WESTCHESTER | BAKING BUSINESS

Home-baked cakes are ‘rebels’ but they taste so good

 

South Florida News Service

Mitch Nathan’s groom’s cake was a Miami Heat jersey adorned with fondant suspenders and bowtie, a hand-carved NBA logo and Mitch’s name in edible red glitter. The 20-by-30 inch vanilla and chocolate cake with butter cream frosting took 30 eggs, 10 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of flour and eight hours to create.

“Every cake should be as unique as the person receiving it,” said Melissa Del Toro, 21, who runs an at-home, one-woman baking business called Rebel Sweets, which is considered a “cottage food” operation by Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It allows cake bakers to sell their goods from their unlicensed home kitchens as long as the operations gross sales do not exceed $15,000 annually.

And it is from her Westchester home and her mother’s gas-powered Kenmore oven that Toro designs, bakes and decorates cakes like Nathan’s from scratch.

“I want each cake I create to be a little rebellious,” joked Toro, who wears a guitarpick necklace with the word “rebel” scripted across the white vinyl pick.

Certified in food-safety practices through Florida International University’s hospitality program, Toro is trained in personal hygiene, cross-contamination and allergens, and cleaning and sanitation.

She has been accepting orders since 2011 from the Rebel Sweets Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ herrebelsweets.

Rebel Sweets does not offer a catalog of Toro’s designs. Instead, the baker insists people pitch original ideas to create cakes unique to each client. She does not repeat a design.

Jackie Eisen, 27, drew the idea for her husband Mitch Nathan’s Miami Heat groom’s cake on Microsoft Paint.

“Melissa’s cake blew my mind!” said Eisen. “It completely surpassed my expectations with the look and taste, and it added a special touch to our rehearsal dinner.”

Rebel Sweets customer David Duran, 20, makes an order for his girlfriend on their anniversary each year. His order includes her favorite colors, flowers and flavor: Toro’s rum recipe.

This year’s anniversary cake featured dozens of pink and red cherry blossoms that Toro carved, sculpted and placed by hand.

“[Toro] puts so much detail into her cakes,” said Duran. “And I was surprised, but they taste just as good as they look.”

Toro has four signature cake flavors: strawberry, vanilla, chocolate and Flor de Caña rum — a Rebel Sweets exclusive made with aged, imported Nicaraguan rum. Fresh ingredients like cocoa and strawberries are mashed into the mixes.

Toro practices building onto cakes with Rice Krispie treats. She learned this technique from master baker and cake decorator Buddy Valastro on the TLC reality television show Cake Boss.

“Buddy is always doing things on a grand scale and pushing the limit like I want to,” said Toro.

The Cake Boss fan attended “Buddy Valastro Live! The Cake Boss” at the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater with a meet-and-greet ticket in January.

After giving Valastro a USB with photos of her cake creations, he invited her to intern alongside him at Carlo’s Bakery in New Jersey this fall.

“Buddy hand-picks people with an exuberant passion for cake,” said Rhea Manansala, human resource coordinator at Carlo’s Bakery.

In September, the hospitality management student will substitute her last semester of classes with the internship, leaving her Westchester kitchen behind to practice her craft in the 55,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility.

She will work closely with some of the country’s top bakers and cake decorators, said Manansala.

“I admire the mechanics of Buddy’s cakes,” said Toro, who plans to return to Miami to graduate after the internship and continue Rebel Sweets.

Toro said one cake she wants to make in the future is a tribute to her hometown.

“Buddy makes these awesome cakes of cities,” said Toro. “I want to make one of Miami because the city is just so dear to my heart.”

Read more Food stories from the Miami Herald

  • Wine

    Crisp and affordable, Spanish white wines won’t dent your wallet

    When we talk about Spanish wines, it’s easy to think only of its reds — the flagship tempranillos of the Rioja region, the august wines of Ribera del Duero, the trendy new offerings from Priorat.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Bhindi masala: </span>Fried okra in a flavorful spice paste is a surefire way to fall in love with the misunderstood vegetable.

    YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG

    No slime: Indian dish brings out the best of okra

    I am glad that no one ever forced stewed okra on me during my childhood, because the stories I’ve heard from stewed-okra veterans have been traumatizing. Friends and colleagues have described memories of okra that was sulfurous and slimy and yet left a cottony feeling on their tongues and gums. (This is no coincidence: The okra plant is related to the cotton plant.)

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Layered Tomato-Watermelon Salad</span>

    Cooking

    7 new ways to build a 7-layer salad

    From fruits to pastas, novel ideas to liven it up the next time you layer it on.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category