This year hasn’t been a cakewalk for Chef Dana Herbert, a.k.a. “The Sugar Daddy” and “The Kind of Cakes.”
Since winning “Next Great Baker” on TLC with “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, which finished airing in January, his business, Desserts by Dana in Wilmington, Del., has been busier than ever. His company has baked custom cakes for many high-profile events and notable people, including Jill Biden, and Philadelphia Eagles players Michael Vick and Asante Samuels. In 2012, Herbert will be opening a retail storefront in Wilmington.
On a recent trip to Chicago, Herbert sat down with us to share some of his baking secrets. (He also shared his holiday sugar cookie recipe, which you can find here).
What’s your favorite cake flavor?
Red velvet with bacon. That’s a fat boy treat, right there.
Do you have any advice for home bakers looking to improve their skills and results?
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Practice on your family and friends, who are the most forgiving.
Practice your piping skills: They can go a long way to making a cake great. It’s all about pressure, control and consistency.
Try to come up with colors that pop with contrast. Pink with chocolate is great. Black and white is always sophisticated—things that play with the eye. Take black and white and add a splash of red, and it looks like a hundred bucks.
What are some of your favorite ingredients?
Lavender. The flavor makes an awesome cake. It’s great for the springtime. Same with rose water.
Bacon. Bacon makes everything better! I put it on ice cream all the time. Let me tell you, you haven’t had ice cream until you’ve put bacon on it. Put it on peach cobbler or something simple.
Fondarific fondant. It tastes better than 95% of fondants. If you’re thinking of using fondant, there’s a lot of bad stuff out there. This one is almost like modeling chocolate; you can roll out the seams. And it comes in all sorts of flavors.
And what about tools?
A small, black palette knife that you can only get from Nicholas Lodge is a must-have. The blade is super thin, great for lifting delicate things up off the table. I use it for cutting fondant, too. If you lay into it, it won’t bend.
A microplane grater/zester, for anything citrus. It pulls off the skin in very thin shavings and never gets any of the white.
A self-igniting Bernzomatic torch from Home Depot, for making crème brulee, etc. I love mine.
And where do you get your inspiration?
Fashion. I like to walk around the mall and see what’s there. If it looks good on you, it will look great on a cake.