For many of us, Bethesda is a little out of the way. Even though it has the character of a suburban Georgetown and with it a number of adorable boutiques, cafés and restaurant, the decision to take a metro or drive up there costs quite an effort... Which is a pity, really, because it means we might never discover its unique local treasures.
Luckily I have a friend who lives close by and insisted on taking me to a certain cake shop that was sure to impress me. Yes, impress. My expectations were high.
The name "Fancy Cakes by Leslie" does not do this shop any justice. Maybe I am biased because I dislike the word "fancy", but the cakes on display here are definitely way more than that. Stunning! Remarkable! Beautiful! And, yes, impressive. Leslie creates edible works of art for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, and anniversaries. Each item is one-of-a-kind and the result of both the customer's and her own ideas and designs: We were told that the first step is a personal meeting to discuss the general theme and the customer's expectations. Books with pictures of previously catered events and magazine cut-outs are scattered around large wooden tables in the front part of the shop, and as you sit and flick through them you have a clear view of her large kitchen, which is only slightly obstructed by a few shelves and the service counter.
Interestingly, Leslie is a business major and worked in federal marketing before following her passion and opening this store in 1996. She has since been featured in numerous magazines and TV shows (the Food Network's "Ace of Cakes" and TLC'S "Ultimate Cake Off, among others), and created cakes for celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria, as well as the White House and Pope Benedict. Don't you just love this story? It makes me feel like it is never too late to change the path that you're on. We were unfortunately not able to meet Leslie herself, but the girl we talked to seemed just as passionate about what she was selling and about the process of cake design.
I tried my best to take photos that would give an accurate impression of what one can expect at Fancy Cakes by Leslie. But you just have to see it for yourself. The details on each cake just look so unbelievably real! At the same time, 3D cakes that will feed 20-30 people start at $300 and are therefore not just one of many options for your next birthday party.
My friend and I sampled some of the food presented in the so-called "just-in-case", the counter for cakes, cupcakes and cookies that do not have to be pre-ordered. We shared a man cookie (a sandwich consisting of two giant chocolate chip cookies with thick dark chocolate ganache inbetween), and I got a Baileys cream cupcake to go. The man cookie was out-of-this-world amazing. I don't want to know how long one has to run on the treadmill to burn off the calories contained in one half, but every bite was a party in my mouth. The cookies were soft and chewy, and it had just the right amount of chocolate to taste rich without turning into a chocolate-overkill. On the other hand, I found the cupcake rather disappointing. It tasted pretty bland and only had a tiny amount of cream-filling. It was nicely presented though, with edible glitter on top of the frosting.
Either way, Fancy Cakes by Leslie is really something to write home about it. And that I did: I immediately sent my sister an email with pictures and the link to Leslie's website, because their stories are just so much alike. My sister is a business major and currently doing her Master's degree in Marketing, but in her free time she has been baking and decorating cakes and desserts since she was a little girl. Maybe that's a sign?
Brownie Points for the man cookie: 3 out of 3
Brownie points for the Baileys cream cupcake: 1 out of 3