This is the first in a series profiling local chefs and sharing their favorite summer recipes.
When one of Jessa Sahakian customers told her of a trend of using no-fat ingredients in pastry and cakes, the usually happy-go-luck proprietor of Yum Bunnies Cakery raised her voice in utter annoyance.
"Not at YBC!" proclaimed Sahakian, as if to vocally make a stand against the unthinkable.
That passion is for the products Sahakian is best known for: cakes and their mini relative, cupcakes. Celebrating her third anniversary since opening the Belmont Street store/bakery, the 28-year-old Watertown native has created a profitable venture that Belmont residents - and Hollywood - have taken great pleasure.
About Hollywood later.
It was almost was if cakes and Jessa were destined to be together. Her love in creating them began with her grandmother, who Sahakian said was a great baker. Later she convinced her mother to enroll her in a cake decorating class at a local community center.
"I was the only kid in a class of adults which was a little weird," she said. But Sahakian loved the class. Later in high school, she was the go-to person when a group wanted to hold a successful bake sale.
After her graduation from Watertown High School in 2000, Sahakian headed straight to the only college she wanted to attend: Johnson & Wales, the training ground for chefs and those who want to run food-related businesses.
There Sahakian discovered her calling.
"There were students who really wanted to be chefs who run a kitchen and others who would 'be one' with bread. I discovered I loved cake," she said, noting that creating a cake took more than just slapping on frosting to a sheet of flour.
"You have to know how to make the batter so it remains moist and still be solid enough to shape. There is the icing and making it with flavors," she said.
After graduating and apprenticing at a bakery in Newton, Sahakian decided to strike out on her own and opened her business in a former nails shop on Belmont Street.
The past three years has seen steady growth in profits and cliental as word of mouth continues to bring her business. In addition to cakes, her cupcakes have their own fan base, a lucky added product that came about since Sahakian didn't want to throw out her excess cake batter.
"I really don't understand it," she noted, explaining that they have become hits during Easter when she decorates them as chicks.
Now the Hollywood connection.
A few years back, a production assistant heard about her cakes - and their mutual devotion to the New Kids on the Block - and asked if she could supply several to the production of "Pink Panther II." But they didn't want to eat them, but rather film her cakes.
"They needed a cake and I said, 'Sure, I'll do it'," said Sahakian.
That has turned into a profitable niche and leading to screen time for her cakes and herself, playing an extra in one film. In fact, in the movie "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," Sahakian's cake (one of nine she made for the production) has a pivotal role in the Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner film.
Whether it is making cakes for a neighborhood children's party or for a film that stars her own heart throb, Donnie Walhberg, Sahakian said she loves the work despite the long hours and isolation of being an owner of a small business.
Yet she would rather run the business by herself than allow the quality of the work to suffer.
"I was talking to the owner of 'In a Pickle' in Waltham who said that people like us have a 'passion gap' because we don't think we can hire anyone who cares about the business as much as we do," said Sahakian.
"No one is as invested as we are," she said.
Since she works in large quantities making her cakes, Jess Sakakian of Yum Bunnies Cakery in Belmont said finding a recipe that doesn't call for 24 eggs was rare in her cookbook.
But she does have a cameral topping that makes everything taste better. She suggests topping homemade brownies with this simple icing.
1 pound, 8 oz of sugar
3 oz of unsalted butter
13.5 oz of heavy creme
The trick is to take the time in making it. Melt the sugar over medium heat with a small amount of water, washing down the sides of the sauce pan until it carmelizes which takes about half an hour. Add the butter and creme and gently mix. Taste and serve warm over you brownies or other baked good.