remembers watching my grandmother bake apple pies. Together we would make birthday cakes for family members. We used a boxed mix but would get creative when it came to topping the cake. Whipped cream and colored coconut shavings were some of our favorites. I don't know, baking just seemed to be fun, really exciting."
Denise's growth as a baker continued through the years, but it always remained a hobby. Baking cakes was a way to relax and de-stress from her extremely responsible job working in a hospital.
After her nephews were born, Denise started making their birthday cakes. One of the first cakes that she did was shaped and decorated to look like a fish tank.
"I started off slow, but every year, I tried to experiment with different flavors and top myself in the decorating department. My cakes became such a hit with both friends and family that I decided to enroll in culinary school and make this a profession."
While working with patients at the hospital, Denise attended classes at the Institute of Culinary Education, achieving a degree in baking arts as well as a culinary management degree.
"I felt that the management program was just as important to my future success as was learning how to make delicious pastries and cakes. I did my internship at Gotham Bar and Grill. Even though I knew that cakes were my passion, I thought that working in a high-end restaurant would be a tremendous learning experience."
Birthdays are incredibly important to Denise. They always have been. "It's all about the feeling of love and joy that you get when you are sitting around the table with family members and everyone's eyes light up when the cake is served. Strong emotions and memories are created on the spot."
The slogan for Denise Makes Cakes is "Creating delicious memories one cake at a time". Those words come from a very genuine, very real place in Denise's heart.
Always up for a challenge, Denise loves it when clients come to her with wild and crazy sounding designs. Denise and her team can make just about anything out of cake. For one celebration, she made an exact replica of the Ecto-1 Ghost Buster's car that even had working lights. For a re-union gathering, Denise designed and baked a huge cake that was a brick for brick, window by window replica of a building on her college campus!
One of the company's most popular cake flavors is the sour cream pound cake, which happens to be her nephews' favorite as well. It was one of the first recipes that Denise perfected.
Denise describes this cake as rich and buttery. The texture is somewhere between a sponge and a pound cake but not overly dense. It lends itself to be paired with a variety of fillings such as raspberry preserves. Another popular pairing is the pound cake and vanilla bean buttercream, which tastes just like vanilla ice cream! The chocolate cake paired with peanut butter buttercream is also a big hit with cake lovers of all ages.
Cake flavors run the gamut from lemon and carrot to pumpkin spice. Some of Denise's newer frosting options include Nutella, Yuzu as well as cookies and cream.
For a vow renewal ceremony cake, Denise made an amazing love cake, comprised of red velvet and vanilla bean buttercream. One bride surprised her groom with a cake designed in the shape of a Bloomberg computer terminal! This treat had pineapple filling with Italian Meringue cream.
By now you are probably wondering just what the ordering process is like and how fast can you get started. Well, Denise makes the entire process very straightforward and customer friendly.
The most important thing we need to get the ball rolling is the theme of the party and cake, that a client has in mind. "Once we find out the theme and the number of guests, the creative juices get flowing. We listen to what the client wants and take client inspiration photos as a starting point. From there we add a few custom touches to design something very special for them."
After everyone is on the same page regarding the size and design of the cake, a tasting is scheduled. All tastings are done at the client's home or a third party location like a favorite cafe or coffee bar.
"We go to the client with three different cake flavors and filling options so that they can mix and match their perfect cake combination. Then we get baking."
Denise cares about the environment in which she bakes your cakes and keeps a spotless kitchen. A consummate professional, Denise is also Serv Safe certified. During her time at the Institute of Culinary Education, Denise took part in a program that taught chefs and bakers basic food handling and safety. Certification needs to be renewed every five years and Denise strongly feels that this certification is something that every person working in the food industry should have.
Every cake that Denise makes is a custom piece of art. With all due respect to the hard-working bakeries in our neighborhoods, they cannot duplicate what Denise does. The photos that you will see in this article are proof of that.
Yet, despite the culinary expertise and one to one customer care that you will be receiving, Denise's price points are highly affordable with many custom designs starting at only $200. But when all is said and done, you truly can't put a price on the happiness and memories that come with enjoying one of Denise's magical creations.
Though Denise loves everything that is involved in making a cake, probably her favorite part of the process is the decorating. Sometimes, depending on the size of the cake, hand made sugar flowers can take weeks to prepare. For a gorgeous garden party cake, the finished product was adorned with various leaves, roses, peonies, hydrangea as well as edible gold pearls.
The largest cake that Denise was called on to make was for her appearance on the Food Network's Cake Wars show. Contestants were required to bake a cake that was at least, three feet tall. But, Denise's cake ended up being a touch over four feet.
As far as the real world goes, the biggest cake that Denise ever made for a client served around 200 guests. Hey, when you are as talented a pastry chef as Denise is, the sky's the limit.
Busy doesn't even begin to describe Denise's life but she found the time to appear on Cake Wars! "I thought that being on Cake Wars would present me with a challenge and get me out of my comfort zone. I never did anything like that before."
Continuing on, Denise revealed that " I was watching season one's finale when the Food Network tweeted about viewers applying to be on season two. Honestly, I never thought I would be chosen. But I was intrigued and had nothing to lose. So I sent in the application along with a few photos of myself and my cakes."
The show followed up with an email requesting that Denise send in a short video describing herself and her baking methods and techniques. She heard nothing for two months, then, out of nowhere, Denise got a call from the producers, telling her that she was on the show. I didn't know whether to feel happy or terrified. I think I felt a little of both!"
Denise really enjoyed her time on the show, which spanned four days. Just about every minute of this experience is etched in Denise's memory bank.
"It's a very daunting task. They give you a relatively short amount of time to create cakes that are way beyond over the top. And you have to multi-task while trying to look good with a camera in your face."
Denise came in second amidst a very tough field of competitors. "The whole experience was amazing. I think that appearing on the show made me a better baker and cake designer. A lot of the structure that I used on Cake Wars, I now incorporate into my cakes."
But the personable pastry chef wasn't quite done with show business. One of Denise's magnificent cakes was featured in a scene from the HBO series Vinyl. In fact, the episode of Vinyl with her cake on it and Denise's debut on Cake Wars were aired during the same week.
Set in the 1970's Vinyl took viewers behind the scenes of the music business. Denise's involvement in the show started when she received a call from one of the shows' prop masters. They needed a cake as the centerpiece for a Bat Mitzvah party. The challenge, however, was that the cake's design had to have a seventies aesthetic to it.
"Once we settled on the design, I had to make two cakes that were exactly like each other down to the smallest detail." Two cakes were necessary in case they cut the first cake and missed the shot. If the camera crew needed to do another take, they had a backup cake available."
Even though she didn't get to meet any of the stars of the show, Denise enjoyed the time that she spent on the set of Vinyl.
"We delivered the cakes to the set very early in the morning. The studio was decked out in flowers, tables, chairs linens, fancy decorations; everything you would need for a real party. It was a very cool experience."
Denise is a strong believer in giving back to the community. Her heart is most certainly in the right place.
Among the charities that Denise works with, each year, are the Tutu Project, which works with breast cancer patients, Cupcakes for a Cure and Icing Smiles.
Icing Smiles is a nonprofit organization that provides custom made celebration cakes and other treats to families who are impacted by the critical illness of a child. Denise bakes several cakes a year for this very worthwhile organization.
No matter how busy we are, I always have time to put a smile on a child's face. When the child and his or her family receives the cake, it kind of provides a temporary escape from what everyone is going through. Again, it's all about creating lasting memories.
Cool, calm and collected, nothing much seems to faze this talented baker and entrepreneur. However, Denise did reveal that the act of delivering the cake to the party venue or client's home can be the most stressful part of the whole process.
Cakes are, by nature, extremely fragile and no matter how good a driver one may be, the roads are bumpy while other drivers you encounter can be erratic. Always prepared, Denise carries a cake first aid kit, just in case something unexpected does occur. The kit contains a variety of things including, extra fondant, frosting, decorations and the like.
Denise doesn't entrust the delivery of her custom cakes to anyone but herself. Calling ahead of time, Denise asks the venue where the Baby shower, wedding or anniversary celebration is taking place, to have a table set up to receive the cake.
It's so important to work closely with the venue. Very often, my client wants to surprise someone in the family, so we have to stage a big "reveal" for their cake. "
Despite the challenges inherent in being a small business owner, Denise wouldn't trade places with anybody else.
"There's no more of a rewarding feeling than taking a chance on yourself and, after a lot of hard work, finally realizing your dream. It's amazing being your own boss."
Denise also loves the personal interaction with her clients, getting to know them and their families.
Every customer is important to us. We receive most of our business through referrals and word of mouth. Our clients appreciate the fact that we make everything fresh to order. Nothing is pre-frozen. These are cakes that your guests will be talking about for years to come."
A woman who knows exactly what she wants out of life, Denise Passarelli has created a small business that is in the business of making people smile. You can't have any better mission in life than that. Not to mention satisfying the sweet tooth of families throughout the city.
Denise Makes Cakes