An interview with pastry chef Laura Beckman of the Black Dog Bakery

Chef Laura Beckman with a cake at the Black Dog Bakery. — Photo Courtesy of Laura Beckman

There are two types of people in the world: Those who love cake and those who are wrong. I’m one of those cake fanatics who knows the power of cake — a slice of cake makes even the worst days better. That’s why we celebrate with cake. I interviewed pastry chef Laura Beckman of Black Dog Bakery to confirm why cake is such an important part of the holiday season.

How long have you been at Black Dog? How did you come to the Island?

LB: I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard. My dad taught me how to bake pies and cookies at a young age, and gradually I began baking cakes and pastries on my own. Once I began high school, I participated in the culinary arts program at the MVRHS. In 1998, I became part of the work-study program and began working at the Black Dog.

Do you have any professional training, or was this a passion you’ve always had?

I enjoyed my job [at Black Dog] so much that I decided to attend Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. In 2005 I graduated with an associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Food Service Management with a concentration in international hospitality operations. I returned to Martha’s Vineyard and was hired back at the Black Dog as the head pastry chef. I was planning to only stay the summer … but we all know how that goes.

What’s your favorite item to bake?

I very much enjoy baking all things, but my favorite is probably cheesecake. It is so simple, but easy to screw up. A good cheesecake is truly a work of art, in my opinion. It’s also so versatile: You can dress it up or down with the addition of sauce or topping, and once you have a good recipe, you can tweak it with different flavorings.

What’s the most popular Black Dog Bakery item, and why?

The two most popular items at the Black Dog are the Triple Chocolate Mousse Majesty and the Blackout Cake. The Chocolate Mousse Majesty is two layers of moist chocolate cake with three layers of mousse in between: white, milk, and dark chocolate. The entire cake is frosted with whipped cream, and dark chocolate ganache is then poured over the top. The finished product is a beautiful and decadent black and white cake. The Majesty comes in a single-serving size called the Mousse Bomb. The Blackout Cake is three layers of chocolate cake with three layers of honey fudge icing, topped with cake cubes and powdered sugar. It also comes is a single-serving size (which really could serve two to three). Chef tip: Put it in the microwave for 10 seconds, and enjoy it with espresso ice cream.

Looking forward to the holidays, any special offerings from Black Dog?

During Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin spice cheesecake topped with maple buttercream rosettes and a decorative buttercream pumpkin. I have also started making bourbon vanilla pecan pie tarts for our pastry cases at the café and Water Street bakery locations.

During the holidays I make the traditional Yule Log, which is a vanilla cake rolled with Italian chocolate buttercream, frosted with dark chocolate ganache, textured to look like tree bark and decorated with chocolate-dipped meringue mushrooms and marzipan holly leaves. I also bake a eggnog cheesecake for the holidays. It’s special because I actually make real eggnog and bake it into the cheesecake. It’s topped with a spiced vanilla buttercream and decorated chocolate pieces on top.

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