Some of my best memories involve Italian bakeries in New Jersey. Recently, I had the privilege of meeting one of New Jersey most famous bakers, the Cake Boss. Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro, Jr., of Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, is famous for his exotic, elegant and outlandish wedding cakes. Unsurprisingly, the story of the Cake Boss begins with the history of Carlo’s Bakery.
The original Carlo’s Bakery opened in 1910, and was later bought by Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro, Sr. in 1964. In 1989, after almost 80 years on Adams Street, Buddy, Sr. relocated the bakery to Washington Street in Hoboken. With the passing of Buddy, Sr. in 1994, wife Mary Valastro and her five children Lisa, Mary, Grace, Maddalena, and Buddy, Jr., along with their spouses, expanded the business.
The Cake Boss Begins
In 2009, Carlo’s Bakery became part of the national spotlight with the TLC reality show, Cake Boss. Now, in 2015, Carlo’s Bakery has six new locations in New Jersey alone, a state-of-the-art factory in Jersey City, and customers can purchase sweets online in 48 out of 50 states. Carlo’s Bakery has become a household name.
The Valastro family has received numerous awards for their standards of excellence and quality in the preparation of desserts, pastries, and wedding cakes. Buddy has been featured in national bridal magazines, and was voted by viewers of the TODAY Show as best cake in America. He is known for his fanciful sugar art creations. You can watch Buddy, his family, and the staff in action on Cake Boss. Buddy appears in other TLC spin-offs, as well as the occasional Food Network Challenge.
“We are a 110-year-old bakery and we try to do things the old-fashioned way. For me, wedding cakes are special. They make me what I think I am as a cake decorator. I love to do them. We build them with pride and passion. Now is the time of year when I get ready for my spring wedding cakes. I will go into a room for a week and look through wedding magazines and websites to find inspiration. Then the cake making will begin,” Buddy says.
Current Cake Trends
According to Buddy, the current trends in wedding cakes are fashion oriented. “There are a lot of textures, techniques, and patterns going onto wedding cakes. They are becoming a little bit more abstract that your traditional cake. A ton of inspiration comes from the gowns that the brides are wearing. To me, I think there is something about simplicity that never goes out of style. There is something classic about a white cake adorned by sugar flowers.”
As far as colors, Buddy says they, like fashion runways, are dictated by the seasons. “With colors, you have the brides that like the classic white and ivory, while some want black and hot pink, or bright colors. You always have that mix. For the summer, orange or a Celadon green are going to be great colors.”
“Flavors tend to be seasonal as well. In the spring, I like a French creme with strawberries, a taste looking ahead to summer. Red velvet is great that time of the year. You can have an all-white cake, and when you cut into it, there is that hidden surprise inside of the deep red velvet glow. In the summer, I like a lemon French creme with fresh raspberries. Summer is the best time to highlight the freshest, ripest fruit on cakes.
Then you have the fall flavors. September is great for an apple spice. In October or November, I like pumpkin with a nice cream cheese. When I think of winter, I think chocolate. You can do a chocolate mousse with raspberries and ganache, or a truffle filling. You can’t go wrong with chocolate.”
What about the brides who want to do something different from the traditional cake? “We are incorporating more candy and crunch into cakes. You can have a peanut butter cup filling with chopped up peanut butter cups. Some couples want a cake with chopped up Oreos. You have more texture in each bite. The cake and the cream are smooth, but then you have a little crunch with it. There is the mini cake option, or the cupcake tree,” he said.
“I like monogrammed wedding cookies as a favor. Another idea is the guests leaving with monogrammed cupcakes. Sometimes we set up a Carlo’s Bakery showcase, where the guests can pick a couple of little things to take home in a box,” Valastro continued. “We also can do chocolate covered strawberries. We find the largest and most delicious long stem strawberries. Then we dip them in the finest Belgian chocolate. Sometimes we create tuxedos. The strawberries can then be plated for guests at the party.”
Enjoy the Cake. Don’t Stress About it
But remember, picking out a cake shouldn’t be stressful. “The wedding cake process should be fun. It is probably one of the only things where the groom is happy to go, just chill out, and eat cake. I always tell brides to be honest about the budget. We can brainstorm the cake together to achieve a common goal. When you are searching for bakery, you definitely want to have a consultation. This is your chance to sit down with the baker, look at the establishment, taste the product, and see their work,” Valastro advises.
“You want to make sure that the bakery is reputable. You want to know where your cake is being made. Is it sanitary? How is the bakery going to react if the cake goes down? You need to know what policies are in place and how the baker is going to react to them. Another big thing is how the cake is being delivered. We deliver our cakes in a refrigerated box truck, not in the back of my Toyota.”
But the fun doesn’t stop there. According to Buddy, brides can come with their girls for a cake class at Carlo’s Bakery. At the Jersey City factory, or Red Bank, Morristown, and Ridgewood locations, you can take a two-hour class with a prepaid reservation. These classes cover such topics as holiday cakes, ombre stripes, floral cupcakes, bows, quilting cakes, cake piping, decorating with flowers, brush embroidery, and working with fondant or buttercream. You also can book a private class for a bridal shower or bachelorette party.
In Need of a Wedding Cake? Plan Ahead
How far ahead should the happy couple come in to consult with Buddy? “We try to accommodate every bride. Three to six months out is ideal. We always make ourselves available for the bride, especially if you run into a last minute problem with another baker. We have a beautiful consultation room at our factory in Jersey City. The bride and groom also can go to one of our other New Jersey locations for a consultation. We will give you a full tasting. These are all family recipes. You can talk to my team, see the different things we are doing, and we’ll make sure you are happy. And on your one-year anniversary, come back and we will make you a little top tier to enjoy. I don’t know if I would eat anything that has been frozen for a year.”
Don’t miss the Valastro family on the upcoming season of Cake Boss. You can visit www.carlosbakery.com to see their galleries of wedding cakes, sweet treats, and speciality cakes for all of the events connected to the wedding. The site also allows you to book a consultation or class, as well as shop for baked goods or bakeware. Most of all, schedule a visit to one of the Carlo’s Bakery locations. For the ultimate Cake Boss experience, go to the original Hoboken shop. You just might get the chance to see Buddy in person.
Visiting Carlo’s Bakery
Buddy’s Recommendations for Wedding & Specialty Cakes
Black and White Cake with Chocolate Fudge
Black and White Cake with Hazelnut Cream
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Fresh Raspberries
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse, a thin layer of Chocolate Ganache and Fresh Strawberries
Red Velvet Cake with Vanilla or Cream Cheese Icing
Vanilla Cake with Lemon French Cream and Fresh Raspberries