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Browsing through the picture gallery on the Sweet Hearts Patisserie website, visitors will sense that its owner, Kristen D’Angelo, is on to some big-time baking: pastel-colored French macaroons, cakes with layers of creamy frosting, cake truffles with a vanilla or chocolate glaze, and gooey petit fours with jam and butter cream all spell caloric indulgence.

A newcomer to Northern Virginia and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America’s West Coast campus, D’Angelo presents a line of pastries brimming with panache, color and delectability. Offering her baked goods at several area farmers’ markets and, of course, on her website, she has earned a niche for herself in a very competitive baking marketplace.

“I have a small pastry business out of my home,” she said. “I have been doing this for a while, and customers think my baked goods are cute. … I think the things I do are unique. I have noticed a lot of bakers doing cupcakes … and everyday cakes. My petit fours are very stylish and so I think I offer products that are a little different.”

As she notes, French macaroons, relative newcomers to the local baking scene, are pastries that are becoming as popular as cupcakes. “People really love them, and are excited to find them here,” she says. Her best-sellers, not surprisingly, are the salted caramel French macaroons, a flavor everyone loves. But coming in a close second are the almond-apricot petit fours.

Coming up with her somewhat offbeat flavors becomes something of a creative process, D’Angelo said. “I go through cookbooks, change flavors, and tweak recipes a bit,” she said. “Also, I have a lot of recipes from culinary school and basic baking formulas I start out with. From that, I can change flavors to make the products a little unique … I am glad I went to culinary school because now I feel I can play around in the kitchen.”

Her other source of recipe inspiration comes from selling at farmers markets, where it is convenient to browse for what’s newest and freshest from the fields. “I am using mostly fruits from the markets, so my recipes are very seasonal, depending on what I can get,” she said. Now berries and peaches are out, but D’Angelo is eyeing baked goods filled with apples, persimmons and figs.

“It is exciting,” she said, “because I can keep having changes and … make something seasonal for my customers….I love ingredients that are a little different … I have a recipe for an apple cake that is really unusual. It has a strong apple and cinnamon flavor.”

Although her main customer base derives from selling at farmers markets, D’Angelo has cut back from the four she worked to only one, the Saturday market at Oakton’s Unity of Fairfax church. “I want now to focus on special orders,” she said.

To learn more about Sweet Hearts Patisserie, check out the website: http://www.sweetheartspatisserie.com/