Today, Pursuitist embraces their sweet side in a chat with Tiffany MacIssac, undoubtedly one of Washington, DC’s most well-loved makers of innovative cakes and treats. We’ve long loved MacIssac’s work. Before launching Buttercream Bakery in 2016 with partner Alexandra Mudry-Till, she worked at the popular Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the powerhouse local restaurant brand behind names like Birch + Barley and Buzz Bakery.
She’s no stranger to spotlight, either. In addition to working in prime spots like the Bryant Park Hotel, the Michelin-starred CRU, and NYC’s posh Union Square Cafe, MacIssac’s bakery turns out wedding cakes and goodies for some of DC’s most well-heeled, including an inauguration cake for President Trump.
Culinary talent runs in the family, too. MacIssac is married to another top DC toque, Kyle Bailey, executive chef of popular DC restaurant The Salt Line.
Now, on the eve of the shop’s two-year anniversary, we chatted with MacIssac about her inspiration, background, and favorite flavors for an exclusive Q&A. We only regret that this post lacks scratch n’ sniff capabilities.
- What drew you to become a baker?
I fell in love with food when I enrolled in culinary school and studied savory preparation. As soon as we started the pastry section of the program I knew it was for me. I have a total type A personality so I loved the precision and process of making things beautiful.
- You were born on Maui and moved to NYC for culinary school. Why come to DC?
Moving to DC was a complete whirlwind! My husband and I had just quit our jobs and were about to get married. We were actually picking out our wedding bands when we get a voicemail with a potential job opportunity in DC. The team needed an answer immediately, so we ran to a 24 hour grocery, cooked all night, and drove to DC the next day for a taste testing. We got the job, were married 1 week later and moved to DC two weeks after that. The rest is history!
- Where do you find your inspiration? Are you someone who goes deep into Instagram, do you read a specific publication, or do you dig deep into recipe archives, for example?
All of the above! I eat out a lot, am constantly looking online and reading newspapers and magazines. I also try to travel for inspiration – this year I returned to my home-state, Hawaii, and visited Thailand with my husband.
- You’ve worked in everything from doughnuts to cupcakes – both ahead of and during the time of these foods’ rise to trendy fame. What is the “trendy” item in baked goods these days, what is up and coming, and what is on the way out?
I’ve noticed the popularity of Hybrid desserts – like the “Cronut.” We have a couple hybrid desserts at Buttercream Bakeshop; one of my favorites is the Cinnascone. The scone dough is rolled thin, topped with a cinnamon roll filling, then rolled, baked and glazed.
- What about weddings? Are most brides and grooms still doing cake? If so, what are you seeing as the most popular requests for 2018?
Although we get the occasional pie table or dessert bar, the biggest trend we are seeing this year is modern designs – especially ones inspired by artwork.
- Let’s talk dietary restrictions – what is the most common request you see, and how are you overcoming that? Is there really a great substitute for gluten, or are you able to eliminate dairy or sugar without really impacting taste and quality?
We get a lot of requests for gluten free orders, so much in fact that we decided to make a menu of over a dozen cakes that our gluten-free clientele can choose from.
- Let’s be honest, every occasion is better with cake. But what’s the craziest occasion you’ve ever had to make a cake for, and what did you make?
We have an order for 150 mini Faberge Egg Cakes coming up soon! I think that might be of one of the craziest so far!
- When you’re baking at home – what are you whipping up?
Whenever I visit a friend, I wake up and make breakfast for everyone. I always whip up scones or biscuits because no breakfast is better than when it’s fresh out of the oven.
- Thanks to platforms like Instagram, there’s a lot of pressure to make everything a home baker creates beautiful. What are some resources you’d suggest a DIY baker get in his or her home?
To make a beautiful cake you absolutely must have a cake wheel! It’s nearly impossible without one!
- We <3 Buttercream Bakery. Any chance you’ll expand beyond DC?
Thank you! For now, that’s only in my dreams!