Many thanks to all for voting Sweet Maria’s as Best Cakes in Connecticut! So sweet!
We love been a part of your celebrations!
Check out the full list of winners in the September issue!
photo: Nicole Frappier
Last year I was honored to be asked to prepare the dessert course for the Stages wine dinner at the Palace Theater. This annual event is the local chef event of the year. My awesomely talented “cheffy” ( is that a word?) friend Jerry Reveron finally convinced the planning committee to include me in the program. This was the year.. Most times I don’t really consider myself a chef. Sure, I make a pretty mean biscotti and some amazing whipped cream cakes., but the chef world is a world were I am often intimidated. Very strict in their rules, procedures, traditions and pristine white chef coats.
I ended up in the culinary world almost by accident via good home cooking and on the job bakery training. I have to think I’ve earned my coat by sheer number of hours in the business; 14 to 16 hours a day sometimes for the past 27 years.
For this special night I pondered what to bake that would be a showstopper…. certainly not a very berry! It had to be “cheffy”!
Inspiration hit on a trip to Key West. I love citrus desserts and key lime anything. Dessert would be a trip to the Keys, Zesty Key Lime Tarts with Fresh Ginger Cream, with a coconut tuille palm tree to top it all off. After all the planning and testing, service would be easy…
Supporters of the theater pay big bucks for a 7 course meal, each prepared by an amazing chef, paired with appropriate wines. Courses are prepped and plated on-stage at the Palace then served to guests seated in the opulent lobby. Each chef must talk about their course to the patrons when served. All the chefs in the meantime help each other plate their course .
What a line up : Chef Prasad Chirnomula from Thali, on appetizers, Chef Jerry Reveron on the fish course, Billy Grant on pasta ( could he put down his phone to plate pasta? ), Nicola Mancini of La Tavola fame on the meat course.
Then me, plus my multi-talented pastry chefs Kellie, Kristin and Sam on dessert.
The girls and I took this stuff seriously. We worked the line, chef coats on, squeeze bottles in hands, and plated to each chef’s specifications. One squirt of sauce , a watercress garnish, “yes chef”… we got this! Service was a great rush, much like a busy Saturday at Sweet Maria’s. Everyone working to make it happen.
No “cheffing” for us this year, but try not miss this showcase of the area’s finest chefs in the most show-stopping venue in town.
I starting thinking about my Mom’s life in thirds. To borrow my Dad’s expression, there was “BC”.
In Carmen’s experience this meant before Cori, for Cori this meant before Carmen. In her “BC” years, 36 of them, she was a daughter, a sister, a professional woman, a co-worker, a friend , a sister-in law, and an auntie.
She spoke fondly of growing up simply in a somewhat rural area of town , Town Plot. She spoke of the Depression, bread lines, simple meals, picking wild berries and asparagus, riding the railroad and taking a family trek cross country.
As a young woman she spent a year or two living in California, felt the tug of family and returned home.
In a generation where many women settled …. she waited for true love and found it with Carmen. This was a true partnership.
Together they laughed, danced, dined, drank, entertained, traveled. They also forged life long relationships and commitments to their families, friends and neighbors. These bonds still exist for Ralph and me today.
They made it a point to just “be there”. For all our us. For fun times and difficult times.
If there was a dress or Halloween costume to sew, Cori was there.
If there was a perm or wash and set to do, Cori was there.
If there was a party to plan and decorations to be crafted, she was there.
Always particular about the details and etiquette.
If there was a friend in pain, she was there, along with my Dad.
“AC” After Carmen
The third act of Cori’s life allowed us to discover her as an individual. Not as part of the ultimate power couple.
Her bravery and strength never wavered.
She rediscovered her love of reading.
She kept the ledgers at the bakery flawless up until a year ago.
She taught herself how to text.
She enjoyed going out for sushi, dishing all about Project Runaway, and our family dinners (We will miss your artichokes).
Just a few weeks ago she hopped up on a barstool and Diorio and was sipping a Prosecco.
Hair, nails and makeup perfect, of course.
She was always ready to give advice, and show you how something should be done. One of her classic “Cori “ lines was “let me show you how I would do that. “
Well, she certainly showed us all how to do it.
Chocolate drip cakes are perfect for your Valentine!
Try it yourself, Maria shows Scot and Kara how on Better Connecticut!
Click Here for the all the tips!
Chocolate Drip Cake
This decadent chocolate cake with delicious drippy ganache and chocolate dipped strawberries is a great way to please any chocolate lover. It’s simple to make, just a base coat of buttercream, ganache drip and fresh fruit garnish.
Make one 9-inch round cake, about 15 servings.
1 cup cocoa
1 cup water, boiling
2 cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 pound butter, softened
1 cup cocoa
6 cups confectioners sugar
¾ cup strongly brewed coffee
Ganache for Drip
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
Maria Bruscino Sanchez
Every Christmas our family makes Italian Strufoli. For those unfamiliar with strufoli, they are delicious little morsels of fried dough smothered in honey and topped with festive nonpareils. Strufoli is a Neapolitan specialty, but can vary from family to family. Some are stacked like a tree and harden to a brittle-like consistency. My grandmother long ago tweaked this recipe to be a soft dough, lightly fried and honey coated. Many eat them by the morsel, I eat them by the bowl full.
Although we quadruple this recipe for our Christmas Eve dessert, it never seems to be enough. Traditionally, my Mom and I make the large Christmas batch together. Her not-so-subtle coaching to fry them “biondi biondi” ( trans: blonde!) is my mantra for soloing on the New’s Year’s batch. They are freshly fried, honey and candy coated and ready for 2017!
3 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable Oil for frying
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon sugar
Makes about 6 cups ( twelve 1/2-cup servings)
This recipe is easily doubled for more! and also makes Bow Ties.
For these and other traditional Italian cookie recipes, take a look at our cookbooks!
Keeping up with the latest cake fashion is always a challenge. Especially after 25 plus years in the business. Many styles have thankfully come and gone; satellite cakes, extremely tall cakes with separator plates ( loved the ones with the swans!) and those crazy cake fountains. Not every trend is right for every bakery.
Current trends we adore; textured buttercream, naked cakes, based cakes, now drip cakes!
So unfussy, so fun and so delicious. Simple drips of ganache and icing , topped with a whole bunch of yummy things.
Stay in style! Tell us your favorite flavors, party theme and colors, and we’ll create a unique dreamy drip cake for you.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe we all share the same sun. Vacation sun is always bright, vivid, perfect. This summer’s lack of a true vacation forced me to savor our local sunshine. Fine for a lazy Sunday afternoon. But I couldn’t stop dreaming of last summer’s retreat on Anacapri. As if the beauty and culture weren’t enough, I was treated, poolside, to the best Rum Baba; perfectly light and sweet and sublimely soaked. It was an afternoon snack, presented unannounced with fresh cream and berries.
The babas I know here at home and learned to bake are denser and more buttery . Both are delicious, heavily soaked with a real rum syrup (no extract please). I will be obsessing over this light sponge version until my next trip back. In the meantime, this recipe for mini baba from “Small Sweet and Italian” makes a few dozen of these rich little treats. Soak and savor the sun wherever you are.
Baby Rum Babas
1 package yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
4 tablespoons sugar
2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
Glaze ( optional)
Apricot preserves orange rind
Make rum syrup
Glaze babas, if desired.
13. In a small pan, heat preserves over low heat. Strain. Brush babas and sprinkle with orange rind.