Tarts, trifles and cookies from Northern Michigan’s Bella e Dolce pastry chef Kim Sperl and her home business in Cheboygan, Michigan. Make these pretty and sweet Northern Michigan recipes a yuletide tradition in your home!
It feels delicious to imagine a warm, gooey thermal breeze swirling and wafting its toothsome way up and over the pâtisseries of Paris, across the frothing Big Pond and into the Sperl home on Mullett Lake. The truth is, reality is also sweet. The irresistible scents of elegant pastries that drift through this handsome Old World–style home are born here every time Kim Sperl opens her oven.
Besides being her home—handcrafted as carefully as a fine piece of furniture by Kim’s husband, Mike—this is the headquarters of Bella e Dolce, a specialty cake business presided over by Kim, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and in New York with renowned cake designer Colette Peters. Spring, summer and fall, Kim is busy with the tiers, flowers, fondants, butter creams and sugar sculptures of wedding cakes. But as the leaves fall from the trees, and the wedding season hushes, Kim turns to holiday baking for her family and friends—an opportunity to express the tastes of her childhood through her Le Cordon Bleu artistry.
Kim bakes for the yearly cookie swap between friends. She also bakes for the couple’s annual Northern Michigan holiday party—a glorious event that begins in Kim’s gleaming stainless-steel and polished-wood kitchen and ends in her home’s adjacent, fabulous atrium. Situated at the core of the house, the atrium rises two stories. Mike designed the room using ancient passive solar techniques so it stays warm and light-filled on the darkest winter days. For the December party, Kim fills the atrium with candles, greenery and white lights. As icy white stars glow in the dark sky above the glass ceiling, Kim throws open the kitchen doors, and the holiday feasting begins. Chances are that one or all of the four recipes she has shared with us this Northern Michigan holiday season will be on the menu.
Recipe: Apple Cranberry TartThis is Kim’s mother’s recipe, tweaked a bit. “I can never leave a recipe alone,” she says with a laugh.
Recipe: Chestnut TartletThese divine chestnut tartlets are a bit complicated—but the holidays are a time for extravagance, n’est ce pas?
Recipe: Jam-Filled Sugar Cookie StarsIn which Kim gives a basic Le Cordon Bleu cookie an all-American shape.
Recipe: Berry TrifleKim credits this recipe to her friend Susan Holden, with whom she attended Le Cordon Bleu and who runs a cooking school called The Little French Bakery in Door County, Wisconsin.