In Sweet Paris (Harper Design, Apr.), Barron serves delectable stories and American bakes with a French twist.
You’re living the kind of life people dream about: You moved to Paris and started a successful baking business. How did you pull that off?
Back in 2012, we had the opportunity to move to Paris because of my husband’s job. I decided I was going to eat my way through the city’s sweet pastry shops that first year. After a year of doing this, I got a little burned-out on French pastries. I missed the American cakes I grew up with, which were impossible to find in Paris. Just for my own desire to eat these cakes, I decided to try my hand at baking. I started to invite friends and have a little tea party, or as the French call it, a goûter. One of those friends owned a coffee shop and was so impressed he asked if I could make a cake for them. When other café owners saw this, they were like, “Wow, okay, there’s this American guy in the Marais who’s making cakes and bringing them to cafés. We’d like him to do a cake for us.” I was spreading the buttercream love in Paris!
Many of your creations take inspiration from your California roots, but they also adhere to the French practice of using seasonal ingredients. What was it like to adapt your American recipes for the French palate?
When we moved to Paris in January, I couldn’t find strawberries anywhere. People were shocked that I was asking for them. That was the beginning of a cultural shift: “We’ll see what’s in season and use that.” I learned very quickly about the difference in palates. I once asked a café owner to let me know what the patrons were saying they liked. For one, they were scraping all the buttercream frosting off my cake. They thought it was too much and too sweet. I discovered something called Italian Merengue buttercream, which was a lot less sweet and more buttery. I did a cake using merengue buttercream and people stopped scraping it off.
You’ve gained thousands of Instagram followers. Give us a peek into how that happened.
In the beginning, I really was just sharing photographs of my new life in Paris, whether that was going to school at the university [to learn French] or checking out some new museum in Paris. It wasn’t until I started to share the cakes and have the cakes pop-up at cafés that I started to grow. Interestingly, my Instagram handle was actually CakeboyParis before I started baking cakes. I always thought it was a funny sort of double entendre: cake boy was referencing sort of a gay man, but I also chose it because I’ve always enjoyed eating cake. When I started baking cakes, I was like, “Wow, I don’t have to change my Instagram handle. It makes sense.” I don’t want to call the word silly, but it makes me smile.