When Amelia Lane of Olympic Provisions began working as a pastry chef in Portland after years of cooking the line, she realized what it was like to feel alone in a crowded kitchen.
"I really miss the camaraderie that cooks share after getting their asses kicked on the line," says Lane. "That incredible feeling that comes when you’re cracking a beer or clinking glasses and talking about all the challenges and successes of the evening…I miss it so much it hurts."
Searching for that camaraderie and sense of community, Lane founded the Portland Pastry Chefs Association to bring together bakers and pastry chefs from around town for events, technical support, and a platform to share successes.
For their public debut as a collaborative community, members of the PPCA will host a Cakewalk on September 9th to benefit Oregon’s children through Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, the Oregon Food Bank, and Share Our Strength. Organized by Portland pastry chefs Gerald Shorey (Market) and Alissa Rozos (St Jack), the event will feature over thirty of Portland’s top pastry chefs, bakers, chocolate makers, and ice cream mavens presenting full-sized cake creations. Guests will have a chance to take home the sweet treats via DJ-powered cakewalks throughout the evening. Tickets to the fundraiser are just $35, available here.
Though the savoriest of executive chefs often steal the media spotlight, Portland’s pastry chefs have been quietly churning out some truly world-class desserts for years. Here, they share the sweet treats from their childhoods that inspired them to join the ranks of the often-silent sweet saviors of the kitchen.
Kir Jensen of Sugar Cube: "My mom was constantly baking and the warming smells of something buttery delicious was always wafting through our house. One of my favorite of her desserts was her apple crisp. A simple, rustic dessert pilled high with tart granny smith apples and buttery, cinnamon-kissed crisp topping—always served with a fat dollop of fresh whipped cream. I’d kill for one of my mom’s apple crisps right now."
Alissa Rozos of St Jack: "My favorite childhood dessert was the koulourakia my Yiayia would make with me and my sister. It’s a Greek butter cookie that gets shaped into a rope and twisted before baking. Each batch made 12 dozen cookies which required an entire afternoon to get it all baked off. We’d bring a bag of cookies to the neighbors, doctor, hair dresser, car mechanic, and everyone else we had ever met."
Kate Withiam of Pacific Pie Co: "I have always loved strawberries and when strawberry season came around as a child, I knew is was time for strawberry glace’ cream pie. Fresh strawberries with the yummy combination of graham cracker crust and creamy vanilla filling… oh my. We would often take the pie on a family picnic and cut it into 16 small slivers so everyone could have a taste. Luckily we’d always have another one waiting at home because a sliver just wasn’t enough."
Helena Root of Irving Street Kitchen: "My favorite dessert as a child was my Mom’s chocolate swirled cheesecake, with a crispy shortbread crust, dense vanilla cheesecake, and a chocolate swirl. Uhhhh, I can taste it now. So good! This was my request at all special holidays and birthdays, I was hooked!"
Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop: "My mom had this giant recipe book from the 70s containing hundreds of pastries and desserts. I would spend hours pouring over the book, selecting just the perfect cookie, cake or tart to make on a rainy Saturday afternoon. One of my favorites was a Mocha Chocolate Cake. I would drag my step stool up to the counter alongside my mom, and help her measure out bittersweet chocolate, coffee, sugar, flour, butter and eggs for the cake. My mom would top it with a thick, coffee-laced dark chocolate glaçage. Waiting for the glaze to set up before we could slice the cake and eat it was pure torture!"
Gerald Shorey of Market: "I still use the chocolate mousse recipe my Uncle George gave me over twenty years ago. I use my great Grandmother’s poppy seed grinder for poppy strudel and hand pull it just as she did. I also use her Lamb Cake mold every Easter. My Grandmother not only made fantastic ‘garbage’ cookies, but the best fried chicken I have ever had. Whenever I bake, I know in my heart that they are there with me."
Clare Gordon of Riffle NW: "Growing up in town we went to the Portland Farmer’s Market on Saturdays every week, and I would make a beeline for Elizabeth Montes’ stand. She was just starting to sell her amazing Sahagun chocolates at the market during her first years in town, and I would beg my parents for a few dollars to buy a jasmine or cinnamon truffle."
Amelia Lane of Olympic Provisions: "I grew up in the Carolinas, where the weather is the opposite as here, hot and humid most of the year, so ice cream was and still is my achilles heel! My true favorite treat of all time though is fresh strawberries. I would only eat them at my Grandmother’s house—she’d give me a quart of berries and I would walk around the rose garden in her back yard and eat all of them. She always said I would get a stomach ache, but I never did."
PPCA 1st Annual Cakewalk
Sunday, September 9th from 5 to 9 pm
At the Olympic Mills Commerce Center
107 SE Washington St
$35 – tickets available here