The BonBonerie in Cincinnati's O'Byronville neighborhood is one of those local bakeries that inspires nostalgia even if you've only been in a hand full of times. Two extended cases of fruit-studded scones, gigantic cookies, layer cakes, bright-pink glazed cookies, pies, sinful looking brownies, and colorful iced butter cookies beg for tiny noses to be pressed against them in contemplation. And the almost obnoxious thing is that everything in those cases is good, if not great.
I had been in recently to shoot a bunch of sweets, and afterward my Twitter and Instagram feeds quickly filled—"I grew up 5 minutes away from there! Birthday cake for 18 years!" and "MINT BROWNIE! THAT one is my favorite of favorites" and "Just general love for all things Bonbonerie." They are loyalties well-deserved, and over 30 years Sharon Butler and Mary Pat Pace's recipes have brought them from private catering to the bakery, cafe and tea room they now fill with happy customers year round.
After that first shoot I was particularly curious about how their stunning Opera Cream Cake is made. It's a take on the classic French version, traditionally an almond sponge cake with a coffee and chocolate filling and icing. They opt out of the thin-layered almond cake in favor of a thick, rich dark chocolate cake studded with chocolate chips, then add white chocolate, coffee, brandy and coffee liqueur into the mix. It's a decadent combo sold in 6-inch ($22.00) and 9-inch ($44.00) full-sized cakes, as well as by the slice and in cupcake form ($3.75).
Kristina Marrale has been working at The BonBonerie for about ten years now, and she walked me through how they make up to 80 of the 9-inch cakes alone during the holiday rush. By the time I left I felt pretty schooled on what to expect from a cake fit for a celebration, and on the skills and patience it takes for it to be made with both precision and nonchalance.
Click on the slideshow above to see how it's done.