Victory is sweet for area bakers in ‘Dessert Wars’

Hundreds turn out to sample, witness battle of the batters

BY DAN HOWLEY
Staff Writer

 Above: Dessert lovers sample confections created by local bakeries for “Dessert Wars,” a bakery competition held May 24 at Branches in West Long Branch. Below: Sabrina Minervini, of Angel Cakes, serves samples during the event, which benefited the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Above: Dessert lovers sample confections created by local bakeries for “Dessert Wars,” a bakery competition held May 24 at Branches in West Long Branch. Below: Sabrina Minervini, of Angel Cakes, serves samples during the event, which benefited the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. I t was a battle to the finish and in the end, area bakeries walked away secure in the knowledge that they offer the best desserts on the Jersey Shore.

“Dessert Wars,” held at Branches Catering in West Long Branch onMay 24, drew a horde of dessert lovers and featured a host of area dessert shops vying to be named the best of the best.

A$5 entrance fee gave those on hand a taste of such confectionary creations as a Guinness ale cupcake tower, chocolate-dipped cupcakes, cannoli, and specialty cakes and cookies of all types.

Proceeds from the event went to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Neptune.

“We’re certainly excited to be the recipient of the fundraising that they did,” said Ellen Koment, spokeswoman for the FoodBank. “It was an innovative, creative idea, and I understand there was quite a crowd there that night.

“It was certainly a nice effort on everyone’s part.”

John Lombardo, a managing partner of Branches, said he was glad to support the FoodBank’s efforts.

“Desserts are hot right now, and we are a big supporter of Lunch Break [Red Bank soup kitchen] and the Food- Bank, so the fact that [the proceeds] were going to them was good.”

After voting by a panel of judges and members of the public, Keyport’s Mr. Green Tea Ice Cream Company took home the prize for Judges’ Choice in the Dessert Wars.

For many of the bakeries that participated in the competition, it was the exposure to such a large audience of dessert fanatics, as well as the chance to give back to the community that drew them to the DessertWars.

“I always work to support the FoodBank. That’s something that I always try to make part of my mission,” explained Beverly Gomez, pastry chef at Long Branch-based Cake, Bake and Roll.

“I think it’s always important to give back. And we do dessert, so it was the perfect fit for us. It was a no-brainer,” she said. For Joseph Caputo, owner of Long Branch-based Caputo’s Pastry Shoppe, each bakery that participated in the event came out on top.

“It’s a contest, but we are all winners here,” he said. “Ten years ago, bakeries and dessert makers didn’t get the recognition they get nowadays,” he said, in between handing out mini-cannoli to pastry lovers visiting his stand.

“I mean, we’ve been in Long Branch since 1960. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last year. It’s part of who we are.” Also representing Long Branch was Strollo’s Lighthouse Italian Ices, which also has a Red Bank location.

“There are a lot of good desserts out there. But we are with the oldfashioned lemon ice, which everyone loves. It goes back to the old days,” said owner Jimmy Callano.

“I mean lemon ice has been around a lot longer than some of these desserts, so we went oldschool,” Callano said. Several of the sweet shops that turned out for the battle were new to the area, including Sylvia’s Chocolates and Gift Baskets in Oakhurst.

Owner Sylvia Cohen said she wanted to make sure more customers know about her business, which also offers vegan chocolates.

“It’s an enormous turnout, and I’m hoping it’ll help my business,” she said.

Bruce Wynn and Robert Gomez, of Matawan’s Eat Cake Bakery, also hoped to draw more customers to their fledgling business.

“Since we are so new, a lot of people don’t know us and you try to expand your market as much as you can. And down here [in West Long Branch] they don’t know us,” Gomez said.

Wynn said the prospect of helping the FoodBank also piqued the duo’s interest.

“We do a lot of charitable works, and this is one more we thought would be a good idea,” he said.

Contact Daniel Howley at dhowley@gmnews.com