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When it comes to cake, I’m a difficult gal to impress.   I’ve eaten one too many slices of sickeningly sweet confections loaded with imitation butter flavorings, tasteless rubbery fondant, and greasy buttercream.  So, when I make a recommendation for someone who really does it up right, you can trust that I’m not lying. At first […]

When it comes to cake, I’m a difficult gal to impress.   I’ve eaten one too many slices of sickeningly sweet confections loaded with imitation butter flavorings, tasteless rubbery fondant, and greasy buttercream.  So, when I make a recommendation for someone who really does it up right, you can trust that I’m not lying.

At first glance, Erin Salerno & Melissa Martin might appear to be nothing more than two Milwaukee gals who love to bake.  But, this dynamic duo has become my inspiration when it comes to creative takes on comfort food desserts.

I sampled their wares for the first time at last June’s “Eat Local” Iron Cupcake challenge, where they were serving up double chocolate malt cupcakes in honor of the Nite Owl Drive In in Milwaukee.  It wasn’t difficult to be wowed by their cupcake display, which featured an assortment of awesome hand-made gum paste figures. But, it was the flavor of their cupcakes that won me over. Rich, malty, and chocolaty (and embellished with a scoop of chocolate malt ice cream, to boot) … these were the little mini cakes of my dreams.

But, what makes Erin & Melissa’s partnership so amazing is the way they approach their baking projects.

“With Iron Cupcake, we were trying to get people to take a risk with desserts… to open their mind to new flavors, textures, and elements,” Erin comments.   

And Mel agrees.  “I like to take a classic dessert, like a turtle cake, and kick it up by adding liquid smoke and making beer caramel and spicy pecans like we did for the Iron Cupcake Tailgate challenge.”

Creativity has become the hallmark of Mel & Erin’s work together, and it’s earned them many accolades and plenty of recognition – not only at Iron Cupcake challenges, but also from the local restaurant industry.

Robert Klemm, co-owner of INdustri Cafe, grew up on the same street as Erin Salerno. But when he and his partner, Chris Miller, asked her to head up their pastry kitchen at Industri it wasn’t simply for familiarity’s sake.  

“I found out she was a baker and looked into her work…she knocked my socks off!” Robert told me, “Not only is Erin’s baking technique a cut above the rest, but her artistic and design skills will smoke anyone I know in the area. “

After hearing compliments like that, I was doubly eager to get over to INdustri and sample their signature dessert, White Parsnip Cake. 

This inspired twist on the more traditional carrot cake gets its moisture from freshly grated parsnips, rather than carrots.  But it also features a myriad of deliciously unexpected flavors – from cayenne-spiked candied pecans to a cardamom-mandarin orange cream cheese frosting that melts in your mouth as you nibble each bite of the moist and slightly spicy cake.   

In addition to the parsnip cake, Erin and Mel will also be offering a white chocolate cheesecake with strawberry balsamic reduction and a chocolate cake with a salted lavender caramel butter cream.  When I asked the duo what they thought they might come up with next, they were quick to answer.

“Pies seem to be making a comeback, so we will definitely be looking into that for INdustri’s menu,” says Mel, “We might even begin to dabble with some vegan and gluten free offerings.”

I, for one, will be seriously excited to see what they come up with.

Check out a sampling of Erin Salerno’s work on her Web site.

INdustri Café
524 S. 2nd Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Phone: 414-224-7777
Menu

HOURS OF OPERATION
Sunday-Wednesday: 11 AM – 10 PM
Thursday: 11 AM – 11 PM
Friday: 11 AM – 1 AM
Saturday: 11 AM – 1 AM

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