Any time I am invited to a birthday party, I offer to bring the cake. I have been completely won over by a local baker who creates the most artistic, delicious and personal cakes you could ever imagine.
The first cake was for my brother's surprise 40th birthday party in New York City. The event caterer directed me to a patisserie on the upper east side, but I was determined to try a local baker, Laura Jayson, a.k.a. The Dough Girl of Rowayton, who works out of a small kitchen in Norwalk. When she offered to deliver the cake in a box fit for travel, the deal was sealed.
For the party, Laura recommended her biggest crowd-pleaser: a super-moist chocolate cake (she shared her secret ingredient: coffee) topped with vanilla frosting. In the center, at my request, she created a molded figure of my brother kite-boarding. The art work was playful and the figure true to form, with its blue eyes and light brown hair. The finishing touches of beaded frosting piped around the rim and a wide ribbon wrapped around the base made the cake elegant as well as personal.
The birthday cake survived the trip and was a runaway hit at the party, prompting several discreet inquiries about its origins. Not normally a cake lover, I actually finished it. The chocolate and coffee flavors melded perfectly in the cake and the vanilla frosting was a sweet and irresistible finish.
The first cake was such a success that I decided to keep them rolling all spring. Next was my son's 7th birthday party. The theme was Star Wars, and I told Laura I would be grateful for any Star Wars image she could render. Will wanted a chocolate cake, and it arrived with white frosting that sparkled with stars and planets and centered around a dark, angular spaceship, which Will informed me was definitely Darth Vader's Tie Defender. My biggest challenge was cutting the cake so that each child got a piece of this shining galaxy. They begged for seconds and would have polished it off in minutes had I not diverted them into the next room for the movie.
Laura's thematic creations seem to turn up at birthday parties all over Darien. When my friend Robyn put together a tea party for her 4-year-old's birthday, I noted the basket of party favors from The Dough Girl: delicate teapot shaped sugar cookies decorated with frosting and sprinkles, wrapped in plastic and tied with ribbon. Laura is known for her cookies all over Fairfield county. The Rowayton Market carries small bags of her chocolate chip cookies, which have a loyal following. Other gourmet shops, including Espresso Neat and Palmer's in Darien, Walter Stewart in New Canaan and Fjord Fisheries in Cos Cob also sell her sweets. Those who know Laura simply call her and place their order, which she will deliver to your home. Her cookies can take the form of anything from lobsters to mermaids, so bring on your ideas and let her create.
Another secret about The Dough Girl: She can fill an order with just one or two day's notice. A time-strapped mom need not feel guilty for not being able to whip up cupcakes for a child's in-class birthday celebration or a friend's baby shower. Just call in an order of mini cupcakes. They are a bit more than bite-size with an eye-popping two inches of frosting, each topped with an elegant star or polka dot. And you can brag that they are all organic and completely natural, made with ingredients from local farms, as are all of her products. Best of all, the portion is pint-sized, a welcome break from oversized cupcakes of the past.
When my good friend Stephanie's husband called and told me he was going to throw her a surprise birthday party at their house, I knew there was something I could do to help. He confirmed that chocolate was her favorite flavor, so I ordered up the tried and true chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Since Stephanie has breathtakingly beautiful gardens, I asked for fresh flowers on top. The cake was festive, with a small bouquet of bright gerber daisies set off by a wisp of lime green foliage in the corner. It tasted divine. As one woman commented, "I never finish my cake, but I'm finishing this!" And another: "The frosting was so good, I would've enjoyed more of it." Now here is a product that both the frosting lovers and the cake eaters can wholeheartedly agree on.
This summer, look for Laura at the Rowayton Farmer's market (Fridays from 12-5), beaches and parades. She'll be riding her custom tricycle, pulling a freezer full of gelato, plus her trademark chocolate chip cookies, which can be made into a gourmet "chipwich" with chocolate, vanilla, coffee or strawberry ice-cream.
Dough Girl Baking Company Rowayton 203.984.5804