Have Cake; Eat It Too

Lelolai bakes up a wedding cake that reinvents Latin love.

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Tres leches from Lelolai: The new wedding cake. - Walter  Novak
Tres leches from Lelolai: The new wedding cake.
When it comes to cakes and gowns, brides aren't known to tamper with tradition. So when the owners of Lelolai Bakery and Café (1889 W. 25th St.) began noticing a distinct shift in their wedding cake orders -- away from the traditional multi-tiered edifices and toward simple, scrumptious tres leches cakes, they sensed a trend.

"So far, the orders have come from brides whose grooms are from Chicago, California, or Florida" -- areas of considerable Latin American population -- says Lelolai co-owner Alma Alfonso. "They certainly appear to be breaking with tradition, and I find that interesting."

Interesting, but not surprising, as any wedding guest who's ever choked down a piece of the usual styrofoam cake with Crisco frosting can attest. In comparison, Lelolai's lush tres leches -- dense pound cake, soaked in a creamy combo of condensed, evaporated, and skim milk, with a touch of Puerto Rican rum -- goes down soft and sweet.

Finish it off with a frosting of homemade whipped cream, and "It's like eating cake and ice cream," Alfonso says. "And the brides say it makes for excellent conversation."

Of course, while a tres leches cake may be deliciously nontraditional, it is a sheet cake -- which doesn't make for the prettiest of pictures. No problem, says Alfonso: Lelolai can also provide a fancy, if not extravagant, tiered wedding cake to serve as a stand-in for photo ops.

"The catering companies like that, too. That way, they don't have to wait until the cake is cut and the pictures are taken to start serving."

Tres leches cakes serve approximately 40 people and run around $130. For more information, call 216-771-9956.

Still dead . . . When America Online's City Guide revealed the winners of its annual "City's Best" restaurants survey on January 20, we couldn't help but notice that the results were less than illuminating: Many of Cleveland's top-rated spots were no longer in operation. (See "Best of the Dead," in Side Dish, February 2.)

AOL didn't respond to our e-mail requesting comment, but we did get a call from spokeswoman Jennifer Rankin Byrne after the story ran. Calling our criticism "very fair and very well taken," she explained that three of the ex-restaurants -- Amir's, Affamato, and Chuck's Diner -- had shut down between the time the poll was started and completed, apparently casualties of excessive popularity. As for the Watermark, which was honored despite being closed since 2003, she offered: "That was just a complete error. Since your article, we've put measures in place to assure that it won't happen again" -- corporate-speak for "The axe will fall."

In a striking coincidence, an angry, anonymous reader sent a rambling e-mail to tell us that, indeed, one of the City Guide freelancers had been fired "thanks to your great investigative piece."

A visit to City Guide these days reveals that the award-winning former restaurants are marked "closed."

That wasn't so hard, now was it?

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