The icing on the cake

Ko Gi Bow Bakery

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Baker Manh Phung fled from the Communists 33 years ago, escaping to the U.S. from China. It didn’t take long for him to discover a love of baking, and since 1993, Phung and his wife, LeKinh, have been operating Ko Gi Bow Bakery in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.

The popularity of Phung’s wedding cakes is legendary — many send handwritten thank-you notes to him after their big day. One of his cakes made it to the set of last winter’s “How Do You Know?” movie, filmed in D.C.

The most popular wedding cakes Phung sells are ones featuring chiffon and whipped-cream icing.

Of course, a thriving wedding-cake business is not without some temporary setbacks. “At one time, we used to deliver four-tiered cakes,” Phung said. “While transporting one to a wedding a tier fell … from that day forward I now keep the tiers separate until I get to my destination.”

Phung’s prices are also competitive — $350 for a cake that serves 200 people.

Pastries by Randolph

Tucked away off Lee Highway in Arlington lies a bakery that brings back days of sitting in your grandma’s kitchen. Hot cross buns lie in wait, just in time for Easter. Glittering cannoli await your arrival. Cakes sparkle, enticing you with chocolate and sprinkles.

In business for over 22 years, Pastries by Randolph is family-owned and -operated. If you aren’t 100 percent sure about using the bakery for your wedding cake, chances are if you stop in, you’ll be sold.

Deborah Randolph, who deals with the business side of the bakery, encourages couples to decide on their cake plans about six months prior to their wedding. Once they’re in touch with the Randolphs, couples flip through a binder of cake options and choose what they think is best.

 “We sell a lot of mousse cakes, but buttercream is by far the most popular,” Deborah Randolph said. “It’s a tastier icing and works better with decorations.”

Weddings tend to be relatively stress-free at the bakery, but Randolph did say at one point a mother ordered a wedding cake for her daughter and requested a delivery on the wrong day.

“It was a little crazy at first, but everything worked out in the long run,” she said.

Amid all the busyness of the bakery, the Randolphs have never dropped a wedding cake yet, and hope to keep it that way.

CakeLove

If you’re looking for a wedding cake with intricate sugar flowers, pyrotechnics or detailed replicas of your favorite mementos, head for CakeLove — a no-frills bakery with seven locations scattered around the District, Maryland and Virginia.

 Instead of priding itself on the design of its cakes, the bakers at CakeLove tout their use of 100 percent fresh and natural ingredients and promise that the cake you buy is made from scratch, baked fresh and never spends one minute in a freezer.

“We don’t do any fondant work or any artificial sugar flowers or gum paste designs,” said Kim LaMore, the corporate sales and service manager at CakeLove. “Definitely our emphasis is on a cake that is made from scratch, made fresh, and is going to taste really awesome.”

LaMore said many customers opt to place fresh flowers on their cakes to make them pop, adding that those looking for something a little different often choose to purchase a cupcake assortment, rather than a traditional tiered cake.

“We have large cupcake orders for weddings, and we offer a cupcake stand that is several platforms of graduating sizes — a lot of people rent that and use that as well,” LaMore said.

Cakes start at $5.50 per person for a basic chocolate or vanilla cake, and can go as high as $7.50 per person for specialty flavors and ingredients. All of CakeLove’s cakes are set up on site and delivered to locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Fancy Cakes by Leslie

For Leslie Poyourow, owner and head baker at Fancy Cakes by Leslie in Bethesda, Md., making wedding cakes is all about making her customers smile.

Poyourow — who’s designed wedding cakes for famous customers such as Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Lopez, Pope Benedict XVI and Annie Leibovitz — said she gets no greater pleasure than seeing her customers grin from the often ornate and specialized cake designs she creates.

“A lot of the fun of it is that I think it brings people joy,” the 15-year cake decorator said of her creations. “It’s a nice centerpiece, and that’s what my cakes are.”

A peek into Poyourow’s freezers is a testament to the wide array of designs and personalized cake requests the veteran baker is capable of churning out. Gum paste replicas of a same-sex couple with their two dogs sat in one freezer, and a personalized birthday cake for a Dr. Seuss fan lay in another.

Aside from her truly one-of-a-kind cake designs, Poyourow’s cakes taste great and are made from all-natural ingredients.

“There’s no preservatives and you are truly getting something really fresh,” Poyourow said.

Cakes range in price depending on size and the amount of detailed work involved, but a basic cake for 15 people will set customers back $69.

For those holding weddings a little outside the city, Poyourow delivers her cakes as far as Baltimore and Annapolis, Md., and customers who need their cakes delivered farther can use a special service.

“A cake is cross-generational,” Poyourow said. “If I can make a person’s day, make them feel special, then that’s the best part.”



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