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dessert works

Tiers for the bride and groom

(Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
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March 12, 2008

At Dessert Works in Norwood (38 Vanderbilt Ave., 781-769-1133, dessertworks.net), wedding cakes are as fussed over as the wire-stiffened, ostrich-plume pouf hairdos of pre-revolution Versailles. Owner Kristen Repa, her own blond hair flattened under a pink bandana, sits perched on a red mechanic's stool drawing intricate Florentine ivy with a paper cornet. Her husband, Leonardo Savona, packs a finished multi-tiered cake. Savona has long, dark, curly hair, plus lots of earrings, and black leather biker boots. Last year Dessert Works made cakes for 230 weddings. In a "bridal suite," as the pair calls it - a private tasting room adjacent to the bakery - prospective brides and grooms can look at cakes, sample some, and order what they like. Repa bakes and decorates; he delivers. "We take it slow in the van," he says, "but potholes can come out of nowhere. We've had a couple of mishaps over the years but my wife always comes out to save the day." - JONATHAN LEVITT

Repa uses only homemade buttercream, which consists of egg whites and cooked sugar creamed with butter. "If you see a cake with white that looks too white and too bright you know you're looking at shortening," she says. "Butter is more challenging to work with and more expensive, but also silkier and shinier and worth it. So many cakes out there are full of decorative components that don't really taste good. That's not our style. We don't rely on anything that's not food."

These strawberry mousse cakes are for the retail shop at Dessert Works. Repa and Savona opened six years ago in Medfield, quickly outgrew the space, and relocated to a 4,000-square-foot spot in Norwood three years later. Repa, 33, was an apprentice pastry chef at the former Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Back Bay, and at Gerstner Konditorei, a pastry shop in Vienna. After Europe, she was executive pastry chef at The Catered Affair in Hingham. Savona, 43, has lived and worked in Italy and was a sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston.

This five-tiered confection, decorated with tulips, is a chiffon dulce de leche cake swirled with caramel and layered with caramel mousse. Vanilla meringue buttercream frosting is banded with fabric ribbons and crowned with rolled-chocolate tulips. This cake costs $6 per person and serves 200 (total cost is $1,200). Repa's most expensive cake to date sold for $10.50 per person and was covered in edible bumblebees, flowers that appeared to be growing, and butterflies of all sizes.

Everything at Dessert Works is made from scratch, so the bakers go through a lot of flour. "We've been stocking up on flour as the price of wheat goes up," says Repa. "No mixes around here."

Roses and leaves are made from rolled chocolate, a smooth and flexible mixture of white chocolate and corn syrup. "Rolled chocolate is more edible and more flavorful and not as sugary sweet as fondant, which is really just sugar and water," says Repa. Her signature decoration is chocolate butterflies, made from bittersweet chocolate and colored white chocolate.

Repa likes to decorate sitting down. "I was looking for the perfect chair and couldn't find one. Our friend George Collins, a mechanic in Medfield, came by and told me I needed a mechanic's chair," says Repa. "He gave me his. It's perfect."

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