- Chuck Brown, who just turned 75. (Photo: Jay Westcott)
Chuck Brown celebrated his 75th birthday with a show at the 9:30 Club on Sunday night, and the party included special guest performances (from singer Ledisi, many go-go notables, and others), tons of fans, and a big custom birthday cake for the Godfather of Go-Go, created by Tiffany MacIsaac of Buzz Bakery.
"It was super fun," says MacIssac—who is also the pasty chef behind the beloved 9:30 cupcakes—of making the cake. "I hope he enjoyed it—we really enjoyed making it. My sous chef and I worked on it together. The [9:30 Club's] bar manager called us--they weren't too specific, but they said there's a funk song that refers to D.C. as 'Chocolate City,' so we did a devil's food cake with chocolate buttercream."
The two-tier chocolate cake was decorated with a D.C. skyline on the bottom tier, and musical notes on the top tier, but MacIsaac didn't just duplicate some generic piece of sheet music.
"I imagined the music notes just floating on the top tier, but the bottom tier was so clean and linear--I wanted the top tier to have the same look. So, I looked up some Chuck Brown sheet music," MacIsaac says. "I lifted a bar from the drum beat from 'Bustin Loose.'
- The cake Buzz created for Brown's birthday.
"I don't know if he noticed or not," MacIsaac continues. "We were hoping he would—we kept saying, 'Wouldn't it be cool if he just noticed on his own?'"
MacIsaac says she wasn't familiar with Brown's music going into the project—she just moved to D.C. a couple of years ago—but other Buzz employees were able to fill her in.
"Some of the people who work at Buzz were shrieking, calling their friends and telling them we were doing his cake," she says. "It was pretty cool. We had people saying, 'Is there any way to get concert tickets?' I was telling them I didn't know what was going to happen, because of the weather [the show was pushed back a day due to Hurricane Irene], and they were saying, 'I don't care! I'll go out in any weather to see him!'
"Because I'm not that familiar with go-go, I kept saying to people, 'What does go-go look like?'" MacIsaac continues. "I like to think of what music looks like, not what it sounds like. It's fun to take music and try to visualize it."
Using music as the inspiration for cake design is something MacIsaac is being called upon to do more and more these days, thanks to frequent collaborations between Buzz (which has locations in Alexandria and Ballston) and the 9:30 Club/I.M.P. In addition to the 9:30 cupcakes, just a few weeks before being asked to do the Brown cake, MacIsaac whipped up special confections for the June Katy Perry show at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
"When Katy Perry came through, we did Katy Perry cupcakes for [I.M.P]," MacIsaac says. "We actually drove some of the Katy Perry cupcakes to the concert so they could put them in her dressing room, and we got to stay for the show."
For the KP cupcakes, MacIsaac duplicated the cupcakes Katy Perry wears as a bra in the video for "California Gurls." "We did a vanilla chiffon cake filled with cherry curd, then [topped with] tons of pink icing and a maraschino cherry, rolled in super-shiny [edible] disco dust," MacIssac says. The cupcakes—which were available at the Ballston outpost of Buzz, "were only supposed to run for a week, but we kept them around for a month and a half, and we're still getting special orders for them," the pastry chef says.
The success of that treat has the Buzz crew wondering if musical baked goods should be a regular part of their menu. "We thought of maybe doing a monthly pop culture cake," MacIsaac says. "We throw out so many ideas, we're almost numb to ideas, but sometimes we revisit them a few months later and say, 'Yeah, let's actually do it.'
"We've been talking about doing a Ke$ha cupcake, where everything in it would have alcohol, but we haven't done it yet," she continues. "But the Ke$sha cupcake may be coming soon."