Take a walk on the wild side with spring cakes, including graduation cakes, made with tropical fruit flavors.

Angel Cakes, a specialty bakery in Oakland, Calif., avoids having a set menu in the spirit of encouraging its customers to try offbeat flavor combinations like grapefruit miso. For the undecided, its menu of options ranges from chocolate and vanilla to Turkish coffee (made with cardamom and mint), coconut pomegranate and rose pistachio.

The Perfect Purée helps owner Jen Angel customize her buttercream frostings with tropical flavors such as The Perfect Purée Pink Guava Puree and Passion Fruit Concentrate. To make a fruit-flavored frosting, she substitutes water for an equal measure of thawed purée.

“At Angel Cakes, we often use an American buttercream, also called decorators buttercream, to top our cupcakes and cakes because it is easy to color and flavor, and holds its shape well,” she explains.

Angel learned practically everything she knows from her mother, not the least of which is a love of good food. For her, desserts are a creative outlet because although taste is of the utmost importance, design is a close second.

The bakery is currently ordering blood orange, mango, guava, and passion fruit through Chef’s Warehouse. They use the puree in cake batter, frosting, and some fillings. 

“We make around 120 different flavors, and almost all of them can be made egg, diary, and gluten free,” Angel says. “At our shop, we offer a rotating selection of 15-20 cupcake flavors (including vegan and gluten free options) along with a selection of cookies, cakesicles, and other desserts. All of our cupcake flavors are available by special order as cakes of various sizes.”

Angel enjoys working with Perfect Purée because the flavors are authentic without added sugar.

“In addition, the pandemic has been a challenge with weddings and large events, which were part of her income stream, either didn't happen or, in the case of a wedding reduced in size from 200 to 10 guests,” she explains. “Fortunately, birthdays and other celebrations are still taking place, so they've shifted to doing small quarantine sized cakes and cupcake orders. They offer pre-packaged cupcake and cookie assortments online, an option they didn't offer prior to the pandemic. They are also now available on Caviar and Grubhub.”

Angel responded to important questions from Bake geared for the spring season.

What do you consider to be the most crave-able flavors for spring celebrations?

“This season the hottest flavors are tropical - is it because folks haven’t been able to travel or vacation? We recently updated our Meyer Lemon Cream cupcake – a lemon cupcake with a lemon cream filling and vanilla buttercream - to be the Meyer Lemon cupcake with a passion fruit cream filling and it’s been a top seller. We love Perfect Puree’s Passion Fruit concentrate. We use it in our cake, frosting, and now our cream filling. The cream is similar to a curd, but with more butter. Other tropical fruits we feature are mango and guava.”

How has COVID changed your business, and what’s working well?

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on our bakery. Because we are a takeout-only shop, we’ve been able to continue operating throughout, in accordance with our county guidelines. We shut down for a few weeks at first to ensure that we could protect our staff and customers, and over time we’ve been able to resume normal operations.

“However, as a shop that focuses mainly on cakes and cupcakes, before COVID we baked for a lot of weddings and corporate events, and those are essentially not happening. Well, folks are getting married, but with 10 guests instead of 300. So that hit really hard - we were able to shift and focus more on over-the-counter sales and small, covid-friendly celebrations. We created an online store through Square (we never had one before!) and joined platforms such as Caviar and GrubHub. We’ve also added more non-cupcake items and have expanded our selection of cookie and bar flavors. Cheesecake bars have been the breakout hit of the pandemic! Also, cupcake jars (layers of cake and frosting in a mason jar) have been huge.

Image courtesy of Puratos

“The other interesting change is that in the past, we made most of our birthday cakes for Fridays and Saturdays. Now, with folks working from home and celebrating with their pods exclusively instead of having a party, we are noticing folks are celebrating on the day of their birthday or anniversary, instead of a weekend. We are making more birthday cakes for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays than we ever have before.”

Angel consider themselves fortunate to have a very loyal community of customers who have supported the bakery through many challenges, such as opening their first brick & mortar store in 2016 and when a speeding car crashed into our building in 2019 creating a gaping hole in the side of our bakery.

Building and sustaining those customer relationships has been the best part of this business. Angel Cakes was on social media befor and being open and honest with our customers about the impact of Covid has helped strengthen their community. 

What do you most love about the Perfect Purée product line? What are some favorites?

“We have a huge flavor menu, and for most of our fruit flavor we use the real fruit inside the cake or frosting, which is why we don’t make Strawberry cupcake in January. But tropical fruits aren’t really grown locally, so we go for the next best thing - the Perfect Puree concentrates and purees are awesome for providing real flavor for fruits that aren’t local or in season. Our favorites are Blood Orange, Guava, Passion Fruit, and Mango. We’re currently experimenting with their Lychee and Tamarind products! We love that they are local to us, and that many of their products don’t contain added sugar, which can have an impact when we use them in baked goods. We add their products to the cake, frosting, and fillings. Overall, we find the flavor to be the most authentic in comparison with other brands.”

Any predictions for colors/flavors that will dominate the scene this year?

“At Angel Cakes we have an extensive menu of over 120 flavors, and we are constantly experimenting. We do that because it keeps the day-to-day interesting for our staff and customers love it! While our top sellers have remained constant for the last few years: chocolate salted caramel, Meyer lemon cream, and red velvet - in the past few months I’ve noticed folks really responding to unusual flavor combinations - I think 2021 is a year that folks seek out the new and interesting. Flavors like Rosemary Caramel and Nectarine Sage, or Grapefruit Miso have been selling great! But it’s going to be a close race with familiar comfort foods, so I think flavors like Cookie Dough or Funfetti will be popular as well.”

RE-invent Indulgence

Image courtesy of Puratos

“Indulgence” probably brings to mind guilty pleasures like Halloween candy, glazed donuts or that chocolate bar you have stashed somewhere for a stressful day. But what if you could indulge and feel good about it? What if you could have your cake and eat it too? 

Puratos is on a mission to turn this dream into a reality. The company recently announced the introduction of RE-invent Indulgence, their trailblazing approach for sweet goods focused on Real ingredients, Responsible choices and Re-imagined textures.  

To support this ambition, Puratos has rolled out a range of products that challenge traditional notions of indulgence: real, clean label Topfil fruit fillings, a new Belcolade Sugar-Reduced Chocolate, a brand-new line of plant-based cake and brownie mixes and an innovative texture collection featuring Steamed Cake Donuts.  These exciting new textures, better-for-you ingredients, and field-to-fork fruit fillings, sourced from local farmers prove that taste, health and care for people and planet can go hand in hand.

With 87% of US consumers reading ingredients labels , 36% following a plant-based diet , and 56% mentioning that food in retail is too sweet, “there has never been a better time to re-think the future of sweet goods,” says Jessica Blondeel, senior product manager of patisserie at Puratos USA.

“RE-invent Indulgence is a groundbreaking way of bringing more fruit, more grains, less sugar and lighter textures into a category that has historically meant choosing between indulgence and health,” Blondeel added. “These ingredients break the ‘all or nothing’ convention. Bakers can still deliver the crave-able comfort food shoppers want - donuts, brownies, chocolate cake – but in a more responsible way.”

Puratos believes the unification of its strategy under “Re-invent Indulgence” will bring new life to the sweet goods category and accelerate bakers’ business with products their customers can feel good about.

While Puratos’ Cacao-Trace sustainable cocoa program has always focused on expert fermentation techniques to generate superior tasting chocolate for consumers and more income for farmers, their latest Cacao-Trace, non-GMO, 100% plant-based mixes are the first of their kind in the industry. Its unique Steamed Cake Donut mix is patented, and the new Topfil clean label fruit fillings offer a breath of fresh air for desserts that often contain lengthy ingredient lists most consumers don’t recognize.