Julia Child has famously been credited as saying, “a party without cake is just a meeting,” and although cakes may occasionally be present at meetings, parties are where they shine. For centuries, cakes have been an integral part of celebrations around the world. Whether homemade or store bought, in the form of tiered rounds, stacked squares, cupcakes or cake pops, nothing says party like a tasty bite of baked goodness filled with a decadent frosting, mousse or custard and covered in rich buttercream, silky ganache or fondant.
Cero Anthony, owner of Santa Clara’s Cake Expressions, didn’t have a traditional trajectory to owning a bakery. The San Jose State University graduate worked in marketing at Stanford University before a friend asked him to accompany her to a cake decorating class taught through a vocational school. Instantly, he was drawn to the creativity of decorating cakes and continued enrolling in additional classes, even spending a Stanford spring break at a high-end bake shop, Court of the Two Sisters, in San Francisco. Soon, Anthony resigned from his position at Stanford to fully immerse himself in the world of cakes by assisting famed Swiss cake decorator Max Ackerman in Los Gatos in 1977.
Three years later, after spending one summer baking at Santa Clara’s Wilson’s Jewel Bakery, Anthony saw an opportunity. Wilson’s often received calls from corporate clients, but since the bakery didn’t have a delivery service, Anthony felt catering to the corporate world could be his niche and opened Cake Express on his birthday, May 28, 1980.
Over the past 38 years, Anthony — who changed the name to Cake Expressions in the 1990s on the suggestion of a client — has created everything from simple single rounds with buttercream or fondant matching the exact shade of the bride’s dress to massive multi-tired wedding cakes loaded with traditional piping techniques including drop strings, shell and scalloped borders, pleats and flowers. Despite the latter not falling into current wedding trends, Anthony said there have been several couples searching for larger-than-life cakes and many requests for him to recreate a wedding cake for a milestone anniversary.
While the entire process of creating cakes for weddings from consultation to completion remains Anthony’s favorite part of the job, Cake Expressions also constructs sculpted centerpieces for other celebrations throughout the year.
“We do about half and half,” Anthony said, noting that party cakes can be more time consuming and challenging than a wedding cake. “When people bring in or have a concept or idea and they’re relaying that to us, we’re thinking how we can get it done and make it come to life.”
Cake Expressions confections are more than simply stunning displays; the real test of the bakery’s clout is in the taste and unique features unavailable at other local bakeries. While offering traditional flavor combinations, Anthony has included options such as a mango cake with mango mousse, old world carrot cake made with molasses, chocolate raspberry truffle with Anthony’s ganache, Meyer lemon cake with lemon curd filling and tiramisu.
“I came up with [the mango cake] probably about 10 years ago because we were seeing more Asian clients and they liked less sweet,” he said. “Now we have Indian clients who love the mango cake. It’s one of our most popular. Twenty years ago I came up with a tiramisu cake. We came up with all the classic flavors in a tiramisu but it can still be cut and served.”
Each cake exiting the bakery is perfectly moist, light and never made more than 48 hours prior to an event to ensure freshness. And, clients who hate fondant can fear not. Anthony has developed his own version of the sugary coating that mixes in chocolate and additional ingredients to tone down the fondant flavor so customers can have the decorations they desire but not the taste they despise.
Still, it’s Anthony’s dedication to his craft and customer service that wins glowing reviews from clients.
“Brides will come back after a year because I trade a first anniversary cake — a fresh one that’s typically six inches — for a photo,” said Anthony. “I trade them for an 8×10 photo of the cake or the two of them cutting and serving the cake. I get to see them in a year again and they’ll say people are still talking about their cake and that’s the best compliment of all. I hear that a lot.”
Cake Expressions is at 2325 De La Cruz Blvd., Santa Clara. For more information visit Cake Expressions at cakeexpressions.com or on Facebook.