Flying High

Locally made lava cakes are taking off, and available everywhere from Ferndale shops to flights on Air France
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Photographs by Cybelle Codish

There are many reasons why upgrading to business class when flying from Detroit to Paris on Air France is an appealing prospect — and not just for the extra legroom. Travelers get an unusual perk: chocolate lava cakes by Chloé Sabatier of Chez Chloé.

It’s a bit ironic because the 25-year-old patissier was born in the 14th arrondissement in Paris, where she learned to bake in her grandmother’s kitchen. Now she is a Detroit resident whose chocolate-filled cupcakes are becoming a familiar sight in markets and restaurants here.

It all started four years ago when, while doing an internship in New York, a young man from Detroit became her boyfriend. For two years, they commuted across the Atlantic, while Sabatier studying marketing and communication at Leonardo da Vinci University in Paris. She was also taking classes with well-known pastry chef Christian Lejour.

With diploma and recipe for the luscious, little 4-ounce cakes in hand, she moved to Detroit two years ago.

“I was baking as a hobby, making lava cakes for friends and family,” she says in fluent but charmingly accented English. “And they told me ‘your cakes are amazing. You must start your own company.’ ”

And so Chez Chloé was born. She makes about 400 of them each week, using the kitchen at Treat Dreams in Ferndale. The basic cupcake-size confections contain almost no sugar, with pure dark Belgian chocolate centers. Sabatier occasionally makes variations, such as a Bailey’s Irish Cream version for St. Patrick’s Day and the raspberry/pistachio combination she came up with for Valentine’s Day. She also does custom work.

Sabatier’s Air France connection came about accidentally. During an event at the Plymouth Farmers Market a few months ago, an Air France manager and his family sampled the cakes and, voila, decided it would be very appropriate to serve them on the flights to Paris.

Of course, you don’t have to board Air France to get one of Sabatier’s molten center cakes. They are available at Westborn Market in Berkley, Plum Markets in Ann Arbor and Bloomfield Township, Treat Dreams in Ferndale, Motor City Wine, Le Petit Zinc in Detroit, and online at chez-chloe.com. And you can sometimes meet the baker herself at Eastern Market and other farmers markets where she sells the luscious little cakes.

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