Confectionary Designs is a boutique bakery located in Northern NJ, specializing in custom cakes, cookies, and pastries. Please visit us at

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Policeman Shirt Groom's Cake

The history of the Grooms' cake is not completely known, but many say it started in the southern states and has been quite popular all over the US for several years. Typically the groom's cake is chocolate, but when designing the cake flavors, one should focus on what the groom would like to eat!

We really enjoy making grooms' cakes as they tend to be witty and very personalized, often more so than the wedding cake. When brides come to us to order their groom's cake there is always a lot of idea exchanges and laughter in our design studio because of the countless possibilities. Most often we focus on the groom's background, hobbies, occupation, or something in his life he is expecially proud of. The designs can range from a favorite baseball team to a military honor - anything is game when designing these cakes. Most often the cake is a suprise to the groom and served either at the rehearsal dinner or the bride has it carted out during the wedding reception.

We made the groom's cake shown above for a local police officer. It was ordered by his bride-to-be and she came up with the fun inscription of "Cuffed for Life." My favorite part of this cake is the sugar handcuffs as they came out looking so real - I'm still wondering if the groom and his buddies ate these :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Perfect Recipe for Extension Work

Extension work, sometimes referred to as string work, in cake decorating is a delicate process that takes practice, time, and patience to perfect. Regardless of the effort the results are beautiful and it reminds me of floating lace!

Many decorators shy away from extension work as their past attempts have failed. We find the most common cause of failed extension work is not the decorator's talent, but the icing recipe. You need a strong, yet flexible, royal icing to work with and you'll find this makes the process much easier (oh, and a steady hand helps too!!).
We've found the following recipe to work perfectly every time:

Royal Icing for Extension Work:

- 8 oz. sifted confectioners sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1/3 tsp gum arabic (adds strength to the royal icing)
- 1/4 tsp glycerin (adds 'stretch' to the royal icing)

- Break up the egg white by using the paddle attachment for you mixer. Mix in med-low speed for approximately one minute.
- Add the confectioners sugar and continue to mix on low speed for 6 - 8 minutes. You don't want to 'whip' the icing as this will add air bubbles that will cause your extension work to break.
- Check the consistency of your icing to see how soft it is. A general rule is the smaller the tip you will be using, the softer the icing should be. If needed add 1/4 tsp. of water until you reach the consistency you want to pipe with.
- Add the gum arabic and glycerin to the icing and mix for 2 more minutes on low speed.

The yield for the above recipe is only about 1/2 cup of royal icing, but very little icing is needed for this technique.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Seasons are Changing - Fall Wedding Cake

At the bakery its time to put away the yellows, light blues, and other pastel colors to make space for the autumn line-up. Besides the fact that it was 45 degrees F when I got up this morning, I also know it is Fall based on the food color stains on my hands - burnt oranges and browns.

I love the color scheme on the following cake for a Fall wedding as the dark and light browns, cream, and orange work together so nicely. We used patchwork cutters for the applique on the cake tiers and the three calla lilies on the cake board are made from gumpaste.

Hope you enjoy this one!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A 'Simple' Wedding Cake

Sometimes the simplest looking cakes can be the most difficult to make. Its so much easier to put random dots all over a cake than to calculate the exact distance for swags on a heart-shaped cake and make sure the swags are placed perfectly! Remember when your high school math teacher said "you'll use this math again"? Well, he/she was right as we often find ourselves thinking back to our math classes (or calling my husband or 17 year-old niece) to help us out with design placement.

We made the following heart-shaped wedding cake for a wonderful couple who were having a small reception with 45 guests. Although the design may look clean and 'simple' these types of cakes are often the most challenging to work on but we find the end result quite appealing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Itty-Bitty Cake: The Winner!

We were so excited when our mini-wedding cake won first place in Wed's Great Cake-off in its category! This was especially an honor given the number of beautiful wedding cupcakes and small cakes submitted by some really talented decorators.

Creating 'itty-bitty' cakes is more difficult than working on a monster five-tier cake since it is such a small canvas on which to place so many details. Regardless of the work, the outcome gives us a great sense of satisfaction (especially when the work is acknowledged with a win and a happy customer!).

Thanks for letting me brag a little!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flowers and Food: Sugar, Silk, or Real?

At our New Jersey bakery we are obsessed with following, if not exceeding, our local health codes especially when it comes to sanitation. Everything used for our cakes is either edible or food safe items (e.g. dowels to support cake tiers, etc....).

I tend to cringe when a client wants to put fresh or silk flowers on a cake. Many fresh flowers are covered in pesticides, some being quite toxic, and most silk flowers are not made with food safe materials.

We always recommend our clients opt for sugarpaste flowers. The first reason for this is we know we are providing a cake that is safe for our clients to consume. The second reason being it is aesthetically pleasing to look at a cake and know everything you see is completely edible!

Sugarpaste cymbidium orchid


Monday, September 19, 2011

A Video for Fashionista Foodies!

Fashion items are certainly 'in vogue' for cakes given the number of requests we receive for these items. We've created a little show of our creations. I hope you enjoy our our Fashionista Runway video!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Piano Birthday Cake

This was an interesting cake to make as we never actually spoke to the client. The design, order, and payment were all completed online as the client lives in Hong Kong. She found our site online and needed a birthday cake for one of the WonderGirls, a musical group, who was scheduled to be in New York City on her birthday.

The hardest part about this cake was making the piano entirely edible. I find Google Images to be one of the most helpful tools for me on the internet as I wasn't even sure all the parts of a piano. I was also concerned about the structure holding up so I used Mexican gumpaste which has a long enough working time but still dries quite hard. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Baby Shower Cake Inspired by the Invitation

One of the best parts of our job at Confectionary Designs is coming up with a design that fits the occasion perfectly! We look for inspiration everywhere by working closely with our clients to understand their needs. One of our clients brought along the invitation she had sent out when she came to us for a consultation and tasting session. All of us knew immediately the cake had to be designed from the tree and bird's nest on the beautiful invitation. Pam carefully drew up a sketch for the client and I loved seeing this cake come to life with the sprawling tree and edible bird and nest.

I hope you enjoy viewing this cake!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Coach Purse Cake

We made this carved purse cake for a wonderful lady for a milestone birthday. We've gotten used to carving purses after doing so many of them, but this one was a bit of a challenge as the entire purse is hand-painted using luster dusts and Everclear. I think I was buzzed from breathing in the Everclear by the time I finished painting this one!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Our Cake is Now Officially a Masterpiece!!

OK, so maybe not the cake itself, but the painting above is definitely a masterpiece!  We were lucky enough to have a 36" x 24" oil painting done by a world-renowned artist, Alex Zwarenstein.

Alex holds a MFA from the Royal Academy of Arts in London, teaches at The National Academy of Design and the Art Students League of New York, has received numerous awards, and his work is often exhibited at various prestigious galleries around the world.

Alex came to our New Jersey bakery armed with his camera and within a few weeks he had my jaw dropping when I saw what he came up with. He made our cake come to life!

Thanks, Alex! This piece of art will have a special place in our hearts and our bakery.

Below is the cake Alex used as an inspiration:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wedding Sugar Cookies

Decorated sugar cookies, such as the ones above, are a frequent order in our shop. I especially like the details on the bridal dress with over 30 plunger flowers and intricate royal icing piping.  The pink heart cookie's swirl is done in glace icing which leaves the cookie with a beautiful sheen after a light application of edible pearl dust.

Cookies such as these are the perfect favor for weddings and bridal showers. Packaging options are endless as they look wonderful in a cello bag with a tied bow or a customized box to hold the cookies.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

LA City Hall Cake

Often in my business there is a cake design and a customer that you really enjoy and this order was definately one of them! Our NJ client's son was married at City Hall in LA and she threw a small family party when the newlyweds came to visit. Her idea was to have the wedding cake look like city hall and I found this to be quite challenging.

First, she wanted carrot cake and those of us in the cake decorating world know that this cake is quite moist and soft so it is hard to shape (I used my mother's carrot cake recipe which went over great with the client but was still difficult to work with). Second, I had never done a large scale building so I had to get out my calculator (and some input from my husband) to come up with the proper sizes for the building.

The building is made from panels using Mexican gumpaste which I find is easier to work with than pastillage and dries almost as hard. We cut out the panels several days in advance to allow sufficient time to dry. Of course, I was nervous my calculations may not be correct, but in the end only a few minor errors were made in the panel sizes and everything fit together like a puzzle.

I was pleased with the outcome, learned some important lessons, and got to work with a wonderful client!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some of our latest cakes...

As much as I enjoy blogging sometimes I need to let posting go so we can work on bakery orders. We've been quite busy lately with an great selection of occasions to make cakes for! Spring and Summer are a big season for baby showers (hmmm....I wonder why!), graduations, and weddings.

Following are a few of the cakes we've recently created:

The above cake was created for some great gals throwing a bridal shower for their friend, or maybe as fun as the photos they sent us looked, this would be described as a bachelorette party! The cake was made by carving a sheet cake and adding two ball pans for that extra dimension.

This cake was created to welcome a new baby. The design for the cake was inspired by the cute invitations for the baby shower. The little bird and nest on top are entirely edible!

Of course with all the new babies, there is always a need for new OBGYN doctors. The cake was ordered for a woman graduating from medical school. As all of our cakes, everything is edible including the doctor and patient.

Last, but not least, the above cake was ordered by the mother-to-be's sister to welcome her first niece into the world. The party was designed as a princess fairy tale theme and the cake fit in perfectly with the decorations the soon to be aunt set up!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bling Bling Weekend!

A few weeks ago we had a blast putting together some cakes with lots of 'bling.' Some weekends it seems we have all baby shower cakes, or all birthday cakes, or all wedding cakes, but our 'bling' weekend was all about sparkle!

The following cake was made for a client's milestone birthday party and is the epitome of bling - it sparkled like diamonds under the lights at her venue. Her flavors were a combination of orange cake with pineapple cream cheese filling and strawberry cake with strawberry mousse.

The following cake was also made for a birthday party - love those big Sweet 16 parties!  Everything you see, the shoe, make-up, jewelry, etc... is edible. We started making the design elements for this cake a few weeks in advance so everything had time to dry properly. Of course, the cake can only be made and assembled right before the delivery so its always a rush putting everything together nice and sturdy!

Thank you for visiting our blog!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Magical Baby Shower Dessert Table

Along with the customary fare of cakes and cupcakes usually served at parties and most special occasions, dessert tables have moved front and center and taken their rightful place alongside their traditional counterparts. We simply love creating the smaller confections and think the dessert table is a welcome addition to any celebration. We were fortunate enough to have connected with two great companies: Without a Hitch Wedding and Event Planning and The Flair Factor Divine Candy and Dessert Design.  

We made some French macarons, cake pops, decorated cookies, truffles, and meringues using the color guide provided to us by the event planners and put these goodies in boxes for the planners.

When the photos of the dessert table were emailed to me I was thrilled with the display. Without a Hitch and The Flair Factor put their magic to work to create this dessert table. Check out the photos below and I think you'll be amazed also!

The full spread above, everything looks so perfectly coordinated and love the gravity-defying popcorn cups and the baby carriage!

Cake truffles above are red velvet and key lime drizzled in white chocolate.

Love the display case The Flair Factor used for the strawberry cake pops!

What a fun idea! Sippy cups filled with goodies!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Baby Shower Cake Pops

Baby showers are one of the best events we like designing dessert bars for! The cake pops above are just one of the several items we created for a recent baby shower. We used a tiny First Impressions mold to create the fondant designs on the pops and applied the designs with chocolate.

Cake pops and cake balls seem to be all the rage now (are these the 'new cupcake?'). If you haven't read much about cake balls, please see an article from the Bergen Record we contributed some information to: Cake Balls Growing in Popularity

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Painted Purse Cake

We loved making this sculpted purse cake for a very special client! The process of hand-painting with cocoa butter and petal dusts took quite some time, but we think the result was well worth it. I've practiced the cocoa painting method on small test plaques, so I was a little nervous when I needed to paint an entire cake!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bowling Bag Cake and Edible Shoes

It's an old cliche that we are our own worst critics, but the saying holds so true when it comes to making custom cakes for our clients. There are not many cakes that leave the shop that I look at and think "we could have done something a little better on that cake."  Then the client sees the cake and just loves it!

The bowling bag cake pictured above is definately not one of the cakes I think this about as it is probably one of my favorite cakes we've done (OK, so I have to give Pam the credit for a great cake!). I love the shape, the decorations ,the vibrant colors, and the edible shoes are so perfect!

This is the third bowling-themed cake we've done for the same client who holds her birthday parties with a bowling bash every year. Can't wait to see what next year's cake looks like!

Here's a picture of the edible shoes drying (we use plastic wrap to help hold the shape as it dries).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Onsie Baby Shower Cake and Cupcakes

Northern New Jersey

Inspiration for a cake design can come from just about anywhere. I knew I'd turned into a real 'caker' when I starting seeing items such as a scarf and instead of thinking "wow, that's a perfect color for me" I now think " can I interpret that into a cake design."  These thoughts seem to invade my mind with so many other elements that surround me, be it architecture, a painting, or patterns the clouds make in the sky. 

For this baby shower cake we were inspired by the design of the event's invitation. The avocado green and baby blue were a perfect combination for colors and the onsie on the invitation was incorporated into the cake design and the cupcakes. The little sugar bears climbing on the cake were also dressed in onsies!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

la Quinceanera Cake

Bogota, NJ

In every little girl's upbringing, there is a special moment to which she looks forward with excitement and pride. It could be a bat mitzvah for a young Jewish lady, a communion for a Catholic girl or she could be making her society debut. When a girl reaches her fifteenth birthday in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Central and South America, she celebrates her Quinceanera, and her entire family treats her like a princess for her special day.

Historically speaking, Quinceanera traditions date back to ancient Mexican society. The origins can be traced back to the Aztecs in 500BC where it was used as a form of initiation to instruct and reinforce important cultural ideals. These days, turning fifteen years of age is acknowledged with the Quinceanera and the ceremony is a reaffirmation of the baptismal vows made by her parents. Now, as then, a candle is lit during the ceremony to signify this.

We made the above cake for a lovely young lady for her special day. We incorporated edible items in the cake that are symbolic in many Qunceanera ceremonies, such as the royal icing tiara, the high-heeled shoe, and the gumpaste scepter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Edible Shoes?

Some gals really love their shoes! Before I started wearing 'bakery shoes' I would have loved a pair of these with their signature red soles!

This was a fun cake to make and the recipient was very pleased with it! The box is all cake and the shoes are hand molded from sugarpaste.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Playstation 3 Cake

This Playstation 3 cake was a real challenge to make! It was made for a great lady to surprise her boyfriend on his birthday. She only needed to feed 8 people but in order to make a big impact and look like a real Playstation we needed to make a much larger cake that serves about 35 people. We gave her our usual instructions to wrap the leftovers in plastic wrap, store in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature before serving.

The Playstation is carved from our Red Velvet cake recipe and filled with a yummy cream cheese filling. The controller is molded from cereal treats and covered with fondant. Even the Madden game on top of the cake is edible as we used our dedicated food-safe printer to create the image. Oh, and the Gucci wallet and $100 bill are also edible!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cardamon Orange Raisin Cookies

Before I made the Regina Biscotti I don't think I ever owned a jar of cardamom. The recipe called for just a tiny bit and, of course, the supermarket only had a large jar for $12 and, silly me, I bought it. Since I can't just let an expensive jar of spices go to waste I've been searching for recipes that use cardamom (if you have one, please direct me to it as I'll never get through this jar!).

I did find a Cardamom Cookie recipe on but it seemed a bit bland for my tastes so I added a few items (upped the cardamom, substituted orange zest for lemon zest, and added orange liqueur soaked raisins). Also, the recipe called for rolling the cookie dough and in order to make my life easier I changed the process to ice-box cookies so I could just slice 'em.

The end result is a tart-dough like cookie with wonderful hints of cardamon, cinnamon, and orange - three flavors that work perfectly together. This dough would also work wonderfully for an orange curd tart or any citrus pie.

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp whole milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in orange liqueur
  • Soak raisins for at least 4 hours in orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier).
  • Sift together flour, sugar, and spices; stir in orange peel and almonds.
  • Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles cornmeal.
  • Stir in egg and milk until mixture forms into a ball.
  • Drain liqueur from raisins and stir into dough.
  • Divide dough and roll into two logs approximately 2 inches thick; chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Slice off 1/4" thick slices of the dough and place on parchment lined baking sheets.
  • Bake 6 - 8 minutes or until edges are browned.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Truth in Advertising "Best-Ever Nut Brittle"

Update on 10/23/22:  This recipe is updated on our new website: Desserts With Stephanie  . Additionally, we added a step-by-step video on YouTube! 

Whether it be Italian meringues, decorative sugar work, or caramel, boiling sugar brings me back to my days in pastry school. I have this image in my head of 14 students leaning over induction units, pots filled with boiling sugar, staring at candy thermometers. Sometimes we'd be standing and staring for 10 minutes watching the color change and the temperature ever so slowly creep up. It seems like the second you glanced away your thermometer would go haywire and, voila, ruined sugar.

Today I can usually tell what stage I'm at in the sugar cooking process without a thermometer. But old habits die hard and you can still find me staring at my thermometer while working with sugar!

In my opinion, Nut Brittle is one of the most wonderful creations using boiled sugar. I found a recipe on Food & Wine website titled the "Best-Ever Nut Brittle" and I have to admit that after making it I agree with the author's title. The recipe is quite similar to most except it uses a little more butter and although the brittle is a perfect crack the butter seems to add some 'creaminess' to it.  I used an extra 2 ounces of nuts than the recipe calls for as for me the most important part about nut brittle is the nuts (the extra 2 ounces consisted of shelled pistachios for extra color).

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 oz. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 12 oz roasted, salted nuts (peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans)
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Combine sugar, water, butter in corn syrup in a large saucepan and bring to a boil (cook over medium-high heat) until the caramel registers 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer (approximately 10 minutes).
  • Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda (the mixture will bubble).
  • Stir in the nuts, then immediately scape mixture onto a large rimmed nonstick baking sheet.
  • Using the back of a large spoon spread the brittle into a thin, even layer.
  • Sprinkle with salt.
  • Let cool about 30 minutes and break into pieces.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Anniversary Suitcase Cake for World Travelers

Northern New Jersey

We really enjoyed working with our client to design this cake. She threw a party for her parent's 40th wedding anniversary and asked us to help her with a cake that represented one of their greatest interests: traveling the world.

We came up with two vintage suitcases covered in travel stickers and made sugarpaste figures of various items: the Eiffel Tower, a Venetian gondola (not sure why she wanted the pigs - apparently a family joke), and a globe made of cereal treats.

We hope you enjoy viewing our latest cake and happy anniversary to Polina and Mike. May your travels be safe and enjoyable!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Rugelach with Walnut Frangipane

What is the most anxiety producing task for a pastry chef who owns a bakery? Designing a menu for her own party!!  Five years ago when I was still working in the corporate arena I would just run down to the local bakery, pick out a bunch of nice looking desserts, plop 'em on some patters, and, voila!, we have dessert. Well, that part of my life has changed. since I quit my job. I'm quite confident I can create a fabulous a menu for 400 people I don't know, but when it comes to providing dessert for 20 of my friends or family, my hands start to sweat. After all, these are the most important people in my life!

My husband and I throw a small party for some of our closest friends each year and I'm in the process of planning the menu. My less confident side keeps saying everyone expects the ultimate from 'the pastry chef' - the perfect little entremets made using a collaboration of unique and unheard of flavors, exquisite breads, blah, blah... Luckily, my more practical side says they would all be perfectly happy if I just popped down to the local bakery and picked up some goodies.

So I've decided this year to design the menu in-between the two extremes. I'll put my heart into some new recipes and pick and chose from some of my tried and true. One of the new recipes I'll be going with is rugelach with a smear of my favorite walnut frangipane. This is probably the best rugelach I've ever had as the moistness of the frangipane makes for some wonderful texture combinations and the flavors meld perfectly.

This dough is a dream to work with as it rolls out thin enough for the cookies, is never too sticky, and the taste of the dough is amazing - how could it be bad with cream cheese, butter and sourcream!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup walnut frangipane (see recipe here - note: this recipe makes much more than 1/4 cup so be prepared to use it for other goodies; it works wonderfully in apple and banana tarts)
  • Cut cold butter and cream cheese into bits. In food processor pulse flour, salt, butter, cream cheese and sour cream until combined.
  • Shape mixture into four equal disks. Wrap each disk and chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Combine sugar, cinnamon, chopped walnuts and raisins.
  • Roll each disk into a 9" round, keeping other disks chilled until ready to roll.
  • Optional: using an offset spatula spread a very thin layer of the walnut frangipane on each disk.
  • Sprinkle disk with sugar/nut mixture. Press lightly into dough.
  • Cut disks into 12 equal wedges using a pizza cutter or chef's knife.
  • Roll wedges from wide to narrow (you will end up with the point on the outside of the cookie.
  • Place on parchment lined baking sheet (the point should be placed slightly under the cookie).
  • Chill for 20 minutes.
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 22 minutes or until lightly golden.