An accountant by trade, Natalia Kost-Lupichuk came to realize that she preferred sheet pans to spreadsheets. So in February she quit her day job and became a full-time baker, turning out beautiful as well as delicious European-style pastries in a state-inspected and licensed commercial kitchen at her parents' house in Falls Church. And before her day is done, she delivers the berry tarts and chocolate tortes to customers throughout the Washington area.
Thus far, sales of Natalia's Elegant Creations have increased every week.
"At first, I thought to myself, 'Let's see how it goes,' " says Kost-Lupichuk, 34, who has a master's degree in culinary arts from Boston University. "But I put care and love into everything I make, and people seem to appreciate it."
Kost-Lupichuk acknowledges her Ukrainian heritage by using little flour in her desserts, relying more on ground nuts and layers of light, airy genoise. None of her pastries are cloyingly sweet, and she uses only natural flavoring and no preservatives.
There are standouts. Her Caribbean rum cheesecake (nine-inch, $35) is surprisingly light, creamy and rich with coconut. Cocoa lovers will appreciate the intense chocolate rum cream ganache torte (nine-inch, $36) where a little goes a very long way. She makes a light, Ukrainian walnut torte (nine-inch, $36) layered with vanilla walnut butter cream and red currant preserves. The lemon bars ($14 per dozen), topped with candied lemon peel, are some of the best we have tasted.
"You have to like lemon. There's just a hint of sweetness," says the chef. "But there's just enough puckering."
Natalia's Elegant Creations are available at Dean & DeLuca, 3276 M St. NW; 202-342-2500 and at the Clarendon Farmers Market at the Clarendon Metro Station on Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. Custom orders require 72 hours' notice. Call 571-239-0256. Web site: www.nataliaselegantcreations.com. Delivery is free in Arlington and Falls Church. For other locations in the Washington area, there is a delivery charge of $7 to $10.
-- Walter Nicholls