grown from $250,000 in 2004 to $500,000 in 2005.
Over the years, thousands of customers have challenged Dennis to defy the laws of traditional baking etiquette to create confections that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palette. And he hasn’t disappointed. When Patti LaBelle opened her cabaret theater, Chez LaBelle, in 1994, Dennis designed a 6-foot purple and gold cake adorned with a jewelry box, a globe to represent the singer’s travels, a piano, shoes, and musical notes. For singer Mary J. Blige’s 33rd birthday, Dennis constructed a confection that represented her style and achievements. The pastry featured edible replicas of a CD, a Dolce & Gabbana shopping bag, and a baby to symbolize the rebirth of Blige’s music. And for Aaron Reid’s 16th birthday in 2005, Dennis made a 5-foot replica of the birthday boy, leaving music producer dad L.A. Reid in awe.
Cake Man Raven’s client roster reads like the guest list at a Grammy party. Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Stevie Wonder have requested his works of art. Columbia University commissioned him to create an edible replica of one of the campus libraries for the school’s 250th birthday. The 13-foot red velvet cake was coated with cream cheese frosting and took four months to plan, four days to bake, and a tractor trailer to haul it into Manhattan.
Dennis also created a 7,000-pound wedding cake to help launch the second season of WE network’s reality TV show Bridezillas. In the middle of Times Square, brides-to-be tore through the 20-foot cake in search of a box that contained a $50,000 check. It took 10,000 eggs, 400 pounds of flour, 500 pounds of butter, and 40 gallons of milk. And when the Brooklyn Bridge turned 120, the master baker cooked up a 7-foot version, complete with water running underneath. It took five days to assemble and 22 hours to decorate.
Looking to the Future
Dennis shares his talent with young African Americans by speaking at various schools about working in the culinary field. He chauffeurs groups of kids to California and Atlantic City for industry conventions and opens his bakery doors to anyone serious about learning the craft. “I’ve always tried to keep young people from being complacent and thinking that they are going to make $8 an hour. I want them to see that there is more than what is right in front of them,” he says.
In November, Dennis will celebrate 25 years in the business. He has a cookbook due the same month and he plans to travel to London to hold a baking workshop. “As long as I’ve got an oven, counter space, and air in my body,” he says, “I’m going to bake.”