Bakers Journal

Meet Winnipeg’s ‘Cake Boss’ Nina Notaro

April 13, 2010
By The Canadian Press


Meet Winnipeg's 'cake boss' Nina Notaro
It looks like a high-end purse. It has the crocodile-patterned leather, the finely stitched seams, and the tasteful gold accoutrements. You might be inclined to slip your hand into the Hermes-style pink handbag sitting on the counter and just walk off with it.

April 13, 2010, Winnipeg
– It looks like a high-end purse. It has the crocodile-patterned
leather, the finely stitched seams, and the tasteful gold
accoutrements. You might be inclined to slip your hand into the
Hermes-style pink handbag sitting on the counter and just walk off with

But you'd end up with an armful of icing and cake.


That's exactly the effect that Cake Studio's Nina Notaro is going
for. Notaro, who was an IKA Culinary Olympics and International
Culinary Exhibition gold medallist in 2008, has become her own "cake boss" and taken her penchant for creating beautiful and
delicious things – things like botanically correct flowers or a
three-dimensional "to-scale" 1957 Chevy Bel Air – and turned it
into an extraordinary way to celebrate weddings, birthdays and

Ably assisted by her husband David Latour and her mom Nora
Notaro, she tries to make each item something different for her
clients. She especially loves weddings.

"It's a special day in someone's life and to be part of that is
a huge honour," she says.

Couples about to be married will often bring in magazine
clippings, but Notaro encourages them to use pictures as a starting

"I'll ask: 'How can I make that cake special for you? It's your
day, it's about the two of you,'" she says.

Her passion has kept her standards at the gold-medal level – the
cakes have to be delicious and they have to be accurate in
appearance. Notaro explained how she was able to pull off such a
spectacular-looking bag.

"The bag is a retro handbag, and the inspiration was from
Hermes. I think they start at $10,000 and it takes one person 18
hours to produce, which is pretty much how long it took to make this
cake," she says. "I chose crocodile, and it's all hand done with
modelling tools."

Notaro used pink fondant and a pearlized pink finish to give the
bag its shine and some gold lustre to give it "bling."

She says that working with fondant (which is the icing on the
cake) is a lot like working with Play-Doh, and that it is very
forgiving. She uses sculpting tools, brushes, and food science –
such as the process of spherification, which allows a drop of juice
to be formed into a perfectly round ball) to get the effects she
wants. When it's called for, she will also incorporate internal
structures that help to give the cake form and stability.

The creative part is realized by careful study of her subject.
Her process is similar to a storyboard to accurately reproduce –
right down to the colour – the turquoise Chevy Bel Air. From there,
she bakes and builds.

Notaro is hesitant to offer a price range, but says that a cake
for 10 people might start at a base price of $5 per person and go up
from there, depending on how elaborate and labour-intensive it might

Here is a recipe from Notaro for cake and buttercream.

Cake Studio Elegant White Cake

500 ml (2 cups) cake and pastry flour

425 ml (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour

11 ml (2 1/4) tsp baking powder

300 ml (1 1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

750 ml (3 cups) granulated sugar

3 ml (3/4 tsp) salt

10 ml (2 tsp) pure vanilla extract

2 ml (1/2 tsp) almond extract

2 ml (1/2 tsp) grated lemon zest

250 ml (1 cup) egg whites (pasteurized in a box, or separated
fresh egg white)

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) whole milk

Shortening, for greasing pans

All-purpose flour, for dusting pans


Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). Grease sides and bottom of three
23-cm (9-inch) cake pans with shortening, then dust with flour. If
making cupcakes, line pans with paper cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, sift together cake flour, all-purpose flour and
baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle
attachment, cream butter until light and airy. Slowly add sugar and
beat on medium speed until uniform and fluffy. Add salt, vanilla and
almond extracts and lemon zest.

Set mixer on low speed and gradually add egg whites. Stop mixer
and scrape down bowl often. Alternately add flour mixture and milk
to mixer bowl in two batches of each, starting with flour. Scrape
down bowl between each addition and beat until fully combined and
uniform in appearance.

Increase to medium-high speed for about 20 seconds, then stop and
scrape down bowl for the last time. Divide batter evenly among pans
or cupcake papers.

For 23-cm (9-inch) rounds, bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick
inserted in the centre comes out dry. For cupcakes, bake for 20 to
25 minutes or until they spring back when touched lightly.

Let cool in pans on wire racks for at least 20 minutes and then
invert onto the racks to continue cooling to room temperature before

Makes three 23-cm (9-inch) rounds or 24 cupcakes.


Cake Studio Old-Fashioned Buttercream

250 ml (1 cup) butter, room temperature

125 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk, room temperature

10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract

1 kg (2 lb) icing sugar, sifted

In a large mixing bowl and using the paddle attachment if using a
processor, combine all ingredients at slow speed or, if mixing by
hand, use a wooden spoon and mix until a smooth, spreadable
consistency is reached. If stiffer icing is desired or if the
weather is very warm, add a little more icing sugar.

Makes about 1.25 l (5 cups).

Chocolate Buttercream

Add 125 ml (1/2 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder and 10 ml (2
tsp) cold espresso coffee.

Coloured Buttercream

You will need toothpicks, food colouring gels (available at
specialty stores), buttercream and a small rubber spatula.

Dip the end of a toothpick into the desired colour gel until
lightly coated. Then dab the toothpick into the buttercream. Use
your spatula to mix thoroughly to a uniform colour without streaks.

Hint: Always divide your buttercream into separate small bowls
before colouring it and save some uncoloured buttercream as well in
case you need to add more buttercream to adjust a colour or mix a
new one.

On the Web:

Nina Notaro at Cake Studio:

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