Over three decades, Vivie Glass quietly created and developed the recipes that built a brand favored by confection connoisseurs around the country.
Now the baking genius behind her husband David Glass' cake empire is telling the story how she and David met, had a family and created Desserts By David Glass, a business that at the height of its success was turning out a half a million cakes a year.
In her new book titled "Vivie And David Glass' Delicious Desserts: A Recipe Book Filled With Sweetness, Love And Loss," Glass talks about raising kids, baking cakes, a mother's grief and the power of chocolate. She completed the book after she and David closed their cake baking business in Connecticut and moved to Vermont last October.
The memoir/cookbook also contains the recipes for the most well-known David Glass creations, including the signature flourless Ultimate Chocolate Truffle Cake, Ultimate New York Cheesecake, Luscious Italian Almond Cake, Rum Raisin Carrot Cake and others.
Glass says her 21-year-old son Adam, who died unexpectedly last July from a heart condition, inspired the project.
"Adam always told me I should write a cookbook," says Glass. "After he died, I stopped baking and started writing. "
The book follows the cake makers from the beginning of their relationship in 1981 — he was a caterer with a dynamite chocolate dessert; she was an amateur baker and cookbook collector with a degree in English Literature. They started dating, moved in together and began marketing a distinctive chocolate truffle cake from their home in Asylum Hill.
As demand for the confection grew, the pair moved operations to the Colt Building in Hartford, married and added a son, Joshua, and a perfect New York cheesecake to the family business.
"Our customers were asking for additional products, specifically a cheesecake," says Vivie Glass. "I was home expecting a baby, so I spent most of my pregnancy developing the recipe."
The trend continued. A second son, Jeremy and a rum raisin carrot cake came along next, followed by a third son, Adam, and an Italian almond cake. Over the years, the kids grew up and pitched in, and the wholesale company flourished. Vivie Glass ran production and development.
"I'm shy and David loves the public, so I stayed behind the scenes," says Vivie Glass.
Desserts By David Glass products were sold at Zabar's, Whole Foods, Stew Leonard's, Trader Joe's and a number of upscale restaurants, but eventually, Vivie Glass wanted a closer connection to their customers.
"I wanted to see people actually eating my cakes without the intervention of the middleman," she says. "I wanted their feedback. So we started cake tastings and selling directly to the public. We got to know the people who loved our cakes and they got to know us."
In 2004, the Glasses moved the business to a 13,000-square foot facility in Bloomfield, hired more staff and added more cakes to the lineup. But in 2009, with growing debt and a failing economy, Desserts By David Glass went into bankruptcy, forcing the couple to shut down after 28 years.
"It was devastating," says Vivie Glass. "It was more than a profession. It was our craft."
A little over a year later, they were back in business. Taking inspiration from the pop-up restaurants trend in California and New York, they sublet a temporary space in South Windsor and started baking again. This time, the business' name acknowledged the woman — as well as the man — behind the cakes.
Vivie and David Glass' Delicious Desserts opened in December 2010.
"We baked old favorites and new creations and sold them to walk-in customers on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays," says Glass. "No staff, just David, me and our sons."
The first week they opened, they baked 500 cakes and sold them all — within an hour. The following week, they made 2,000 cakes and sold out again within hours.
"It was amazing," says Vivie Glass. "I thought they would have forgotten us, but all our customers came back and shared their stories of how they used our cakes to celebrate the great occasions in their lives."
They'd planned to close in January of 2011, but ended up staying open and baking and selling cakes from the little space for more than a year and a half — until last summer, when their youngest son died suddenly. After that, says Vivie Glass, the heart went out of the effort.
"Adam was so much a part of the business, we just couldn't do it anymore," says Vivie Glass. "The day after he died, I started to write this book. "
David and Vivie Glass shut down operations and moved to Vermont to be closer to son Josh and granddaughter Zoe. David continues his chocolate truffle business, selling a limited amount of the candies to his email subscribers. Vivie Glass, who now works with developmentally disabled adults, completed the book she'd started by adding the recipes she'd guarded for three decades.
"We weren't going to sell them to some big company," said Glass. "We wanted the people who loved our cakes to have them and be able to make them whenever they wanted."
This Ultmate Chocolate Truffle Cake recipe (no flour required) is included in the book:
Ultimate Chocolate Truffle Cake
>>Makes one 6-inch cake
>> 3 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
>> 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
>> 4 ounces sugar
>> 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
>> 2 extra large eggs
>> 2 tablespoons sifted cocoa power
Grease a solid bottom six inch cake pan with non-stick spray. Make sure to hit every spot!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Carefully place a 9- by- 13 inch cake pan into the oven. Fill pan with hot water so that it is filled to about one third of the way up. Let the water heat while you prepare the batter.
Over a double boiler on medium low heat, melt the chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter together, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is absolutely smooth.
Meanwhile, put the whisk attachment on a stand up mixer. Mix the eggs and sugar on medium speed until well incorporated. You don't want to mix this on high speed or mix too long or the cake will not have the proper texture. Just mix it enough so that when you rub a bit of the eggs and sugar between your fingers, the sugar feels dissolved.
Now pour the melted chocolate and butter into the eggs and sugar mixture. Beat on medium until it is fully incorporated.
Lastly, add the cocoa powder on low speed. When it disappears, turn to high speed briefly just to make sure it is thoroughly mixed in.
Pour the batter into the prepared six inch pan. Now carefully place the pan into the 9- by- 13- inch pan that is in the oven. Check the level of water: the hot water should come halfway up the side of the cake pan. If it does not, add a little more hot water. Do not let the cake pan float!
Bake for 55 minutes to one hour. The top of the cake should have formed a paper thin crust and will have cracked slightly in the center.
Remove from oven and let cool to lukewarm. Place a six-inch cake pad over the cake and, gripping the cake pad, flip the cake over. Rap the edge of the pan sharply one or two times on a countertop. It should come out easily. Trust me – I used to make two thousand of these a day!
Let cake cool completely. You can wrap the cake and freeze it, but it is delicious eaten that same day at room temperature, as David and I discovered when I was testing the recipe for this cook book.
The Glasses baked their Chocolate Truffle Cakes in solid bottomed pans that were six inches in diameter and three inches high. Vivie Glass suggests checking Amazon.com for "Parrish Magic Line 6X3 Inch Round Aluminum Cake Pan." Cake pads, available at most stores that sell baking supplies, are thick cardboard circles that hold the cake. One side is usually white.