Chef Stephanie Drig
Pastry sous chef Stephanie Driggs turns wedding cake dreams into sweet reality. – By Vicki Hogue-Davies
“We really like people to use their imaginations,” Driggs says. “If they have something in mind but don’t really know how to apply it to a cake, we’ll figure it out even if we’ve never done it before. We have a great pastry team and we are really passionate about what we do.”
Driggs, who has been the “wedding cake connoisseur” at the resort for nearly six years, is currently applying her creative talents to an unusual cake that raises the bar for challenging ideas. “We are doing a wedding cake that is really a wedding cake/ice sculpture,” she says. “The five-tiered cake alternates tiers of cake and ice.”
The cake, which requires a moat built around it to capture the runoff from melting ice will be delicately crafted. “It won’t sit in the dining room for four or five hours but will be rolled out and on display for about half an hour,” she says. “Then we will cut and serve it. We are a little nervous, but I know it will really be amazing.”
Meeting pastry challenges comes second nature to Driggs. Another complicated cake she recently made was a 6-foot-tall cake resembling a skyscraper, built with Plexiglas and decorated with rhinestones. “The cake was gorgeous,” she says.
She has also helped prepare plated desserts for groups of 1,000 people. “It takes weeks of planning in advance and the whole team working together prepping. We will do fun things for groups like spraying their personal logos on the plates in edible chocolate in any color, and then put dessert on it,” she adds.
Pursuing Her Passion
Cooking runs in Driggs’ blood, and she says that she owes a lot of her passion for baking to her grandmother. “I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house when I was a child, and she was always baking,” Driggs says, adding that it was her grandmother’s natural gift. After realizing that baking was also her calling, Driggs attended a two-year culinary program at Cerritos College, her local community college.
“Anytime I talk to someone looking to get into this industry, I recommend community college,” she says. “You can get great training from instructors for a great price. You really learn by doing once you start working.”
Driggs learned by doing mostly under Stephane Treand, the former pastry chef at the resort. “He is the most amazing and talented chef,” she adds.
Driggs first came to the resort in 2002, working in pastry, and then left to pursue other interests. Three years later, she came back to the resort as a cook and eventually asked for the chance to specialize in wedding cakes.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I had a natural passion,” she says. “At the time I took over the resort was selling maybe one cake a month—when I took over, we started doing one to two cakes a week. Our sales team liked the cakes and promoted them, and our guests were happy and loved the work.”
Since then, Driggs estimates that she has made nearly 500 wedding cakes in a variety of styles and flavors. The resort’s most popular cake is the “classic masterpiece,” a vanilla sponge cake with white chocolate mousse and fresh strawberries. She notes that the resort offers “tons of different combinations” and all requests are welcomed and accommodated. Her favorite cakes to prepare are “the ones that have really elegant sugar work and are hand-painted,” Driggs says.
What is her personal favorite flavor of cake to eat? “I love devil’s food cake with peanut butter mousse,” she adds. “You really can’t go wrong with the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.”
Her creative passion for baking extended to making her own wedding cake.
“It is great to say now, but at the time I regretted the decision since I was up at 2 a.m. working on my cake,” she says. “I got married in the woods and wanted the cake to visually tie into that theme. I did a three-tiered cake with dark chocolate on the sides, so it looked like twigs surrounding each tier and had almost a fortress look to it. We have a book at the resort with cakes we show to brides and people comment on it. I am proud to say it is my cake.”
Foodie at Heart
As much as she loves creating wedding cakes, Driggs’ creative energy spread to other pastries as well. She especially enjoys making miniature desserts, which are popular for banquets.
“We’ll do a buffet of 12 different kinds of miniature desserts, little cakes, little cookies, little dessert bars.” She notes that each mini dessert is made by hand and are like “works of art.”
“We make dozens of different pastries every day, and they are always changing, which is really fun,” Driggs says. “We do the same thing for a couple months and then change it so guests who come here regularly find something new every time.”
When she’s not in the kitchen at the St. Regis, Driggs can often be found in the kitchen at home, where her love for preparing delicious food extends beyond the sweet. “I cook anything and everything,” she says.
“My husband and I grow most of our own produce,” she continues. “Anything we are going to make starts with the produce we are growing at the time.
“We do a lot of canning as well as make all of our own pickles, chutneys and jams. It is an amazing pastime when I am not here at the resort,” she says.
Fortunately, when she is here at the resort, guests with a sweet tooth can experience Driggs’ amazing talent for all things pastry.