Cake decorating began as a remedy for homesickness for new Bedford bakery owner
Bryson Perkins, Creative Driector of Triolo's Bakery in Bedford, sculpts figures for a Last Supper themed cake. (COURTESY)
The 30-year-old native of Hawaii, who opened Triolo's Bakery on Kilton Road in December, came to the state 10 years ago for a change.
"My family thought I was crazy," he said.
Armed with some graduation money and an open mind, Perkins settled in the area and got a job, but quickly found himself homesick.
An aunt passed along some advice that she'd received, Perkins said, which was, "Cook when you're homesick, it will take your mind off of everything."
Browsing in the cookbook section of a bookstore not long after, he came across a cake decorating book, lying on the floor.
"I thought, 'I could do this,'" he said, and started a new hobby.
Perkins began to create cakes for friends, but it wasn't without its challenges.
Challenge number one? He couldn't bake.
"I could barely start a fire," Perkins said.
"I started out with Duncan Hines and a tub of frosting," he chuckled. "My first tools were a Zip-loc bag and a plastic knife."
While most young people his age were hitting the party scene, "I was home, playing with sugar," said the completely self-taught master cake decorator.
Over time, Perkins eventually created a portfolio of his creations and set out to get a bakery to hire him.
That bakery was Frederick's Pastries of Amherst, where he began working in 2008.
He was eventually promoted to design team manager, but Perkins quickly knew while he gained valuable training there, he wanted to do more.
"They're very traditional, and I was longing and wanting to bring them into a more modern, progressive style," he said.
Perkins said he was about ready to leave New Hampshire and return to Hawaii to open a bakery there when he met a silent partner willing to back his new venture.
After two years of development, Triolo's opened on Dec. 10, 2012, just in time for the holiday season.
It's a full-service bakery where 300 products are made fresh on site each day, including such sweets as cannoli, eclairs, cookies, tarts, sticky buns and French macaroons that Perkins himself created a recipe for.
His staff includes a head baker, four pastry artists, designers and a retail staff, many getting busy at 2 a.m. to produce that day's offerings.
But Perkins' passion is for cake design, and several of his entries earned top prizes at the Connecticut Cake Competition in February, including a wedding cake with a Latina dancer on the top that took him nearly 250 hours to create.
Perkins said he wants his customers to be able to express themselves through his creative confections.
"The thing I love the most about my job is the customers - they really keep things interesting," he said. "Everyone has a story to tell, and they want to tell it through cake. I want people to bring in pictures of their dog, and turn them into three-dimensional things that they could actually eat."
Perkins has come a long way since the Duncan Hines days, becoming a baker nearly overnight and earning the level of master in cake competitions.
He works seven days a week, but said he doesn't mind the grind. "You don't view it as work when you're in love with it," he said.
Perkins hopes to eventually expand his business and possibly teach others his craft. "Ultimately, my dream is to branch out," he said. "I want locations across New England."
Perfectly Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 oz. (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 oz. (4 1/2 Tbsp.) granulated sugar
8 oz. (1 cup) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. chocolate chips
In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda onto a paper plate. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together whole egg, egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add egg mixture. Beat until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Using the paper plate as a slide, gradually pour in flour mixture, stopping 2 times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once flour is worked in, decrease speed to "stir" and add chocolate chips. Chill dough for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375° and place racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven. Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper. Scoop dough into 1 1/2 oz. portions (about 2 Tbsp.) onto prepared pans, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake two sheets at a time for 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Remove from oven, slide parchment with the cookies onto a cooling rack, and wait at least 5 minutes before devouring.
Win tickets to see Linkin Park