ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Software developer and entrepreneur Vlad Taralunga has partnered with 24th Cheesecakerie to introduce Ann Arbor to The Joffre–a cake he grew up eating.
Composed of a thick chocolate ganache layered over a buttermilk chocolate cake base, The Joffre is luscious without being fussy.
A staple Romanian dessert, the decadent chocolate cake is something Taralunga’s father, Mircea Taralunga, has made every year for Vlad’s birthday.
“It’s something that he’s made for as long as I can remember, so at least 25 years,” he said.
Taralunga sensed an opportunity as more and more people turned to online ordering to satisfy their needs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past year, he’s worked with Sean Brezzell, the owner of 24th Cheesecakerie, to perfect the recipe and get The Joffre onto tables around Tree Town.
Made with organic butter, cocoa powder, eggs, flour and powdered sugar, the simplicity of The Joffre is what Taralunga likes most about the cake. He said that while it might be a bit cliche, he describes his father’s cake as simple, classic and luxurious.
“Imagine a cream of chocolate with the texture of butter,” Taralunga said. The top layer of ultra-thick and smooth chocolate ganache is especially unique to the cake. It isn’t the healthiest of desserts, but the calories are well worth it.
It isn’t something the Ann Arbor entrepreneur has seen while traveling around the United States, and he definitely hasn’t found anything like it in Ann Arbor.
A fan of lean businesses, Taralunga wanted to focus on one thing: The Joffre itself. No bells and whistles. No gimmicks or extras. No complicated menus or multiple sizes. Just the one cake.
However, The Joffre’s simplicity is deceptive. Taralunga had to take step-by-step videos of his father making the cake. He also sent a few of his father’s cakes to 24th Cheesecakerie’s Sean Brezzell, who uses his dessert-making skills to fulfill orders here in Ann Arbor.
“I filmed everything–every single step, with explanations from my dad and also annotated by me,” he said.
Currently, cakes are made on a to-order basis. Taralunga receives orders through The Joffre’s website and lets Brezzell know. A few days later, the cake is ready for pickup or shipped for overnight delivery.
But therein lies another complication: Shipping. With a high butter and egg content, orders of The Joffre have to make it to their destination quickly and in one piece. Taralunga said that shipping cakes is like playing the lottery. Despite being sent as overnight mail, the cakes don’t always make it to their destinations in pristine shape.
Luckily for Ann Arbor community members, The Joffre is made locally. Whole cakes and slices can be picked up from the Briarwood 24th Cheesecakerie location.
Taralunga is currently targeting Michigan and Chicago, where shipping costs are more affordable, but the cakes can be shipped across the United States. He is also brainstorming ways of making sure cakes arrive in perfect condition, regardless of how roughly they may be handled.
Although the name might invoke images of Joffrey Baratheon, a character from popular tv series Game of Thrones, the cake is anything but fictional. It dates back to World War I when it was made by a restaurant in Bucharest in honor of French Marshal Joseph Joffre. Taralunga got so many comments about the name he had to put an explanation up on The Joffre’s website.
While he could have put his own spin on the cake, he wanted to introduce the classic version that he grew up with.
“It does have a very personal connection to me and it’s my way of sharing a piece of me with the world and bringing a contribution to the local society,” Taralunga said, adding that the cakes are great gifts and thank yous.