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Local women are Springfield's cake aces
By Kathleen Ostrander

Artists through the ages have established their reputations in clay, paint, glass - all sorts of mediums. Paige Meyers and Melanie Dineen are making their reputation in frosting and tasty cake.

Meyers owns Top Tier cakes. She makes one-of-a kind birthday, wedding and all-occasion cakes. Dineen is the cake specialist at Incredibly Delicious. Meyers has wanted to make cakes since she saw a chef on television making cakes.

"That was before the Food Network; I was just 13," Meyers said. Dineen, whose brother owns Incredibly Delicious, started working there out of high school - washing dishes. "I've been doing cakes for the past 10 years," Dineen said. "I just got better and better at it."

Both Meyers and Dineen make cakes to order. Meyers attended classes at Lincoln Land Community College. Dineen learned through experience. Meyers is more of a technician - both make awesome cakes.

Meyers makes a lot of wedding and grooms cakes. They are usually stacked in tiers. Dineen makes a lot of layer cakes stacked four deep with filling between the layers. Both use the same stacking method, which involves putting a series of straws - just regular, hollow, plastic drink straws - in the center of the lower tier.

"This stabilizes the lower tier, and it doesn't shift, which would then cause the other layers to shift," Meyers said. This would, of course, lead to a disaster at a formal event. "Besides," Dineen explained, "wouldn't you rather accidently bite into a straw instead of accidently biting into a metal pillar?"

Metal pillars are used to stabilize and separate tiers on larger wedding cakes. A double or even a triple-tier can be stabilized with straws.

Meyers makes her own cakes as well as her own frosting using bakery recipes. In keeping with the traditions of Incredibly Delicious - natural ingredients made mostly on site - Dineen's cakes have more of what she calls an "artisan" quality about them.

Neither uses fondant to cover a cake. Fondant is a frosting concoction with gelatin added to give it the consistency of dough - so covering a cake would be like draping a pie crust over it. Both like butter frosting better. Meyers uses a bakery mix, which has butter and butter flavoring. Dineen's is made with real butter.

Both are amazing with a spatula or palate knife in hand as they frost a cake. "First, you do a crumb coat, which is a little thicker," Meyers explained, "to stick the crumbs to the cake so the second layer is smooth." With a lint- and design-free paper towel, Meyers smoothes out the top of the square tiers. She places the towel over the cake and quickly smoothes out the minor imperfections. This gives her a perfectly smooth "canvas" to decorate.

Dineen works with what seems to be the speed of light spreading her butter cream frosting out. It contains real butter, so her work area is slightly chilled. She does a crumb coat and then a second coat, and her finish is as smooth as if she had also used a paper towel. "Good technique," she said commenting on the paper towel method. "But with the amount of butter in our frosting we can't use it because the butter would come right out on the paper towel."

Incredibly Delicious makes nearly all of the ingredients they use - from the raspberry jam to the lemon curd. "Yes," Dineen said with a laugh, "we really squeeze real lemons and make the curd. All the tastes just seem more vibrant, and each piece of cake - since we sell by the piece - has the same great taste."

A few items are imported, like the pistachio cream for the hot-selling almond raspberry pistachio cake. "Why re-invent the wheel," Dineen mused. "It's all natural, and it tastes great."

And there are some uses for fondant. Meyers, who was decorating a wedding cake, used a cookie cutter to cut out small stars to use as a decoration. Dineen rolled out a light pink and a dark pink fondant to cut out hearts for a birthday cake. Meyers used a bit of piping gel to fix the stars firmly to the cake. Dineen, working quickly, uses water brushed on the back of the hearts to fix them to her cake.

Both like fondant for decorating. Dineen said that when the bakery is making a number of specialty cakes - like chocolate cakes with pink champagne mousse for New Year's or Valentine's Day - the fondant saves time.

Because of the nature of the ingredients in Incredibly Delicious cakes, Dineen said they retain their moisture. She works quickly with cooled cake and slices through the round layers with a cake saw to make four thinner layers.

Between each layer is a filling, as well as a flavoring of simple syrup, cherry and almond to moisten the layers.

Both ladies can take a container of frosting and a piping bag and make a work of art. Both also are getting very good at air brushing.

"There are amazing things you can do with airbrush work," Meyers said. She air brushes a silver cast to a set of fondant stars and then puts a pearly glaze on some cake piping.

Shows on the Food Network that feature chefs who carve wondrous creations out of cake have encouraged the public to ask more from their cake makers, Meyers and Dineen said.

Both are fine with that. "I just did an acoustic guitar cake, and it was pretty neat," Dineen said. Meyers said more brides are showing an interest in groom cakes as well as airbrushing.

Both are free with tips to help make and frost a better cake.

From Meyers: If you are doing a layer cake in round pans - or even square - flip the baked cake over on foil or parchment paper so the moisture goes back into the cake instead of out as steam while it cools. Take the cake out of the pan and cover it tightly with saran wrap when cool.

From Dineen: Cake should be served at room temperature. Incredibly Delicious cakes "mellow" with age since the natural ingredients meld with each other. Slice the cake with a warm, dry knife. So dip it in hot water, dry and then cut the cake - and remember: Square cakes have more servings than round ones. 

 


For more info

Paige Meyers

Top Tier Cakes

Contact her via Facebook

556-9147

Melanie Dineen

Incredibly Delicious

925 S. Seventh St.

528-8548

 

 

Story published Friday, January 8, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 1 )

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