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Toni Saad Moore can whip up a spectacular cake full of flavor and beauty. You can taste the chocolate, feel the creaminess of the ingredients, and appreciate the layers of flavor. Often these gourmet desserts benefit a charity, honor a person or event, or are given to a friend.
Mrs. Moore was one of the founders of Ladyfingers in 1982. She left the gourmet dessert business in 1987 to accept a position with United Way (Ladyfingers was later acquired by Gladieux Catering), but she has never stopped making cakes that sparkle.
Her cakes have been auctioned at charity events, including an office recipe contest benefiting United Way in 2000 and the Girl Scout Gala in 2001. More recently, I heard about the January birthday cake that she made for Tim Yenrick, former director of the East Toledo Family Center who is now executive director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
A Toni Moore cake is a work of art with layers of flavor, color, and texture. Most often, it is a chocolate creation that can combine mousse filling, chocolate mousse frosting, silk leaves, chocolate leaves, drop flowers, and gold dragees.
For Mr. Yenrick, Mrs. Moore made a chocolate mocha bundt cake filled with raspberry cream and decorated with a butter cream mousse frosting and chocolate leaves. The cake pictured with this article is chocolate amaretto flavored.
Understandably, Mrs. Moore holds her cake recipes dear to her heart and does not share them. But she did share the recipe for silky smooth butter cream mousse frosting that is applied with a pastry bag.
"This is how I like to make cakes," says Mrs. Moore, who is the development director at the East Toledo Family Center. To fill a tube or bundt cake, horizontally cut off the top of the baked cake about 1 to 2 inches from the top; scoop a tunnel out of the center of the cake. Gently spoon two cups of filling (whipped cream or mousse) along the tunnel, placing fresh fruit straight up in or on the filling so it looks attractive when a slice of cake is cut, and gently replace the top. Now the cake, which sits on a pedestal cake plate, is ready to frost using the very rich chocolate mousse.
Using a large No. 2 star tip, Mrs. Moore positions the pastry bag filled with chocolate mousse on the inside of the bundt cake working from the plate to the top of the cake. When that is outlined in frosting, she starts on the outside, working from the plate to the top of the cake, meeting the frosting applied earlier. The technique is tedious and can require constant adjustments so that the frosting doesn't smear or smudge.
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Once the cake is covered in chocolate mousse, chocolate leaves, which have been made in advance, are placed on one end interspersed with silk leaves. (One Toni Moore cake had the chocolate leaves all over the cake.) Around the cake, colorful candy flowers dot the frosting.
She credits her mother as her culinary mentor. "My mother is a wonderful cook. As a child in her kitchen, we were allowed to stir things," she says about Emmeline Saad, now 84. "She cooks from memory. I am always calling her on the phone about recipes. She was raised in Toledo by her grandparents. They didn't measure ingredients.
"Mom was the catalyst for me to make things. She made Arabic cookies and cream puffs. She wasn't afraid to try things," Mrs. Moore says, referring to both baking and cooking.
Each of Mrs. Moore's gourmet cakes yields 16 to 20 slices because of the richness of the ingredients. The cakes are not overly sweet. Each bite is full of satisfying flavor.
Cutting a Toni Moore Cake requires a sharp cake knife that can make a nice clean slice, which shows the tunnel of mousse or cream filling. Then Mrs. Moore strategically places a few plump raspberries to accent the filling and the cake. With a sprinkle of "pixie dust" from her fingertips - "It's crystallized sugar," she says - a magical dessert is served.