Zosaro’s Cakes & Pastries
by Charles McGuigan
Robert and Lisa Ratliff, owners of Zosaro’s Cakes & Pastries, are both bakers. But they’re more than that. They’re artists who use sugar as their medium, which they mold and carve and etch.
“What we do is artwork,” says Lisa.
“Some of the fondant pieces are actually hand-cut with a scalpel,” Robert adds. “Some are cut with an electronic die cutter. We do a tremendous amount of work in Adobe Photoshop. It all depends. We also make sugar flowers, hand-sculpted sugar pieces.
“There’s basically nothing we can’t make in sugar,” Lisa says. “If it can be done, we can do it.”
The bakery, which opened at Lakeside Towne Center this past September just in time for the UCI 2015 Road World Championships, is named for the Ratliffs’ three daughters—Sarah, Zoe and Rose. “It’s the first two letters of each of their first names,” Robert explains. “Zosaro’s just flowed very well.
The Ratliffs, both Virginians, called Australia home for seven years and returned stateside a couple years ago. While in Australia, Lisa ran her own bakery, and over the years has refined her skills and taught her husband about the art of baking and cake making.
“Basically we’re a custom-cake and desert shop,” says Robert. “Our main line of business is custom cakes for weddings and special events.”
But the couple also has a well-stocked counter at the front of their bakery. “It’s an offering for the neighborhood and whoever drops by,” Robert says. “It’s stocked heaviest Wednesday through Saturday.”
On any given day the bakery case is stocked with chocolate chip cookies, cheesecakes, canollis, key lime pies, macaroons, beignets, lemon bars, and just about any other kind of baked treat you can imagine.
Two of their signature baked goods, which the Ratliffs hope to soon begin selling wholesale, are Anzac biscuits (cookies) and Australian mud cake.
“Our mud cake is a cross between a brownie and a cake,” says Robert. “It’s a very high-powered cake with a chocolate ganache on top. We use only Barry Callebeaut, one of the finest chocolates in the world.”
Anzac biscuits originated down under. There’s even an Anzac Day, celebrated in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate the landing of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli, Turkey, where soldiers—underequipped by the British—were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
“An Anzac biscuit is a non-perishable cookie that was used during World War I and II,” Robert says. “They used to put them in the soldier’s pack.” They are made simply of molasses, coconut, butter, flour and rolled oats. Both the mud cake and Anzac cookies are also available at the counter.
Lisa and Robert enjoy the Lakeside area and the customers who come daily to see what’s in the case. But their main business will always be custom cakes for any special occasion. “One cake may take three days to make and we may put twelve hours into it,” Robert says.
“And we both love the art of it,” says Lisa.
“It makes sense to do an upscale bakery counter in this business because it exposes the clients to the cakes and we also get to meet people from the community,” Robert says. “It helps grow the business and it’s a natural progression. It’s worked out good for us.”
Zosaro’s Cakes & Pastries
Tues-Fri, 10-5; Sat, 8-5
6920 Lakeside Avenue