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Jenny Turknett: Two Atlanta Cakes

Thomas Numprasong's Passion Fruit Cake

Thomas Numprasong's Passion Fruit Cake

As I’ve admitted previously, I have a sweet tooth. When I go to events, I tend to check out the desserts pretty quickly.

And so it was when my husband and I attended Les Dames d’Escoffier’s “Afternoon in the Country” at Serenbe a few weeks ago. As soon as we entered, I headed to the cake raffle display to admire the handiwork of our city’s most acclaimed bakers and pastry chefs. The cakes all looked beautiful and delicious, but the carved pumpkin cake made by Highland Bakery caught my eye.

My kids would love that cake.

Did we want to buy cake raffle tickets? Of course! After purchasing our raffle tickets, my husband pulled me back to the task at hand: sampling the fare from our city’s talented chefs. We immersed ourselves in our tastings and almost missed it when our winning raffle number was called.

We rushed over to the cake table with the other winners to select our cake. No one had yet chosen the pumpkin cake! I went to inform the table attendant that we had selected our cake and oh no! Someone else got the pumpkin cake.

I was disappointed because I knew my kids would have loved that cake, but the disappointment quickly changed to delicious anticipation when I spied a gorgeous dessert by Thomas Numprasong from Canoe. I’ve had his handiwork at Canoe and I knew I couldn’t go wrong. Let me tell you this pastry chef is talented. I would eat anything he gave me. Candied calf brain? Sure, chef, if you made it.

This time, I picked the cake right up off the table and took it to the attendant myself. I wasn’t losing this one. I confess I pinched off a small taste of passion fruit glaze right there. Underneath the glaze were layers of chocolate sponge cake, passion fruit crème brulée, dark chocolate mousse, and caramel mousse, all wrapped with an almond dacquoise and topped with the aforementioned glaze. Sublime. This wasn’t a cake for my children, this was a cake for me.

Highland Bakery Pumpkin Cake

Highland Bakery Pumpkin Cake, credit: Jenny Turknett

A few days later, my husband and I attended another event, Caketails for a Cause, to support Share Our Strength. Again, there was a cake raffle. Again, we bought tickets. And guess what was sitting in the center of the table? Yep. Another Highland Bakery carved pumpkin cake. Random coincidence? Or cake destiny? Of course we were going to take another shot at it.

One by one the winning tickets were announced for each cake –none of them ours– until all that was left was the pumpkin cake. By now, you can guess what happened next. And as expected, my children were over the moon. The smell alone took my daughter’s breath away. They couldn’t wait to cut into it (nor could I). Inside was a moist pumpkin cake — not overly sweet. It was filled with a rich molasses buttercream made in-house. Sugar Artist Karen Portaleo at Highland Bakery told me that they start with regular cake layers — no dome shaped pans as you might expect — and carve the cake by hand. Simply amazing.

Jenny-Turknett-TaglineThat’s my tale of two cakes. What luck! Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket…

–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.

6 comments Add your comment


November 23rd, 2010
8:09 am

Definitely buy a lottery ticket. :) Congrats on the double awesome win though. I’m glad that you enjoyed both. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I love the workmanship of both of those.

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November 24th, 2010
8:40 am

That cake at Les Dames was simply amazing. She is always praised for her talents with fondant — and for good reason.

And, yes, you need to play lotto this week.


November 25th, 2010
2:24 pm

I saw Karen compete on Food Network. She did a beautiful cake and I expect her to win someday.

Jenny Turknett

November 28th, 2010
8:23 am

Lisa, I saw that episode, too. Her cakes are stunning. It’s unbelievable what she was able to accomplish in the time given. Theme or not, she was the clear winner (or should have been).

A friend

November 29th, 2010
9:38 am

I will first admit that I know Jenny. And, to know Jenny is to know that she is a phenomenal baker. Her cakes are out-of-this-world good. We have kids about the same ages & we try never to miss her kids’ b’day parties so we can have some of her cake. Her cakes are not only moist and delicious, but also beautiful. She is a talented cake artist.

So, with that said, Jenny saying these cakes are good must mean that are also out-of-this-world good. Jenny can be a tough critic for pastry chefs – she knows what she is doing in the baking department and knows what works and what doesn’t. She especially knows pumpkin cake (hers is divine) and saying this one is that good makes me want to run to the Highland Bakery and get one right now.

What a great compliment to these chefs!