BERLIN, Md. — In the back of a grimy looking strip mall just off U.S. 50 sits a small commercial bakery that proves once you go across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, you don’t have to go all the way to the ocean to find something delicious.
Berlin, which was named coolest small town in America in 2014, is now the place where honey whiskey cakes and other desserts that get delivered all around the world are made.
And you can thank the all the publicity for turning Chris Poeschl and Tony Lanuza — also known as the Brooklyn Baking Barons — into residents of Delmarva.
The Brooklyn Baking Barons don’t do their baking in Brooklyn anymore.
“We needed space,” said Poeschl.
When opportunity knocks
Poeschl and Lanuza, recurring guests on “The Chew” with Mario Batali, were told last year that their whiskey cakes had made People Magazine’s holiday gift guide. A when a magazine rep asked if they’d be able to meet all the new demand, of course they said, “yes.”
But they knew this meant they were about to outgrow the small kitchen where they did all of their baking. Finding a kitchen with enough room in New York without costing too much just couldn’t be solved.
They started looking in Maryland when Lanuza’s sister was getting married. Her caterer was able to put them in touch with the owners of a 5,000-square-foot kitchen they share with a company that makes bread for local restaurants. .
“For us, it’s exactly what we needed to do,” said Lanuza, who grew up in Howard County, Maryland and used to vacation in Delaware’s Bethany Beach.
Poeschl also is familiar with the area, having spent time with a theater company in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, before they both ended up in New York. That made the transition from Brooklyn to Berlin pretty easy.
The move south into a kitchen that features an industrial strength mixer and walk-in oven, “a game changer” as Lanuza put it, means they only need an hour to bake the same number of cakes that used to take days to make. This is good because Baking Baron cakes are in high demand, and they bake about a thousand of varying sizes every day.
“In December alone we had 3,000 orders,” said Poeschl. “And they were all new clients. And we’ve managed to have a lot of them be repeat clients.”
How honey whiskey cake came to be
The honey whiskey cake came about on Poeschl’s birthday a couple of years ago, when times were hard.
“We were so, so poor,” Lanuza said.
Unable to buy Poeschl a birthday present, Lanuza said he was going to bake him a cake — any kind he wanted. The way Lanuza explained it, Chris said he wanted “a rum cake, but not a rum cake” before heading off to an audition. That led to what he called “the first version of the honey whiskey cake.”
“After we took our first bite I promised him it would make us millions of dollars,” said Lanuza. “I really, really did.”
It takes just one taste to understand.
“It was one of the most wonderful cakes I ever had,” said Poeschl. “He just nailed it. It was exactly what I was imagining. And it was really something special.”
What if you can’t wait?
But while their cakes get mailed all around the world, as far away as Iceland and Singapore, you don’t have to go online and wait for your cakes to be delivered anymore. Last weekend the barons opened up a retail store on Main Street in Berlin.
“We feel really fortunate to be a part of this really cool town,” said Poeschl. “People come in from Ocean City on buses every day during the season, and they walk around, go antiquing, and now they’ll be able to get honey whiskey cake.”
But you’ll probably want to arrive early. In the days since they opened the store, the duo’s Facebook page shows a door with a note saying they were “sold out again.”
Luckily you also can order cakes to be delivered from the store, as well.