Mani Niall, dubbed Baker to the Stars by Eating Well magazine in 1992, owned and operated a very successful bakery with a 20 year run. As the founder of Manis Bakery in Los Angeles in 1989, Niall created and refined a style of baking which has never been repeated in a retail bakery format.
He learned his craft alongside Chef Akasha Richmond (of Los Angeles celebrated Akasha restaurant), at the Golden Temple, a classic old school vegetarian restaurant. They revamped the restaurant, making a name for themselves as innovative chefs and attracting an eclectic Hollywood clientele. Michael Jackson, a restaurant regular while he was recording Thriller in a nearby studio, whisked Niall off to become his first private chef.
After several years as a private chef and caterer, Niall noticed a lack of great baked goods within the natural and organic foods sphere. Most places were devoted to one culinary idea, such as whole grain, low fat or vegan. Niall decided first and foremost he would open a great bakery with an all-inclusive menu celebrating good food
no matter what your dietary choices you would find something in the bakery case. With this credo he opened Manis Bakery, an organic, artisan venture located on Fairfax in Los Angeles. The bakery has been profiled in Food & Wine, Details, LA Times, the Hollywood Reporter, People, Vogue, Pastry Arts, Shape, Elle, Longevity and Vegetarian Times.
Since then he has written three cookbooks, which reveal the world of baking with natural and organic ingredients - Sweet & Natural Baking (the Manis Bakery cookbook), Covered in Honey (exploring the world of varietal honeys) and Sweet! (discovering how to bake with sugars from around the globe). The fourth cookbook, Good Morning Baking, is on the way spring 2013.
Niall built a gingerbread country estate for a San Francisco Millennium party, developed heirloom tomato pasta sauces and vegetarian entrees for food manufacturers and is on the chef panel at the Center for Culinary Development. Mani's newest venture, Sweet Bar Bakery is located in Oakland, California. His deliciously sweet bakery is located in the former home of Historic MacFarlanes Candy and Ice Cream and serves up unique and artisan pastries.
Lemon Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Raspberries
- Butter and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer or hand held beaters, cream the butter for about one minute and pour in the agave syrup. The mixture may look curdled or lumpy, its okay. Stop and scrape the sides of the work bowl and beneath the beaters several times throughout the mixing process to ensure even mixing.
- Pour the beaten egg very slowly to incorporate. Add the vanilla. Set the speed on low and alternately add the flour mixture in three parts and the milk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Stop and scrape the bowl in between additions to assure it is evenly mixed, increasing the speed briefly after each addition till smooth and creamy. Increase the speed at the end for about 20 seconds. Stir in the lemon zest.
- Divide the batter evenly in the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick pressed in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes and invert from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
- Beat the Mascarpone and cream cheese using a hand held beaters or a stand mixer till smooth. To prevent a lumpy icing, slowly add the agave and lemon juice, stopping to stir and mix well. Refrigerate the icing until ready to use.
- Simple Syrup: Stir the agave and lemon juice together. Use a fork to poke holes over the cake layers and brush with the syrup. At this point, the cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to one day before icing.
To Ice and Serve the Cake:
- Spread one layer of the cake with about 1/3 of the icing, spreading thicker at the edge. Spread the raspberry jam up to 1/2 inch from the edge. Top with the second layer, spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining icing. Refrigerate for about 2 hours before serving. Garnish with the basket of raspberries.
Makes 8-10 servings.
- 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose organic flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 10 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup Wholesome! Organic Blue Agave
- 2 cage-free organic eggs, beaten
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ½ cup organic milk
- Zest of 2 organic lemons, about 2 tbsp, divided
- 1 container Mascarpone (Italian Cream Cheese) about 8 oz, room temperature
- 5 oz organic cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup Wholesome! Organic Blue Agave
- 1½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup raspberry preserves, fruit sweetened
- 1 basket raspberries
- Simple Syrup:
- ¼ cup Wholesome! Organic Blue Agave
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice