Jamaica bakery serves Dominican specialties

Ramona Romain serves up Dominican cakes and other specialties at her bakery in Jamaica. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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The traditional Dominican cake follows the basic recipe Americans would recognize as that of a pound cake: a pound each of flour, butter and sugar.

For close to two decades, Ramona Romain has been baking up the sweet treats of her native country out of a Spartan space on Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, and what the shop lacks in decorative accoutrements, its authentic flavors provide the style.

“We’re practically the only one in the area that makes Dominican pound cake, real Dominican pound cake,” Romain said.

Because its ingredients are equally proportioned, Dominican cake is dense and moist and its sweetness is not overpowering.

Romain first learned to bake in culinary school in the Dominican Republic at the behest of her mother.

“My mom encouraged all of her kids to learn a useful skill,” she said.

Some 38 years ago she moved to the United States and, while working in the Garment District in Manhattan, she would bake treats out of the kitchen in her apartment on Parsons Boulevard in her spare time.

She decided to bake fulltime about 16 years ago when she opened the shop, at 166-14 Hillside Ave., where the windows display cakes stacked multiple layers high.

To top her confectionery creations, Romain uses a marshmallow frosting, which adds a light and fluffy finish.

A simple, one-layered cake can be made within about four hours if a customer calls in when Romain is preparing the kitchen in the morning, usually about 6 a.m., and costs around $23.

From there upward the imagination is the only limit, and multiple-layered wedding cakes can reach prices between $1,400 and $1,700 and require four month’s notice.

The Dominican treats can also be served in cupcake form.

Ramona’s just doesn’t do cakes, though. The shelves are also stocked daily with fresh pies, cookies, macaroons and other assorted treats, such as the clear plastic cups of dulce de leche cortada that are a staple in any Dominican bakery.

The sinfully sweet snack is made by adding lemon juice to sweetened milk, causing it to curdle, before the milk is heated and its sugars caramelize.

Another specialty is tres leches cake: a light, spongy cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk.

Romain works in the kitchen seven days a week and said her busiest times are around the holidays and in the summertime, when communions and weddings are popular.

“There’s always an occasion to celebrate,” she said.

Ramona’s Bakery is at 166-14 Hillside Ave. in Jamaica and open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 718-297-2025.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 1:20 am, November 29, 2012
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