Wednesday, June 23, 2010
By Nathan Stubbs
Two weeks, ago, Jennifer Melancon and her husband Dustin were working in the kitchen of their new bakery when they heard the news that legendary actor-director and all-around eccentric rebel Dennis Hopper had passed away at the age of 74. The conversation turned to Blue Velvet, the only Hopper movie Melancon remembers seeing, and how she had once made a blue velvet cake for an old roommate of hers that had a bit of an obsession with the color. Then they had a light-bulb moment: Dennis Hopper blue velvet cupcakes. By the next day, Jennifer re-created her dyed-blue cake mix and Dustin downloaded pictures of Dennis Hopper from the movie Blue Velvet, which then went onto the sugar printer and got stamped onto Fondant moldable icing. The result: an entirely edible, blue velvet cupcake crowned with eye-popping images of Hopper’s psychotic character from the 1986 cult classic.
“It kind of started as a joke,” Jennifer says. “And just went from there.” The joke turned into a hot seller, and for a week the Melancons could hardly keep their Dennis Hopper tribute cakes in stock. Being spontaneous, creative and admittedly a little zany is helping the couple carve out a niche with their newly opened bakery, Sophie P. Cakes, on Johnston Street. Sophie P. stands for “sophisticated-to-punk” and, the Melancons say, reflects the range of custom cakes the store specializes in and a little bit of the owners themselves.
“We kind of embody sophisticated punks,” Jennifer says. “When we go out to eat, we know what utensils to use and we tip well, but we also like to have our own style.” That style is evidenced by their matching tattoos: a band of black ink rather than gold on their ring fingers, and a flamboyant cupcake and crossbones badge on their upper arms. Inside the Sophie P. display case, you’ll find cupcakes like the “atomic chocolate,” spiked with spicy cinnamon and ancho chili powder and “the Pink Floyd,” swirled peppermint cake with a bourbon buttercream frosting. The store experiments with several alcohol flavorings, which they stress cannot get you drunk, like delicious Guiness brownies and another cult movie-inspired concoction, a Kahlua-infused white cake with white Russian cream named “The Dude” after the signature character in The Big Lebowski.
In contrast to her punk rock sensibilities, Jennifer’s pastry chef background is very traditional, training under such pros as 1996 Culinary Olympic Team Pastry Chef Christian Clayton, where she perfected multi-tiered cake building and icing elegant swags and bows. For the past year and a half, she worked out of a small shop on Bank Street doing custom orders until the opportunity was finally right to open her own storefront last month.
“If you want a white cake with ribbons and lemon filling, then it’s going to be the best you’ve had,” Jennifer boasts. “However, if you want flames and skulls or stuff like that, we can do that, too.” Custom cake prices start at $75 and must be ordered two weeks ahead to allow time for the design process.
“The response we’ve been getting from people,” Jennifer adds, “is, ‘We want something different. We’re not traditional.’ Events now are geared more toward people’s personalities and we understand that, so we try to make everything unique.”
Sophie P. Cakes is located at 3209 Johnston St. and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Call 456-5582 for more information.
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