Cheesecake is undoubtedly an American obsession, both loved and hated for its creamy, high-fat, sugary goodness. But for Angela Galan of Guttenberg, it was a career choice.
In the ’80s, inspired by her love of the dessert, she began to bake. Her dedication eventually led her beyond the realm of the cheesecake and on to every known confection, and three years ago, her pomegranate meringue pie earned her a place as one of five pie contest semifinalists out of over 100 contestants on the Martha Stewart Show.
“It would have never happened if I hadn’t shown up late,” she said. Galan had traveled to the Manhattan studio to watch the show as a guest, but showed up late and missed the first taping. The audience coordinator was kind enough to let her into the second taping.
“I was so thankful, later that week I brought her a cheesecake,” Galan explained.
The office was so impressed, they invited her to compete in the pie contest.
Galan and her pastry chef daughter Stephanie, who graduated from the internationally renowned French Culinary Institute, had been baking for years from their Guttenberg home. By virtue of the goodness of their creations and her success on the Martha Stewart Show, the operation eventually grew beyond the capacity of their own kitchen.
On Sept. 30, the mother-daughter team opened up Marzano’s Bake Shop in West New York. They don’t have counter service, and spend all hours in their new space baking and meeting with people for order consultations.
“We had refrigerators everywhere, and two stoves [in the house],” Galan explained. “We were baking so much we desperately needed more space.”
“We were baking so much we desperately needed more space.” – Angela Galan
Supply, demand, and designer pastry
Television has aided in the popularity of custom-made novelty cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. The Galans have definitely seen a rise in demand because of the trend.
As Hoboken’s own “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro and Philadelphia’s “Ace of Cakes” Duff Goldman have taken classic batter and fondant to new sculptural and architectural levels, customers’ requests have become more and more lavish.
To keep up with the business of cake making, a baker’s skills must extend beyond the traditional and into the downright artistic. Galan filled an order for a “Yo Gabba Gabba” birthday cake based on the popular children’s television show.
The cake itself was a spectacle of colors, and she had to sculpt all of the characters with fondant (a plyable, firm alternative to icing that could be likened to edible modeling clay) and gum paste. The figurines took several days to complete, and they had to dry in time.
A new trend, the Galans explained, is “designer” cakes – literally. Customers regularly request cakes in the pattern of Louis Vuitton and Betsy Johnson, or in the shape of the designers’ shoes and handbags. They create a stencil and, in the case of Louis, dab on edible gold dust to create the trademark logo.
One customer ordered 50 cupcakes, each topped with a separate designer handbag.
“Cupcakes can be super time consuming,” Stephanie said. “We had to make 50 little bags as opposed to one larger one. It’s a lot of work, but people love it.”
What it takes to run a bake shop
Therein lies the scope of a bake shop’s work, which entails long hours and a rigid, super-organized schedule. One might be surprised to hear that on average, the shop completes four to five orders per week. Depending on how complicated each order is, they may have to take on fewer projects.
The duo works Wednesday through Saturday nonstop. They try to have everything baked off by Thursday afternoon, which includes only the cake and filling. From then until Friday, they put it all together and apply the fondant and the figurines, or whatever embellishment a customer wants.
Saturday is delivery day.
Sometimes a cake comes with individual cupcakes or cookies that hosts give out as party favors. One time a customer requested small boxes tied with ribbon that contained three different flavored macaroons each. There were 350 guests.
“That, plus the three other cakes in the same week, meant we didn’t sleep for two days,” Galan recalled.
One of the most complicated and expensive cakes the Galans have created was a $750 wedding cake that served 200 people. It had complex piping (designs applied to the cake with small icing tips) and bore real orchids.
“That was an exception, mostly because of the orchids,” Stephanie said. “Our cakes’ prices depend on the size and the work involved, but we understand the financial demands our customers must meet, and we try to price accordingly.”
One thing is constant, and that is the women love what they do, and are excited to have the opportunity to do it in their brand new space.
For more information on Marzano’s, visit www.marzanosbakeshop.com or call (201) 758-8999. They also have an Instagram account with their confections displayed called Angie Bakes.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at email@example.com