Trying to have an uninterrupted conversation with baker Shanaka Perera is a challenge. Barely a week into the opening of his new business, Butter Crust Bakery, a steady flow of customers with custom cake orders line up to talk with him, some waiting at nearby tables until he's free.
Butter Crust opened where the fried-chicken shop Inboston closed a few months ago, and the bakery's front window is a roll call of seductions such as "tiramisu Milky Way," written in retro script evocative of the 1950s. Inside is a happy hunting ground of butter cookies and crumb cake and glossy chocolate ganache cakes; there is self-serve coffee and hot chafing dishes of eggs and bacon for commuters (the bakery is steps from the Northport LIRR station) as well as a handful of tables for those who want to linger. Darting between the kitchen and the counter is Perera, making egg sandwiches, chatting cake with customers and weighing in on chocolate, butter, cream cheese and all of the myriad baking variables he has formed strong opinions about during his 25-year career.
"It's the way people toast the cocoa beans," said Perera, whose nickname is Nirosh, explaining why he uses Valrhona chocolate over others, before seguing into why he prefers Kerrygold over other butters.
Perera began baking in his native Sri Lanka and his career has taken him through training in Germany and France, stints in Saudi Arabia, the Maldives and at hotels such as the JW Marriott in Kuwait and Le Meridien in Dubai. He most recently worked at the Old Westbury Golf & Country Club, where he was executive pastry chef. His assistant there, Vivian (Jeong) Fristensky, previously worked at the James Beard-award winning Chicago restaurant Parachute. Fristensky reprises her role as assistant baker in East Northport.
Fristensky said she and Perera come in at 4 a.m. each day to turn out cookies, cakes, muffins, croissants, pastries and French baguettes, those last mostly baked to order. Perera, who said he has won competitions in sugar sculpture and chocolate braiding, half-jokes that he holds dozens of certificates in various techniques; he is known, he added, for cheesecake as well as tiramisu, made from house-baked ladyfingers, marscapone cheese and a few other components. "It melts in your mouth like ice cream," he said.
Butter Crust's cakes run the gamut from carrot cake and red velvet cake, and 7-inch versions begin at $14.99; the kitchen bakes six different kinds of crumb cake (though not all at the same time) and its hot case is stocked early in the morning with egg, cheese and bacon sandwiches, which can also be custom ordered on a croissant, bagel (baked elsewhere) or biscuit for $4.49. Custom cake orders are taken on a rolling basis and soon, Butter Crust will begin baking classes for the public, starting with classes aimed at children and adults learning together.
Butter Crust Bakery opens at 6 a.m. daily, closing at 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday for, presumably, the only bakers' rest of the week.
Butter Crust Bakery, 36 Laurel Rd., East Northport. 631-651-8899.