It was an offer she planned to refuse.
Late last week, pastry chef Marla Romash got a call about a cake. A client needed one of the multi-layered and fondant-laden confections for which Romash, a veteran political consultant who splits her time between the kitchen and the campaign trail, was known. It had to be personal, picture perfect, and, oh, done in a few days.
“I said, ‘Are you kidding? No.’ A cake like that? I usually ask people to give me at least two weeks,” recalled Romash.
Then she found out exactly who was going to be blowing out the candles. That would be the Barbra Streisand, the legend who descended upon the District on Tuesday in all her diva glory. “How do you say, ‘I’m sorry tell Barbra I’m too busy?'”
Turns out you just don’t.
That’s how one of Romash’s famous-in-all-the-right-circles cakes put the exclamation point on an intimate Kalorama dinner celebrating Streisand’s 73rd birthday and her lobbying efforts on the Hill. It was a two-feet-tall chocolate and vanilla homage to the Capitol Dome, Streisand’s long career, and her latest cause: heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women.
Tucked into the fondant “film reel” wrapped around the cake’s second layer was one of Romash’s signature winks. The pastry chef added a photo of Streisand’s 1965 debut album “My Name is Barbra” because it was the first album Romash owned (and is her favorite). “It was my own little way of saying I love you,” she explained.
Romash, who began baking cookies as affordable holiday gifts while cash-strapped in college and years later sat out of the political game just long enough to attend L’Academie de Cuisine, also has her own little way of baking punchlines into her pastries.
For New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s birthday, Romash made sure to highlight a sticking point from the campaign. During a debate, Republican candidate Scott Brown, a New Hampshire transplant, was dinged for allegedly not having a native’s grasp of the state’s geography. On Shaheen’s cake, Romash added a chocolate medallion with “Sullivan County” written on it.
“I care a lot about politics,” said Romash, who’s worked for former vice president Al Gore, Shaheen, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), among others. “I care a lot about who we elect and what happens in our country.”
But most of all, said Romash, she just wants to make people happy. So her work schedule depends on the year. In even years she’ll do more consulting than frosting, and in odd years the work load flips.
“I have this crazy life,” Romash explained, “where I spend half my time in the kitchen and half my time trying to get Democrats elected.”