Icing on the cake | TheUnion.com

Icing on the cake

Laura Brown
Special to The Union

Every Sunday, Christine Cain leaves her three children and husband at home then happily goes to work where she finds her sanity creating elaborate desserts from simple time-honored ingredients like butter, sugar, flour, eggs, chocolate and cream.

To the kitchen at Back Porch Market, Cain brings stacks of sketches and recipes from her collection of hundreds of cookbooks.

All day long she bakes extraordinary desserts inspired by her mood, filling the case at the gourmet market located on Colfax Avenue in Grass Valley.

“I’m very prolific … I go in and make whatever I can,” Cain said.

On a recent and typical productive afternoon, Cain was found surrounded by layered chocolate mousse cakes topped with ribbons of shaved marbled chocolate, a Meyer lemon ginger almond tart, light French financiers, rows of carrot cakes awaiting icing and gingerbread tarts with cranberry curd and meringue topping.

Word is out about Cain’s fine desserts where a strong local following regularly snatch up favorites like carrot cake, French macaroons and silky Italian custards called panna cotta.

“I always try to make things flavorful without being overly sweet,” Cain said.

“I just love giving people good food. It’s how I express my love and gratitude.”

Fresh and organic ingredients are important to Cain’s recipes, with about half coming from local sources including all the eggs she uses.

During the holidays, look for her German Christmas Stollen – a traditional Christmas bread made with dried fruit and almonds submerged in clarified butter after baking and rolled in vanilla sugar.

“Those were flying off the shelf. It’s like a crazy cult thing,” Cain said.

Fine food and a memorable life

From an early age, Cain loved playing hostess for her parent’s guests and remembers fondly watching American chef Julia Child cook up French cuisine on television.

At 14, she began experimenting in the kitchen, with a swiped copy of “Cooking A to Z from the California Culinary Academy” that belonged to her mother.

After her parents’ divorce, Cain began cooking in order to eat something beyond the bagel dogs and nachos available at the home of her busy nuclear physicist dad.

“I wanted something fancier,” Cain remembers.

In her early 20s, after graduating art school with a degree in filmmaking, Cain’s cousin offered her a job as a

headhunter for a recruiting firm during the dot-com boom.

“It was like shooting fish in a barrel,” Cain recalls of the easy money.

Part of her job was to take clients to the best restaurants in San Francisco, places like Jardiniere, Gary Danko and Aqua.

“That’s where I developed an appreciation for really fine dining,” Cain said.

She fell in love with the entire San Francisco nightlife culture, from the formal attire, to the opera and the spellbinding artistry of the plates.

“They were impeccable … I really started having this shift in my life. This world was happening and I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

When the bottom fell out of the dot-com industry, Cain left the “sinking ship,” put money in the bank and traveled to Europe.

In Paris, she tasted an array of French pastries during a boat party on the Seine River. One pastry was shaped like a juicy pear and was coated with marzipan.

While everyone else engulfed the food, Cain was “fully enamored” by it and took photographs of everything.

“I couldn’t believe how much work people put into food,” she said.

The experience opened her eyes to her own culinary future.

Upon her return to the states, she worked as a private chef, filling refrigerators for wealthy housewives in Mill Valley.

Soon after, she landed a job at Work of Art catering company where she worked with “insane artist chefs” full of challenging ideas. She learned to cook “really fun, cool food that no one was doing,” as part of a kitchen crew that catered to large celebrity gatherings for the likes of Yoko Ono, Cirque de Soleil and the Rolling Stones.

She worked as a line cook at the “super fast-paced, super high–end” vegan establishment, Millennium Restaurant, before moving on to her baking path.

Drawn by the intricate wedding cakes created out of fondant, Cain found a job in Napa at Sweet Finale Bakery and enrolled in baking and pastry arts studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Saint Helena.

“Everything I’ve ever done in my life that’s somewhat memorable involves food,” Cain said.

In 2005, she and her husband, internationally acclaimed tattoo artist and tattoo machine creator, Aaron Cain, moved to Nevada County when Christine was three months pregnant with their first child.

Another son was born, 14 months later.

“My dream of opening up a storefront got further and further away,” said Cain of the goal she intends to fulfill.

Now with three children, ages 2, 4 and 6, Cain manages to juggle motherhood with her quest for entrepreneurial fulfillment.

Cain is finding a niche for herself among a stream of upper end revelers and gourmands in the foothills.

“I feel there’s a really big hole in this community. I think it would be really widely received,” Cain said.

She has catered events like a wine and dessert pairing at Lucchesi Vineyard and recently provided desserts and breakfast pastries for a live auction in Nevada City.

With her artistic eye for details, Cain also enjoys event planning and has done so for a wedding held at the Miners Foundry and about a dozen children’s birthday parties, with themes like Alice in Wonderland.

Now adjusted to country life in Nevada County, Cain

wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. But she still makes trips to her favorite bakery in the city, Tartine.

Cain is known to buy one of everything at the traditional French Bakery, where everything is “just perfect.”

Upon taking her first bite of Banana Creme pie, Cain expresses sorrow at the finiteness of the dessert.

“I’m already sad that I’ve taken the first bite and I’m almost to the end,” she said of the delicious dessert with flakey pastry crust, salted caramel, a thin layer of crisp chocolate, sliced bananas topped with whipped cream and thin chocolate shavings.

If a few crumbs and a swirl of chocolate remain, even when completely satisfied, Cain will always lick her plate.

For information about Cake, contact Christine Cain at (530) 906-1611 or everybodylovescake @gmail.com.

Laura Brown is a freelance writer. Contact her at laurabrown323@comcast.net or (530) 401-4877.tattoo artist and tattoo machine creator, Aaron Cain moved to Nevada County when Christine was three months pregnant with their first child.

Another son was born, 14 months later.

“My dream of opening up a storefront got further and further away,” said Cain of the goal she intends to fulfill.

Now with three children, ages 2, 4 and 6, Cain manages to juggle motherhood with her quest for entrepreneurial fulfillment.

Cain is finding a niche for herself among a stream of upper end revelers and gourmands in the foothills.

“I feel there’s a really big hole in this community. I think it would be really widely received,” Cain said.

She has catered events like a wine and dessert pairing at Lucchesi Vineyard and recently provided desserts and breakfast pastries for a live auction in Nevada City.

With her artistic eye for details, Cain also enjoys event planning and has done so for a wedding held at the Miner’s Foundry and about a dozen children’s birthday parties with themes like Alice in Wonderland.

Now adjusted to country life in Nevada County, Cain wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. But she still makes trips to her favorite bakery in the city, Tartine.

Cain is known to buy one of everything at the traditional French Bakery where everything is “just perfect.”

Upon taking her first bite of Banana Creme pie, Cain expresses sorrow at the finiteness of the dessert.

“I’m already sad that I’ve taken the first bite and I’m almost to the end,” she said of the delicious dessert with flakey pastry crust, salted caramel, a thin layer of crisp chocolate, sliced bananas topped with whipped cream and thin chocolate shavings.

If a few crumbs and a swirl of chocolate remain, even when completely satisfied, Cain will always lick her plate.

For information about Cake contact Christine Cain at (530) 906-1611 or everybodylovescake@gmail.com.

Laura Brown is a freelance writer. Contact her at laurabrown323@comcast.net or (530) 401-4877.


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