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18
May

“Yes, Chef”

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Key Lime Tarts with Fresh Ginger Cream

Key Lime Tarts with Fresh Ginger Cream

 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.  

 

Chef Jerry Reveron

Chef Jerry Reveron

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… 

Coconut Tuille

Coconut Tuille

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.

 

Chef Sam, Me and Chef Kristin

Chef Sam, Me and Chef Kristin

 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. 

 

Palace Stage

Palace Stage

 

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04
Apr

Easter Sweets 2017

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We have a delicious selection of sweets to help you celebrate Easter!

 

Ricotta Cake and Rice Pie

Ricotta Cake and Rice Pie

Our Italian Easter traditions feature our Italian Rice Pie and our Ricotta Cake.

The Rice Pie is a crustless pie, with a creamy ricotta and rice filling, topped with cinnamon. It is similar to a baked rice pudding.

Our Ricotta Cake is  a light yellow cake, filled with lightly lemoned ricotta filling and a touch of cinnamon sugar. Topped with powdered sugar. Ideal for breakfast or dessert. 

Both Rice Pies and Ricotta Cakes are available in a 9-inch round priced at $ 16.00.

 

Easter Cakes and Cookies

Easter Cakes and Cookies

Easter Cakes

Our cakes can be decorated in many festive ways for Easter. This includes our Bunny Topped Chocolate Drip Cake or our Elegant Nest Topped design. Check out our regular flavors of cakes and we’ll help you design the perfect centerpiece.

Click here for our cake menu.

 

Bunny Cake

Bunny Cake

Bunny Cake! 

A holiday tradition! our classic bow-tied bunny cake is available in your choice of vanilla or chocolate, with vanilla buttercream and coconut.

6-inch round bunny face, serves 10  $40.00

8-inch round bunny face, serves 20, $50.00

 

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

Easter Cupcakes

Choose your favorites from our regular menu or try a few of ours:

Lemon Lavender (lemon cake baked with lavender, lemon mousse filling and lemon buttercream, topped with lavender)

Almond Joy ( chocolate cake, gooey coconut filling, ganache and toasted almonds)

Marshmallow Madness ( yellow cake filled with marshmallow fluff and topped with buttercream and a marshmallow flower)

Crazy for Coconut ( white cake, gooey coconut filling, buttercream and coconut)

Cheesecake Cupcakes ( plain, chocolate or blackberry)

Click here for our regular cupcake menu

Don’t forget to ask us about our Cupcake Rewards Card!

 

French Macarons

French Macarons

Easter Baskets

We’ll have plenty of basket stuffers in-store! Stop in and choose from our wide selection of packaged biscotti, amaretti, coconut macaroons, french macarons, madeleines and more!

Mega Bunny Cookies

Mega Bunny Cookies

Easter Cookies 

Fun and festive bunnies, eggs and flowers!

Click here for our cookie menu

Lemon Squares

Lemon Squares

Attention all lemon lovers!

We’ll be baking our famous Lemon Squares too! 

 

Easter Store hours

Tuesday April 11 through Friday April 14th 10 am to 6 pm

Saturday, April 15th 8 am to 4 pm

Closed Easter Sunday

 

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22
Mar

Sweet Rewards!

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It’s our 27th birthday!

Celebrate with us through the month and  ask about our Cupcake Rewards Card. Buy and try 12 of our most popular flavors, then receive 3 of your favorites for free!

 

 

Cupcake Reward Card

Cupcake Reward Card

 

 

 

 

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14
Mar

My Cori Story

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Me and Cori 2014

Me and Cori 2014

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.

Cori and Carmen 1961

Cori and Carmen 1961

 

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.

 

Me, Ralph and Cori 1966

Me, Ralph and Cori 1966

 

More Cori Story 

 

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27
Feb

Thumbs up!

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Thumbprint cookies

Thumbprint cookies

Our thumbprint cookies are always the star of our cookie trays! Now Good Housekeeping agrees!

Our thumbprints are voted Best in Connecticut in their best cookies by state!

 

These cookies are so easy to bake and so flexible. Enjoy them hundreds of ways: coat them with chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, coconut, chopped hazelnuts ( or leave them plain) and fill with raspberry, apricot, guava, mango or pineapple fillings. Just be sure the fillings are ovenproof. You can also fill them with nutella or lemon curd, just be sure to bake the cookies first, then fill.

Here’s our recipe:

 

Thumbprint Cookies

½ pound unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

2 cups nuts, finely chopped ( walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or coconut)

1 cup jelly (oven proof, if available)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix until blended.
  3. Add salt and flour. Mix just until incorporated.
  4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
  5. In a small bowl, beat egg whites with a fork. Place chopped nuts in a separate bowl.
  6. Dip balls into egg whites and then roll into nuts. Place balls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet spacing each about 2-inches apart.
  7. Gently press the tops of balls to flatten slightly. With your index finger, ( or thumb!) make a hole in the center of each cookie.
  8. Spoon or pastry bag about ½ teaspoon of jelly into the holes.
  9. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  10. Remove from the oven.
  11. Cool cookies on a wire cooling rack.

Yields: about 35 cookies.

 

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03
Feb

Delicious Valentine Drips

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Chocolate Drip Cake

Chocolate Drip Cake

 

 

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!

Valentine Drip How-to Video

 

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.

for Cake:

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

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa.  Stir until mixed. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Set aside.
  4. In an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix on low speed until blended.
  5. Add eggs and cocoa mixture. Blend on low speed for about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl.
  6. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat on low speed 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth.
  7. Pour batter evenly into pans.
  8. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out with a fine crumb. Remove pan from the oven.
  9. Remove cakes from the pan and cool on wire cooling rack. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1/2 pound butter, softened

1 cup cocoa

6 cups confectioners sugar

¾ cup strongly brewed coffee

  1. Make buttercream. In the bowl of a standing mixer ( or with hand mixer), cream butter. Add cocoa , 4 cups of the confectioners sugar and coffee. Beat on low speed until blended. Add remaining confectioners sugar. Beat on medium high speed until smooth and well blended. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container. Bring frosting to room temperature before using. If necessary, thin with additional water for easier spreading.

Ganache for Drip

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

  1. Make ganache. In a small saucepan, heat cream until boiling. Pour over chocolate. Whisk until melted and smooth.  (Can be made 2 to 3 days in advance. Store refrigerated, in an airtight container. Gently microwave to re-heat .)
  2. Assemble cake. Trim the tops of cake layers, if necessary. Place one layer, cut side down onto serving plate.
  3. Pipe a dam of chocolate buttercream around the edge of the layer. Spread additional buttercream in the dam.
  4. Base coat the entire cake with chocolate buttercream.  No need to fuss with the icing and any crumbs. That’s the casual look of this cake.
  5. Refrigerate base coated cake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Pour spoonfuls of ganache onto the top edges of the cake. For proper dripping consistency the ganache should be like thin pudding. If it’s too runny, refrigerate. If it’s too thick, simply microwave to desired consistency.  Let ganache drip down the sides of the cake.
  7. Top with chocolate covered strawberries. Refrigerate 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Maria Bruscino Sanchez

www.sweet-marias.com

 

 

 

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01
Jan

The New Year’s Batch

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Christmas Strufoli

Christmas Strufoli

 

        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!

Strufoli:

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

  1. Mix eggs and butter and vanilla. Add baking powder, salt and 1 cup of flour. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead in any additional flour to make a soft, not sticky dough.
  2. Roll pieces of dough into pencil size pieces. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
  3. Preheat oil to 350 F. Fry a handful at a time, stirring constantly being sure to fry them very light golden ( “biondi”). Drain strufoli in a strainer. Fry all pieces.
  4. Cool completely. ( Can be made 3 to 4 days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)
  5. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine honey and sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and mixture is just about boiling.
  6. Pour over fried strufoli and stir to coat. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with nonpareils.

      Makes about 6 cups ( twelve 1/2-cup servings)

 

 

Strufoli 101

Strufoli 101

 

Cori frying Strufoli

Cori frying Strufoli

This recipe is easily doubled for more! and also makes Bow Ties. 

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough very thin. Using a pastry cutter, cut the dough into strips about 2″ x 4 “. Cut a slit in the center, and twist dough through to make a bow. ( or twist as desired).
  2. Fry bows until light. Cool completely and dust with confectioners sugar.
Italian Bow Ties

Italian Bow Ties

 

For these and other traditional Italian cookie recipes, take a look at our cookbooks!

 

 

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29
Oct

In Style: Dreamy Drip Cakes

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Fall/Halloween Drip Cakes

Fall/Halloween Drip Cakes

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.

 

Pale Pink and Macaron Drip Cake

Pale Pink and Macaron Drip Cake

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29
Aug

Soaking up the Sun

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IMG_5483

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.

 

Rum Baba and other sweets

Rum Baba and other sweets photo: Scott Goodwin

 

 

 

Baby Rum Babas                  

1 package yeast

1/2 cup warm milk

4 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 stick butter, softened

Rum Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze ( optional)

Apricot preserves orange rind

Make baba

  1. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar, milk and yeast. Set aside to dissolve.
  2. In an electric mixer with wire whisk attachment,  combine flour, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.Mix on low.  Add yeast mixture on low speed and mix until blended.
  3. On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one.
  4. Gradually mix in softened butter, one tablespoon at a time. Mixture should be smooth and similar to pancake batter.
  5. Cover and place in a warm space. Let rise until almost doubled, about 1/2 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  7. Grease and flour or spray 36 mini muffin pans with non stick cooking spray.
  8. Fill pans, about 3/4 full. Cover and let rise till batter reaches the top of the pans, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  9. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean.
  10. Remove from oven. Let babas cool slightly in pans before removing. Carefully remove and add babas to rum syrup. Let soak.

Make rum syrup

  1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil. Boil 3 to 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in rum .

Glaze babas, if desired.

13. In a small pan, heat preserves over low heat. Strain. Brush babas and sprinkle with orange rind.

makes 36

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07
Jul

Project Michigan

Posted by | No Tags | Blog · Branding · General | 2 Comments on Project Michigan

 

Logo Idea from Student Presentation

Logo Idea from Student Presentation

The bakery turned 26 this year. Along with this milestone, I had a feeling that maybe the bakery ( and me as well!) could use a bit of re-branding… a kind of  business facelift. I began thinking . “Is it time to re-do the logo? Are we still fresh in the minds of our consumers and/or potential customers? Are we still relevant , among the growing competition of cupcake shops, food trucks and Pinterest DIYers? ” Does our website communicate what we are all about?”.

Even with my  marketing degree, I find it hard sometimes to take a look at the business  objectively.

 

In the meantime, one of my fav cousins began  teaching advertising copywriting at MSU. He suggested Sweet Maria’s as a potential case study for his senior class’ final presentations. What a great opportunity!  I jumped at the chance.

We skyped to discuss objectives,: emails and phone calls followed. These students were really taking their Sweet Maria project seriously.. even their do-it-yourself cupcakes came out great!

 

 

Awesome Student Cupcake!

Awesome Student Cupcake!

 

 

 

At semester’s end it was off to East Lansing for the final presentations.

 

IMG_7512

This whole experience couldn’t have been any better.

It was great meeting with all of these young, enthusiastic, creative students.Every single presentation had something of value; SWOT’s , logo re-design, social media strategies, website ideas, promotional ideas.

I spent some quality time with my cousin.

I enjoyed a few days away from the day-to-day bakery operations.

And  after my previous life in the advertising world, it felt great to be the client.

I returned from my time on-campus refreshed ,and with some new business perspectives.

So stay tuned, we are baking some fresh ideas, a few  from our friends ( now graduates!)  at MSU.

go Spartans!

 

Me and Cousin Lou

Me and Cousin Lou

 

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