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Warren Brown: Spreading the Gospel of CakeLove

Jordan Wright
By Jordan Wright
Posted on Aug 26,2009
Filed Under Food And Wine , Local Tastes,
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Photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks<br /><br />Warren Brown is the cupcake czar. A graduate of Brown University, and of George <br />Washington University, where he earned his law degree and a Master’s in Public Health, <br />Brown dropped his law career in 2000 and followed his life’s calling by researching and <br />refining the art and science of baking.
Photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks
Warren Brown is the cupcake czar. A graduate of Brown University, and of George
Washington University, where he earned his law degree and a Master’s in Public Health,
Brown dropped his law career in 2000 and followed his life’s calling by researching and
refining the art and science of baking.

In the new American Express ad showcasing American entrepreneurs, sexy savvy Warren Brown of National Harbor's CakeLove gets all the attention.  

In this sleek 60-second spot he tallies six individual shots while talking on the phone, overseeing the frosting of one of his yummy cakes and hanging with his staff.  
 

Photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks <br /><br />CakeLove gives New York actress and model Rebecca <br />Pappa a sugar rush.
Photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks
CakeLove gives New York actress and model Rebecca
Pappa a sugar rush.

I caught up with Brown Tuesday morning in the midst of a video shoot for his web site.  When I congratulated him on the Amex ad he said it had brought in a lot of new business at his seven DC-area locations.

The eponymous all-American baker, owner and founder of CakeLove and Food Network star, has plans to get people into the kitchen.  “We’re creating a 'welcome' video for newcomers to our web site," Brown cheerily offered. "We want to spread the gospel of CakeLove."

But the gospel he had most on his mind was that he and wife, Pam, are expecting their first child in January. He's running his business (he calls it the "World of CakeLove"), and working on a second book, whose theme is the United Cakes of America.

"I love to talk to people about food," he said simply. "I want people to get into the kitchen. That’s my goal."

In the book, there are recipes for 50 cakes, one from each state.  Some states actually have an official state cake, like Maryland has a Smith Island Cake and Massachusetts has the Boston Cream Pie. Utah has scones that are like fried dough. "I’m doing my own twist on the traditional recipes and, for instance, in the case of Louisiana, I’m creating a cake that has sweet potatoes and pecans in it too," he said.
Brown is currently editing and getting ready to prepare the photography for the book, out later this year.


"I would love to photograph my Mississippi Mud Cake
out in the bayou perched on a cake stand. That’s the
beauty of having your own business. When you have the
vision in your head and you can actually get it out, it’s
very liberating. Otherwise you’re in the cage of your
own brain."

"I want to get historical props together that will reflect the different states," he said. "I would love to photograph my Mississippi Mud Cake out in the bayou perched on a cake stand.  That’s the beauty of having your own business. When you have the vision in your head and you can actually get it out, it’s very liberating. Otherwise you’re in the cage of your own brain."

Brown said he came up with the concept of the book. "I loved doing the research on it. I studied American History and I’m a news junkie and have a history of reproductive heath education to teens in Rhode Island and Los Angeles."

A graduate of Brown University with a Bachelor’s degree in history, and of George Washington University, where he earned his law degree and a Master’s in Public Health.

"I’m interested in public health. That’s my background and education. There is so much disease and morbidity in the country and I think a lot of it could be wiped out if people would spend more time in the kitchen," he said. "Because it invites the family in and you have more talking and sharing. If you’re in the kitchen cooking you develop a natural curiosity about things around you. You want to ask more questions because you begin to understand that your food came from somewhere.

Brown dropped his law career like a bad debt in 2000 and followed his life’s calling by researching and refining the art and science of baking.

Photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks <br /><br />Pappa, who lives at National Harbor, says Brown's <br />cupcakes are a sugary sustenance<br />
Photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks
Pappa, who lives at National Harbor, says Brown's
cupcakes are a sugary sustenance

By 2002, he had opened his first CakeLove shop in the District, which he uses as a platform for his impassioned advocacy of "pure food" and natural ingredients. He delivers devotion to his craft and his customers every day.

Brown is a gentle and droll man, generous of spirit and dedicated to sharing his knowledge with others.
A lot of his fans were introduced to him and his cakes through the Food Network with his show “Sugar Rush” which ran from 2005 to 2008.

Brown's earliest food memories derive from his backyard in Cleveland, where his family had a Charm-Glo gas grill on the back patio and young Warren would cook the burgers and dogs. "My mom showed me how to work the grill and let me cook whenever I liked," he recalled. "In Cleveland there was a 'rib-off,' a food contest, and I used to spend the whole day by myself walking around, buying tickets and eating ribs."

"One year," he recalled. "I decided I could make my own barbecue sauce and make the ribs at home. I followed the recipe from the grill book. I was amazed it had ketchup in it! After a while I began to change the recipe and play around with the ingredients and then I would season the ribs themselves."

His mother began allowing young Warren to help cook for Thanksgiving and other family holidays, but he didn’t start baking until 1999. "I really liked the response I would get from people when it came to desserts. I noticed it was really different. They would get so excited to try my desserts."

Brown said he read a lot of books on baking, picking up a book called “How to Bake” and then  looking at the bibliographies of other books to find the common denominators. One of his favorite tomes was Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking.”

"I wanted to understand the dynamics of baking, the science of it and the fundamentals," he said.  "Bruce Healey’s 'The Art of the Cake' really inspired me.

In DC, Brown is very involved with a project called Kid Power DC.

"We have a project called 'Cookie Time' which helps to expose kids to civics and the arts and to expand their knowledge in those areas," he said. "We have a joint project that is essentially us, taking the kids and showing them the recipes, and teaching them how to make cookies, and then they sell them on the street to fundraise. They get to go around the country and show other kids how to bake cookies."

Recently the group went to the Dominican Republic to teach kids there. "It teaches them entrepreneurism and how to be self-sufficient," he said. "I remember that during the recent Presidential Inaugural they were outside selling cookies in the freezing cold."

At a recent Mother’s Day event at National Harbor, Brown did a cake demo and tasting on stage at the Gaylord National Hotel, sort of like a Baking 101.

"We went through making two different cakes and then we tasted them to try and better understand the different elements. I explained about the different flours and their protein content and mix the batter and then talked about the results to expect…like the structure of the cake, and the flour and the addition of potato starch, which we use and which is very common in European baking."

He adds, "It’s the same principle of why we want to expose kids to so many things, so that they can have an appreciation for it…like the arts and ballet."

For question and comments contact Jordan@whiskandquill.com.



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