Pastry chef Ben Borgognone remembers his first cake “as if it was yesterday.” He was 12 years old and had already put in four years at his father’s shop, Alba Bakery in Brooklyn, washing pots and doing whatever else dad asked him to do. It was the end of the day and Borgognone was alone in the shop when a customer came in wanting a specially decorated cake. He set about filling the cake with cannoli cream, icing and decorating it, and even making the roses.
Since then it’s been the bakery business for this energetic and personable pastry chef. He received a degree in hotel and restaurant management from NYIT and worked as an assistant pastry chef at the Plaza Hotel.
In 1995, when he was 29, he opened The Buttercooky Bakery in Floral Park, expanding a German mom and pop shop into a 1,400-square-foot premier bakery offering European-style pastries with a café area that seats 40 people. Nine years ago he opened what he calls his “boutique” Buttercooky Bakery in Manhasset. The Manhasset store has seating for eight people to enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry.
Borgognone takes pride in the quality of the ingredients, using fresh fruit, real whipped cream and Belgian chocolate for his pastries. At the Floral Park shop, 18 bakers turn out 60 different types of layer cakes that include chocolate tiramisu, blood orange with Bavarian cream, cappuccino mousse and a traditional Sacher Torte with raspberries. His best selling cakes are tres leche cake and “fruit salad” cake: a white chiffon sponge with vanilla custard and fresh fruit (pineapple, bananas, peaches and strawberries) covered with fresh whipped cream.
“It’s the epitome of what I do,” he says. “It’s light, refreshing and not too sweet.” There are three bakers at work at the Manhasset shop. Other pastries that are especially popular are individual cakes, French macaroons, lobster tails filled with Bavarian cream, tiramisu and fruit tarts.
Borgognone loves the creativity of coming up with new pastries, mixing and matching flavors and especially enjoys putting the finishing touches on cakes. To keep his ideas as fresh as his pastries, he does a lot of reading and is especially taken with the work of Pierre Herme, the French pastry chef renowned for his macaroons.
“I love to do my magic and make the customers happy,” says Borgognone.
There are plans underway to open half a dozen satellite Buttercooky bakeries in various communities throughout Long Island this year, perhaps Garden City, Great Neck and Rockville Centre for starters.