Our two teenagers were in high school and I was moonlighting as a baker at our favorite fancy Italian restaurant. I was strictly a home cook, but that was why I had been hired—to bring a homemade touch to the dessert menu.
Tosca Ristorante served fine cuisine at one of the most coveted locations in town. The large, historic tobacco warehouses had been converted into a complex of upscale apartments, retail and office spaces. Tosca boasted fantastic ambience, a gorgeous courtyard, authentic Italian specialties….and terrible desserts. They served awful, overbeaten yellow and chocolate cakes made from mixes frosted with super sweet powdered sugar icings. I promptly pulled out my flour encrusted, butter stained copy of the Cake Bible and started cranking out fresh butter cakes iced with Rose’s rich and luscious buttercreams. Dessert sales soared!
Imagine this baker’s dream--a huge kitchen always stocked with fresh ingredients, freedom to create weekly specials, and best of all—someone else to do the dishes!
Mascarpone cheese was always plentiful in the refrigerator. One afternoon on a whim, I made one of the Cake Bible buttercreams with mascarpone instead of butter. It was divine! My “pony (‘pone) icing was born! The chocolate version with a chocolate butter cake became Tosca’s signature Torta alla Nonna—Grandmother’s Cake. I posted the results of this revelation on Rose’s forum. The only comments were congratulations with rueful observations about the prohibitive cost of mascarpone cheese.
Fast forward to spring 2014. I pre-ordered the Baking Bible and wrote a little fan letter on Rose’s blog telling her how much I was looking forward to the new book. I mentioned that I had adapted her icing recipe with mascarpone. To my delight—she replied! Wow! Rose Levy Berenbaum answered me herself, asking about my icing!
What followed was a baker’s joy. Woody Wolston sent me a couple of emails asking questions and then--they actually tested my adaptation of Rose’s recipe! I gave Rose and Woody an idea?! Me?! And they really tested it?! Isn’t that the coolest thing?! For a little home baker in Durham, North Carolina, that was a wonderful gift!
My admiration of Rose’s work borders on hero worship since I purchased the Cake Bible in 1990. I have been chasing excellence in the oven ever since with Rose leading the way.