4 Questions With TLC's Next Great Baker

Illustration for article titled 4 Questions With TLC's Next Great Baker

The holiday season is the most popular time for cooking up a feast. And no dinner table would be complete without a sweet, delectable dessert. Yet for many of us, it's sometimes challenging to decide what do with leftovers.


One person who has no problem in this field is Chef Dana Herbert, who earlier this year baked his way to stardom on the popular TLC show Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker and was crowned the undisputed King of Cakes.

A 34-year-old Delaware native, Herbert operates Desserts by Dana in his hometown and is considered a "sugar artist." He has created for the Philadelphia Flower Show, ESPN and the Paris Gourmet, and his work has been featured in several magazines and shows, including Essence and Wedding Cake Wars on WEtv.  

The Root talked to Chef Herbert about innovative ways to prepare and preserve what's cooking this holiday season. He also shared a recipe from his sweet success.  

The Root: What are some tips you can offer so families can avoid wasting any of the delightful dishes from the feasts we'll be preparing for Christmas and Kwanzaa?

Dana Herbert: No. 1 is, if you don't think you can use it up right away, freeze it so that you don't waste your money, and then No. 2, I'd definitely look at everything that's left over and then I'd start coming up with ideas and ways to use it up.

For example, you have a bunch of vegetables. The easiest way to use a bunch of vegetables would to make a soup or a stew to add them to; it's always cold outside so that would be a great way to use up a lot of the vegetables.


Also, I like to take turkey — which for some reason at every holiday, especially in African-American families, there is turkey, turkey and more turkey around, forever — and I like to make what they call Bobby sandwiches out of it. If you're not familiar with the Bobby sandwich, it's basically taking the stuffing, the turkey, a little bit of cranberry sauce and the gravy on a sub roll.

TR: As a pastry chef, this must be a very busy time of year for you. Would you say it's your favorite time of year to bake?


DH: Definitely. This is the time of year when we're playing with flavors that you're not really going to see for the rest of the year. You're playing with gingerbread, you're playing with pumpkin or you're playing with sweet potato.

DH: Start with the end in mind. What I mean by that is if you know you're a sweets eater, if you know that's your vice and that's your weakness, then let's adjust your meal accordingly so that if you're going to indulge or have the tendency to fall over that line, then you dial back, say, on your starches or some of your other sugars during the meal and during the day so that dessert now doesn't take you way over where you should be.


TR: There's a proliferation of TV chefs and TV cooking shows. Do you think this is good for the culinary world?

DH: I think TV has been awesome for the culinary world. It has definitely shone a great light on us, whether we're cooking or baking and so forth; it's almost made us like rap stars. For me it was great winning the show — yes, for the money — but the greatest thing is the inspiration that we provide to the kids.


I get so many kids who come to me and say, "I want to be a baker," or "I want to be chef." And it's really cool. It's a really nice feeling knowing that the work you're doing is inspiring the youth to do something positive.

Chef Herbert's Cranberry Bread Pudding

1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
1 loaf bread, cubed
1 pound sun-dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat sugar and butter together in large bowl until creamy. Combine all milks in another bowl, then slowly beat into the butter-sugar mixture. Stir in bread cubes and once combined, fold in cranberries. Pour into a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Maquita Peters is a contributor to The Root.