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Alumni Newsmakers | Artists' Quarter | Alumni Bookshelf | Icing, Baby | Where the Buffalo Roam
A Photo Synthesis | In Memoriam

Icing, Baby

One of People Magazine’s “50 hottest bachelors” this year is Warren Brown, JD/MPH ’98, picked for his hot looks and his hot cakes. In the magazine’s July 2 edition, Brown joins the likes of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in the spotlight as one of this year’s hottest single men.

How did he achieve such an honor? “He’s a good looking guy, and that’s certainly a big component of it,” says Carolyn Spellman, who wrote about Brown for People. But there’s more to the story, she says.

Brown, a lawyer with a joint degree from GW, quit his job as a litigator for the Department of Health and Human Services to pursue a business of making cakes.

“I think they liked that he’s this intelligent guy that could be doing a lot of things,” Spellman says. “Most people in D.C., it seems, are lawyers, and to make a go of something different … he did his homework and he put together a really sensible plan.”

That plan began unofficially two years ago when Brown made a New Year’s resolution to start baking. “I had maxed out on other things cooking wise,” he says. “I tried cakes, tarts, pies, but I came back to cakes after a little moment of inspiration.”

That moment came on a plane ride home to see his family. “I had a cake on a plate under some blue Saran Wrap. Everyone had something positive to say about it. People were talking to me just because I was carrying a cake.”

A lengthy March 7 article in the food section of The Washington Post contributed to Brown’s mystique and drew Spellman’s attention. The Post writer, Judith Weintraub, had overheard Brown talking with a client about a butter cream icing. To Brown, making cakes is not just a little home-based business. It’s serious science.

“The reporter was standing right there when I was talking about butter cream icing, boiling points of sugar—you see, when I make a butter cream I make a European style butter cream,” he says. “The key is the hot sugary syrup. If the sugar syrup’s not hot enough, the icing will break apart.”

“Food’s my passion,” he says. “And the types of cakes I make, they’re just not available.” Cake names like Pink Lady and Sarah’s Secret, with layers, bundts, and chiffons, and ingredients like cognac and amaretto.

Such thinking just goes to show you Brown’s business mindset. His law training has come in quite handy in that regard. “I’m looking to develop a major company. Cakes are extremely profitable—they are the most profitable item in any bakery. It’s a wide open market.”

Brown has been renting kitchen space for his current business that includes supplying some retail and some wholesale cakes, but he soon will be opening his own shop in Washington on U Street. His business, called Web’s Cakes, also has an Internet site (www.cakelove.com) where Brown plans to sell his products online.

Brown is thinking of bigger business in the future—like the money to be made in airports and specialty stores. Such sales have already been possible for chains like Cinnabon and for dessert products sold in Starbucks stores. As Brown says, “There’s no Ben & Jerry’s of cakes.”

“The key thing is that in every layer of the food service industry, no one makes the cake, because it’s too complicated and too difficult. And that’s where my law education comes in. Making cakes is scientific, it’s not easy, you need attention to detail and need to understand how different things interact. And that’s a lot of what I learned in law, how to use theory and apply it to different situations all the time. I get a lot out of the education I got at GW.”

Brown is inspired by the recent hit movie, Chocolat. “She had some kick ass food. That’s the kind of product I want to have out there. You start by differentiating yourself between 80 and 90 percent of what’s out there in the American market. We’re talking about butter versus vegetable shortening …You don’t try to design a cake like a Twinkie.”

And sorry, ladies. Brown’s seriously dating someone right now. But we’ll let you know if his status changes.

—Heather O. Milke