While I was in Scarsdale, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the cakes in the window at Lulu Patisserie. Aren’t they gorgeous? Seeing them reminded me of a Q&A we did with Jay Muse a couple years ago. I’ll repost it here.
Outrageous cakes, celebrity clients (first published Wednesday, April 5, 2006)
Liz Johnson The Journal News
Four years ago, Jay Muse and his partner Victor Gonzalez opened Patisserie Lulu, a kosher bakery in Scarsdale.
Today, the bakery is known throughout the country (it’s been featured three times on the Food Network) and the world (it was written about in Australian Vogue) for its meticulously designed, three-dimensional cakes.
It all started when, after a brief stint in law school, Muse decided it was time for a career change and enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America. He switched his focus from savory to sweet when he realized the potential for the creation of art through cake design. He studied pastry in many of Manhattan’s best restaurants, including Chanterelle, Lespinasse and the original Le Cirque, as well as a few legendary patisseries such as Lenotre and Fauchon in Paris. He refined his cake-designing skills with the masters like Sylvia Weinstock and Colette Peters and studying pastry at the French Culinary Institute.
Patisserie Lulu started as a bakery that focused on using fine and fresh ingredients, and organic products whenever possible. In the larder, you’ll find Scharffenberger chocolate, farm-fresh eggs, unbleached organic flour and fresh fruit from local farms.
While the focus of the business is specialty and custom cakes for everything from weddings to bar mitzvahs, Muse prides himself on serving a great breakfast repertoire, too: muffins, croissants and danish made from scratch. It’s an act of love – and respect – for his customers.
“We make very little money selling coffee and such, but we do it for the love of baking and to show our customers how much we appreciate them,” Muse writes in an e-mail. “These are our biggest fans who have always been there from the start – we didn’t want to abandon them once we realized that our true focus would be custom specialty cakes.” Plus, it holds Lulu accountable. “Many specialty cake shops will sell you a cake and that is the last you see of them,” says Muse. “We have to show face in case they pop up for a cappuccino and a coconut macaroon! (Which they most certainly do!)”
Q: What is a typical day like at Lulu?
A:Our days begin early in the morning, about 2 a.m., when we freshly bake all cake orders for that day. Before the crack of dawn, all cakes have been baked and filled and are ready to be decorated. then we enter the “engineering phase” when we build support for our more elaborate cakes, inserting wooden dowels and plastic support pieces to achieve height and to prevent collapse. Cakes are chilled for about 3 hours before they are finally coated with either buttercream, marzipan or white chocolate or fondant and shipped for delivery. Our kitchens are covered wall to wall with chocolate at the end of the day it looks like the entire kitchen was hit by a mud slide.
Q: How do you approach cake-making? The attention to detail is amazing.
A: The process begins with an idea. That idea is then translated into a design. We take very specific or very general ideas and turn them into a tangible design. We pride ourselves in creating cakes that are completely custom. Each cake is designed for a particular individual or event and no two cakes are exactly alike. Anything is possible within the limits of gravity and physics!
Our goal was to create cutting-edge design that sets a new standard in custom cakes. Edible sculptures, each an original and delicious work of art. Whimsical, captivating and meticulously designed, our cakes demand attention because of their beauty and uniqueness. We focus on every bit of detail from the stitch on a replica Louis Vuitton handbag to the wood grain finish on a Venetian gondola. We even went as far as to put eyelashes on a Marilyn Monroe cake once.
More importantly, combining exquisite design with delectable taste, transforming cakes into masterpieces of edible art. After all, what good is a cake if its only good to look at? Many people tell us they cringe when they have to cut into our cakes, because the sheer beauty of them. We once did a cake in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and the client refused to cut the cake. It just sat there for the entire evening and went uneaten. We joke about it now, wondering if the client had the cake shellacked and placed in a picture box.
Q: You’ve made cakes for celebrities? Who? And what kind of cakes?
A: Most recently, we made a cake for the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. It was for the one year anniversary of “The Gates.” We created a miniature scale section of Central Park, complete with a sidewalk, green buttercream grass and replicas of the infamous bright orange “gates” made to look as if they were blowing in the wind. It was a chocolate devil’s food cake layered with hazelnut ganache, milk chocolate mousse and caramelized organic hazelnuts.
We created a three dimensional butterfly cake for Mariah Carey with over 20 different species of butterflies flying out of it, a couture designer dress cake for Isaac Mizrahi, Baby Elephant cupcakes for Britney Spears’ shower. We have also done stuff for Whitney Houston, Clive Davis, the late Dana and Chris Reeve (She was such a sweetheart) and the list goes on…
What’s amazing is how far we send our cakes! We’ve gone as far as England, Spain and once messengered our signature German Chocolate cake to a pharmaceutical CEO in Maui. The cake flew as a passenger on a direct flight from JFK to Maui. I guess some people can afford to have particular cravings!
Q: What are some of the most popular items?
A: Popular cake designs now include handbags (stuffed with everything from iPods to toy chihuahuas) for the sweet sixteen crowds, classic sports cars (like a recent cherry red metallic 1965 Mustang) for a groom’s cakes, and Yankee Stadium for bar mitzvahs.
Q: What was the most outrageous cake you’ve ever created?
A: A scaled reproduction of the Taj Mahal serving 1,000 for $15,000. It took about 22 hours to create.
What? You thought I wasn’t going to take something home?
Banana with chocolate chips and peanut butter buttercream.
Oh yeah. It tasted as good as it looks.
Patisserie Lulu, 40 Garth Road, Scarsdale. 914-722-8300. sweetsbylulu.com.