After 12 years, Raven P.D. Dennis says the high cost of operating in a gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood has forced him to close his shop.
(Photo: Cakeman Raven)
He is known as the king of the red velvet cake and his bakery has been a virtual culinary landmark in New York City. But the man known widely as Cakeman Raven will be closing his retail store in the heart of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on Nov. 26.
In part, he said, he is a victim of the escalating rents in an ever-gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. In addition, he lamented lacking the ability to expand at the Fulton Street store that, for more than a dozen years, sold red velvet cake by the whole and by the slice.
Cakeman Raven has been visited by celebrities from Stevie Wonder and television chef Bobby Flay to ex-footballer Michael Strahan, jazz singer Nancy Wilson and rapper 50 Cent. It is the shop where Lena Horne’s 75th birthday cake was baked and where New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg received an impromptu lesson in ice carving.
“I can’t compete in a real estate market that has no interest in the history people have in a building or in a community,” said Cakeman, whose real name is Raven Patrick De’Sean Dennis. “I have brought parades, festivals, concerts to this community – not to mention red velvet cakes.”
Dennis spent much of his youth in South Carolina and sold his first baked good – a coconut cake – when he was 13. He attended Brown University and Johnson & Wales University, both of which are in Rhode Island. After college, he moved to Harlem, where he did special orders for cakes from his apartment. Before long, he was in Brooklyn, where he settled his business in a two-story building that was once a carriage house.
And in the last year, he was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for baking the largest sculpted cake, a 600-square-foot, red-velvet cake in the shape of a giant coat of arms. He baked it for the 100th anniversary gathering of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, in Indianapolis.
He said he has not charted his next course. He still has a 6,000 square-foot bakery and warehouse in the East New York section of Brooklyn. He said he is likely to continue doing special events where he will provide baked goods as well as ice carvings.
“That’s where the magic is made,” he said. “I hope to continue making magic. We’ll have to see whether it’s in a new retail venue or a catering and special events company. We’ll see. I just want to find a way to continue to make magic.”
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