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Rafael's Sugar Work: Where Baking Meets Sculpture

Rafael Ramirez in his shop on 79 North Main Street in South Norwalk. Credit: Leslie Yager
Rafael Ramirez in his shop on 79 North Main Street in South Norwalk. Credit: Leslie Yager
At Rafael Ramirez's bake shop that bears his name, the modest display cases of cupcakes, pastries and small cakes are the tip of the sugar iceberg.

Ramirez, who has been making custom cakes for 20 years, was previously a teacher for 13 years in the Bronx, and occasionally offers classes on baking in his shop.

Though he may still enjoy teaching, cake making is Ramirez's passion, and so, about six months ago, he opened his bakery at 79 North Main Street in South Norwalk.

"Some nights when I'm working late til 9 o' clock, people from neighborhood bars walk by. They notice we're open and stop in for cupcakes or pastries," said Ramirez, who can spend up to an entire day on a custom cake and often works late into the night.

Ramirez said that last week he made a cake to serve 475 people at a church in New Jersey, but his biggest cake served 620 people and was decorated with hundreds of sugar roses.

The extravagant details in his decorations, which he refers to as "sugar work," are as unique as they are delicious. 

"What makes me so happy is the thank you notes I get. That someone takes a minute out of their most special occasion to write me a note means a lot," said Ramirez, who is originally from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Ramirez said there are three steps in creating one of his custom cakes: Baking, decorating and assembly, though he said he does 90% of the work himself.

"There is only one set of these," Ramirez said, holding up both hands and wiggling his fingers. 

Before Ramirez even sets about mixing ingredients, however, there is a great deal of planning. For a wedding cake, for example, a bride may stop by to have a sample of another wedding cake. Then, she may return for a second time for a sampling multiple options.

"She may try chocolate ganache, almond hazelnut, red velvet  and carrot cake. It can be as fancy as you want," Ramirez said. "We can make real fruit fillings. Or marzipan. Whatever you like. Then we collaborate on the design."

Generally speaking, for a custom cake, a customer will describe their idea to Ramirez and he will make a sketch. 

Recently a troupe of ballerinas were treated to a Nutcracker-themed cake. As sizable and elaborate as Victorian dollhouses, the cake, frosting and decorations were all edible.

Rafael Cakes & Sugar is located at 79 North Main Street in South Norwalk. (203) 642-4840 Visit Rafael Cakes and Sugar online. Email: info@rafaelcakes.com

Like the Rafael Cakes & Sugar Facebook page.

Hours: Monday - Closed. Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Friday-Saturday 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Sunday 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

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