The Pastry Guru talks sweets and more for the Christmas Season!
By Crystal Kassab Jabiro
When Jonathon Elias was a teenager, he baked a birthday cake as a joke for his cousin. Turns out, the cake was delicious, so he went on to even make one for his mother, and that too received a lot of compliments. His brother encouraged him to keep baking, and Elias soon turned what began as a farce into a full-time career.
After graduating from Sterling Heights High School, Elias attended Macomb Community College and enrolled in the Pastry Arts program in his second semester. In the meantime, he was working in fine dining restaurants and baking for family and friends. Elias received his Associates in Pastry Arts in 2008 and started his business, Pastry Guru, four years later. He specializes in wedding cakes and dessert tables.
“It’s a very difficult field,” admitted Elias. He suggests to potential pastry chefs, “You should chase the dream though. Don’t be scared.”
Elias, who jokes that “Pastry Guru” is his alter-ego, not only bakes and decorates, but also runs all of his business tasks, including meeting with clients and shopping for ingredients and delivering the goods. Sometimes he can work 20 hours a day. The busy 31-year-old, who is also the pastry chef at Birmingham’s Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, is heartened by one fact – the smile on people’s faces when they see and taste his creations.
In fact, the whole world got to see Elias’s talent on Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship show this past September and October. Producers contacted him through Instagram and he auditioned, thinking he might not make it. According to him, the best part of being on the show was meeting people of different backgrounds and experiences and being united by their love of desserts. It was also flattering to get loads of messages from fans and to get recognized locally at random places.
“I look at the show and say, ‘Whoa, that’s me?’ It’s shocking to watch myself. I think it’s a different guy!”
Though Elias was part of the bottom two on the first episode, he excelled the rest of the time, coming in first place the third week. He said it was mentally draining every time. Viewers not only got to experience his original designs, but also his unique flavors that were inspired by his Chaldean upbringing. In his recipes, he showcased pistachios, cardamom, and rose water, to name a few.
It was that very upbringing- that family blessing- that pushed Elias to make his one-time hobby a reality.
“It’s a goal of mine to show this as a true career,” said Elias. “I have great support from my family and friends. You can be successful.”
Elias sure had this to show off to his family- kulechi.
When he asked his family members for a kulechi recipe, they scoffed and claimed they did not have a recipe, and that they just did it from memory and did not use standard measuring cups or spoons. So, he sat and watched them as they eyeballed their measurements, and he wrote down what he believed to be the actual measurements. He translated their process into his own steps and made his own batch. His family was stunned. They could not believe he made the kulechi.
Elias believes his passion comes from a greater power than his family.
“I feel like God put me on this path, and I’m just following it,” claimed Elias. “Some things just come before me, without me seeking them. And I just take the route in front of me.”
There are no plans for his own reality TV food show, but if the opportunity came, he would take it. In the meantime, Elias will continue as the Pastry Guru in Troy by appointment only. And maybe he will have a storefront or two featuring his delectable delights in the near future.
Some may think being a pastry guru is a “pie in the sky” dream, but Jonathon Elias proves it is a syrupy sweet reality come true when you just go for it.
“I’m blessed every day,” he said.
Jonathon Elias, the Pastry Guru, can be reached at 586.864.4472. Follow him on Instagram @PastryGuru.
PEPPERMINT HOT COCOA CAKE
Chocolate Cake Recipe
2 Cups White sugar
2 Cup all-purpose flour
¾ Cup Cocoa Powder
1 ½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ Teaspoon Vanilla
½ Teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup hot water
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9” pans.
In a mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, cocoa, soda, baking powder, and salt. Add egg one at a time. Followed by milk, oil, and extracts. Now add hot water. Divide batter between the two cake pans.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before decorating.
½ Cup softened unsalted butter
½ Cup vegetable shortening
4 Cups confectioners’ sugar
4 Tablespoons milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
½ Teaspoon peppermint extract
In large mixing bowl cream together butter, shortening, and extracts. Beat in confectioners’ sugar till full incorporated. Add milk and whip frosting till light and fluffy.
Cut 9” cakes in half to make 4 layers. Begin alternating layers with chocolate cake and buttercream. Frost cake completely and decorate with peppermint chocolate bark, whole candy canes, chocolate ganache drizzle, and crushed candy canes.