Michelle Klem opens CakeSuite in Westport
Arranging a medley of sugar, flour and other scrumptious ingredients, pastry chef Michelle Klem's cakes and cookies are creative masterpieces. For 26 years, she has expertly crafted custom-designed cakes for weddings, religious occasions, birthdays and anniversaries.
Some of her satisfied customers -- as well as friends, neighbors and family -- were on hand to celebrate the opening of Klem's new pastry shop, CakeSuite. Located on Riverside Avenue, next to Dunville's Restaurant and Bar, CakeSuite offers an assortment of specialty dessert items and cookie selections made fresh daily.
However, Klem is best known for her clever designs and specialty cakes.
Sue Ellen and Steve Raphaelson of Norwalk described a sports-themed cake that Klem made for Salesmen Appreciation Day at Steve's company. Since the annual meeting took place shortly after the Boston Red Sox stole the World Series title from the New York Yankees, Klem's cake pointedly depicted a crow eating the bones out of the Yankee's emblem.
Explaining that his group of salesmen was evenly divided between Red Sox and Yankees' fans, the design of the cake was "perfect," Steve said.
"They loved it," he added.
Sue Ellen appreciated a tray of gourmet cookies that Klem thoughtfully made for her 50th birthday party. "Michelle knew that I was allergic to flour so she made these out of spelt flour," she explained. "They were amazing. I could have eaten all of them. Michelle is a lovely gal and a talented artist."
Sue Ellen also described hearing about another extraordinary cake Klem provided for an elderly client's birthday celebration. He apparently greatly appreciated Monet's infamous Water Lilies painting so she recreated the artwork onto the cake. "It was truly a masterpiece," Sue Ellen said.
Based on providing clients with the exact design they have in mind with delicious ingredients, Klem has acquired a stalwart group of loyal followers. Jane and Brian Rutter, along with their two daughters, Samantha, 15, and Kate, 8, were pleased to stumble upon her services when they hosted a Bat Mitzvah party for their daughter, Samantha, two years ago.
"Her name was on a list that we were given by Longshore Restaurant, which is where the party took place," explained Jane. "She did a great job."
Brian and Samantha agreed. "She did an amazing job," Brian added. "We recommend her all of the time now." Before taking a bite out of one of Klem's cookie samples, Kate said that she hopes Klem would design a sports-themed cake for her upcoming ninth birthday. "I do baseball, soccer, softball and dance," she noted.
Looking through her portfolio books, filled with diverse styles of cakes, it's evident that Klem is capable of intertwining a multitude of themes into a three-dimensional, charming confection.
Klem's assistant, Beth Johnston of Bridgeport, spent the evening greeting guests and offering flutes of champagne and Pelligrino water. She also encouraged them to sample some of CakeSuite's treats. Bite-size cakes on display were chocolate cake with raspberry ganache and strawberry curl; white chiffon cake with passion fruit curd and fresh blueberry, and a golden butter cake with caramel drizzle, caramel butter cream and cocoa bits. Lemon shortbread, Parisian macaroons and Delancey Street rugelach were some of the different kinds of cookies that guests enjoyed Thursday night, too.
A pastry student at the Lincoln Culinary Institute in Hartford, Johnston feels fortunate to be able to complete her internship work under Klem's watchful eye. "She is amazing," Johnston said.
During her career, Klem was the pastry chef at premier hotels and well-known restaurants in New York City, such as The Rainbow Room, the Plaza Hotel and the New York Hilton. She also worked at "several trendy restaurants that opened during the 1990s," Klem added.
In 2001, Klem started her own business by renting space in Fairfield. An increase in business volume motivated her to recently look for her own site. "The demand was growing," she said. "I found that I didn't have the manpower or space to fulfill the orders."
Forced to turn people away, Klem decided it was time to go out on her own. And, Westport, she said, was the obvious place to relocate.
"I have a lot of clients already in Westport and what I do suits this community," she said.
Klem first looked at three other locations in town before learning that the property on Riverside Avenue would be available. "It's perfect," she said.
Klem plans to hold courses for amateur and professional bakers on topics such as decorating, specialty cookies, sugar flowers, children's baking class and holiday cakes. Class size will be limited. For more information, call (203) 557-0247 or visit www.cakesuite.com
CakeSuite is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and consultations are available by appointment.