Delaware’s “King of Cakes,” Dana Herbert, has recently gained recognition for winning TLC’s baking competition, Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker. In addition to showcasing his work on a national stage, Herbert owns and operates Desserts by Dana in New Castle and volunteers for charity events in the community. Town Square Delaware spoke with Herbert about his sweet accomplishments and future plans.
Town Square Delaware: Two years ago you were declared “The Next Great Baker.” How has your baking transformed as a result of the new title?
Dana Herbert: It has changed in two ways. The show inspired me to develop flavors that remind me of when I was growing up. They’re the tastes that take you back. And the other thing would be playing with savory flavors – bacon in cake, lavender in rose water – they’re actually really popular.
TSD: As a graduate of the University of Delaware and a resident of Bear, did local support rise considerably as you graced a national audience?
DH: It was definitely a very proud moment, I think for myself and for Delaware because we haven’t gotten a lot of play on those types of shows. Coming out from Delaware was an honor. I received letters from the governor and many other public officials, the experience was very humbling.
TSD: How has your Delaware residency shaped your business and craft?
DH: Residing in Delaware has not necessarily shaped my business, but I think being on the show has helped pull together some of the talent forces here in Delaware. We do have some very talented chefs.
TSD: Who are some of the local chefs you look up to?
DH: Locally we can’t forget about the guys like David Banks, Tom Hannum and Dan Butler who were definitely paving the way when I was just interning out of school. I have also gotten to work with [Delaware natives] Jennifer Behm from Master Chef and Julio Lazzarini from the Food Network.
TSD: Has your client base expanded past Delaware’s borders with your newfound television recognition?
DH: Oh my goodness, yes. It has kind of turned into this international thing. I’ll get calls from Indonesia, Japan, Australia and a lot from Italy – I think because Buddy’s from Italy. I get a lot of hits from Italy on my site too. So, it’s really cool.
TSD: Can you send cake internationally?
DH: Normally, if it’s international, they only end up getting a book or something. Something tangible they can get their hands on so they don’t have to worry about the post office [regulations].
TSD: Do you send desserts within in the country?
DH: Yes, we ship anywhere in the continental U.S.
TSD: Do you have plans to expand your business location?
DH: Actually, yes, we’re in the midst of looking for a new location. We are optimistic that our new shop will be in downtown Wilmington. Plans for expansion also include several locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
TSD: You strive to educate our country about eating well with diabetes. How did the decision to tour cities across the nation with Novo Nordisk arise?
DH: It actually came about because one of my friends worked with Novo Nordisk and he knew that outside of baking I [enjoy] healthy cooking. My brother has had Type 1 diabetes since we were kids and both my grandparents have it. It’s difficult for them – from going one day to eating whatever you want and the next day the doctor says that you can’t have this and you can’t have that. So we worked on their eating plans so that they can enjoy sweets here and there.
TSD: You recently led an inspirational discussion for students through Christiana Care at their Wilmington Hospital Classroom. What other ways have you been or do you hope to become involved with the local community?
DH: I’ve really done a lot of work in the community. I work with the American Cancer Society. We’re doing a “cupcake revolution” with them on July 15th at the Christiana Mall. I also work with the American Diabetes Association, the Lupus Foundation and the American Red Cross. Actually, I’m playing in a charity celebrity softball tournament at the Blue Rocks stadium on August 4th with an organization called Duffy’s Hope. They focus on education and young people. You just might see a really cool cake!
TSD: What are some of the most absurd design requests for a cake or dessert that you have received?
DH: Animals – dinosaurs and dogs. Also some unmentionable body parts.
TSD: What creation are you most proud of?
DH: I’d have to say that the Nascar cake we made was pretty cool. It was a race car – the cake was five feet long with lights underneath it. Five or six of us from the team worked on that cake for a couple of days. It was very highly detailed and looked great.
TSD: You recently celebrated your daughter’s first birthday. What type of cake did you bake for her?
DH: That was a Minnie Mouse cake. She is a big fan of Mickey and Minnie. She dances every morning to the “Hot Dog Song,” so it was a no-brainer.
TSD: What do you enjoy most about baking?
DH: Eating? No, I’m kidding. It’s almost just like one of those comfort things – from when you grew up and you were standing at the edge of the counter waiting for mom or grandma to let you lick the beater. I think it’s a comforting flashback to when you were a kid.
TSD: Do you intend to compete in another competition in the near future? What should fans and customers keep an eye out for?
DH: I can’t say what it is, but keep your eyes open in the fall. There are a couple of things that I am involved with at the TV network level. Also, you can check out my website to keep up with the events we have going on. We’re always doing something in the community. You can visit www.dessertsbydana.com to find out about cool events and classes.