At Maggie Austin Cake, there is no such thing as instant gratification.

Cake artist Maggie Austin LaBaugh spends months designing the elaborate wedding centerpieces that have earned her worldwide fame. It takes several more months to craft the delicate decorations ruffles, botanicals, animals, anything that crosses her or her clients' imaginations. There are sugar flowers to form, rice paper to paint. She sculpts models to create custom silicone molds used to shape fondant.

And that's all long before the actual wedding. As the day approaches, LaBaugh and her sister and business partner, Jessica Rapier, will jet to the reception site with plans to stay as long as a week, if necessary. Ideally, everything will arrive intact and fit for display, but if not, they have the time and materials to rebuild or tweak, even if it means re-coloring the sugar flowers to ensure an exact match with the fresh ones provided by the florist.

After everything has been confirmed perfect, "we make a graceful exit before anyone arrives," LaBaugh said.

The effort doesn't come cheap. Maggie Austin Cake, now approaching 6 years old, has an $8,000 minimum. Most of its international commissions from Tokyo, Saudi Arabia, Australia are in the tens of thousands of dollars.

LaBaugh's breathtaking creations have catapulted the petite former ballet dancer into the orbit of royalty, both inherited no, they don't "bake and tell" and Hollywood. She made the cake for Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively's wedding, though she didn't know it at the time. Another client: Nationals' first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Still, despite all her success, or perhaps because of it, she felt something was missing. So when a local restaurateur asked her the question, "What do you want?" LaBaugh immediately knew the answer: She wanted to bake things you don't have to be royalty to afford.

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Even before a foot injury derailed LaBaugh's dance career and led to her transformation into a couture cake artist, the New England-born-and-raised 35-year-old had been baking almost her entire life.

"She would get the stool and stand next to me at the counter," recalled her father, Ross LaBaugh, who recently moved to Alexandria, Va., to be closer to his two daughters. An avid baker, he was famous for never repeating, let alone following, recipes a stark contrast to the girls' mother, Mary McInnes, who lives in New Hampshire.

As it turned out, little Maggie grew up to inherit both of their approaches, not to mention some recipes, all of which, put together, would convince Michael Babin that she was the right person to take over as culinary director of his beloved Buzz Bakery. Her mom's apple bread is, in fact, on the menu at Buzz.

LaBaugh and Babin, founder and owner of Buzz parent company Neighborhood Restaurant Group, had been introduced by mutual friends. Sometime around the middle of 2014, LaBaugh invited Babin over for lunch at the now-closed studio in Old Town Alexandria that doubled as the home she shared with her husband, Robert Lusk. For dessert she served the restaurateur her "signature" rum cake.

"He was hooked," LaBaugh said.

"It's like the perfect model of a rum cake," Babin said, and while it might not have directly resulted in the eventual appointment of LaBaugh as Buzz's culinary director, the dessert "was definitely an eye-opener."

Neither had gone into the meal thinking it would result in anything beyond possible referrals from NRG to the cake business. Even though former executive pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac had left the group that year, "things were in a pretty good place" at Buzz, Babin said. "The team that she had created was still there and doing the same work they had been doing before."

"Until I met Maggie, the thought of redoing Buzz wasn't in my head," he said. "I wasn't expecting to find out that she was just as interested in the more everyday cakes and sweet things. That was interesting."

At the same time, LaBaugh and Babin agreed that they wanted to transform Buzz into something "just a touch more refined and grown up," she said.

After almost a year in development, the new Buzz Bakeshop debuted this past fall in both locations its original Alexandria storefront, newly renovated, and its Arlington shop marrying the kind of artistry and care LaBaugh's cakes are known for with the muffins, cookies, scones, brownies and cupcakes expected at a neighborhood bakery.

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Ironically, it was the increasingly demanding artistry of Maggie Austin Cake that helped pave the way for the Buzz opportunity. The demand for the time-consuming cakes had gotten so high that LaBaugh either needed to hire a full-time staff or limit the number of cakes she took on. She and Rapier, who now holds the title of managing director at Buzz, decided in favor of the latter. Maggie Austin Cake now makes only a handful of cakes a year; LaBaugh said she had no interest in streamlining her designs, some of the secrets of which will be shared in an instructional cake decorating book set for publication in 2017.

But streamlining was key at Buzz. The trick was to balance the precision and attention to detail that are trademarks of LaBaugh's personality and cakes with the ability to scale up production of her recipes.

Joli Ridenour, a former Maggie Austin Cake intern who joined Buzz as production manager, said she and LaBaugh spent about nine months in initial recipe testing.

"It was like America's Test Kitchen over there," said Ross LaBaugh, referring to the famously thorough producer of cookbooks, magazines and public television shows.

The food had to be delicious but also "as foolproof as possible," explained Ridenour, since neither she nor LaBaugh would be in complete control of the process. Other people would have to be able to follow their recipes and designs.

"It's tough, because I'm a super-controlling person," LaBaugh said.

Attractive flourishes are common in Buzz's display case, though. Gold-dusted chocolate bees rest atop some cupcakes as a nod to the Buzz name. Macaroons are shaped into Egypt-worthy pyramids, and cookies impeccably decorated with fondant, glitter and icing are almost too pretty to eat except for the fact that they taste so much better than the cardboard commercial sugar cookies we're used to.

Even though LaBaugh won't have her hand on every baked good to come out of the Buzz kitchen, each recipe is a little piece of her.

"It's sort of a scary thing to step off that cliff and say, 'This is my brownie. This is the best that we have to offer,' " LaBaugh said.

And NRG is taking pains to make sure Buzz's new identity is closely tied to its culinary director. She features prominently on the bakery's redesigned website and on a placard placed front and center in the shop the kind of attention that still makes LaBaugh uncomfortable, despite the fact that she's been featured in magazines, books and websites the world over.

"I still tend to hang out in the back of the kitchen," LaBaugh said.

That sentiment makes perfect sense to her father and is one reason the sisters complement each other so well, with the somewhat reticent LaBaugh perfectly content to get lost in the artistry while the more outgoing Rapier handles inquiries and makes sure everything gets done. Even when the two were studying dance Rapier has a background in modern dance they took different approaches.

"Jess was more performance-based, and Maggie was more technique-based," Ross LaBaugh said "What that really means is, for Maggie, it was never really about the performance. It was about mastery."

Still, even Maggie LaBaugh will admit that it's immensely satisfying to see customers enjoying her creations at the shop the kind of instant gratification that rarely happens at a client wedding.

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When NRG first announced LaBaugh's hiring at Buzz, she knew that one of the immediate questions would be, "Are you going to be doing wedding cakes?"

Not quite, but there will be two ways Buzz customers can get their hands on a Maggie Austin-designed cake. For grab-and-go purchases, Buzz will sell a variety of home-style cakes (starting at $50 for an 8-inch cake) with a rustic buttercream finish in flavors such as red velvet, and banana with chocolate and peanut butter frosting.

On the more elaborate end, customers will have no doubt about who's the creative force behind the eye-catching Celebration Cakes now available for special order. The line starting at $60 for an 8-inch cake - is divided into four categories: "Candy Shop," "Cookie Bouquet," "Kid at Heart" and "Sprinkles!"

The Ice Cream Cone cake features pink frosting adorned with candy confetti and a cascade of green-tinted white chocolate ganache the colors can be customized capped by an upside-down cone filled with a scoop of frosting. The Cookies and Cream cake is coated in a crushed cookie frosting under another artfully applied cascade of chocolate, crowned by a few Oreos and a glass of white chocolate ganache "milk" complete with straw.

Playful but sophisticated, a fitting representation of the best-of-both-worlds approach LaBaugh is bringing to Buzz.

With the wedding cake business, "I was really missing that reason why bakers bake," LaBaugh said, "and that's to give people good food on a more grand scale."

MAGGIE AUSTIN'S APPLE BREAD

NOTES: Easy to assemble and terrifically fragrant as it bakes, this bread is a family recipe of professional cake baker Maggie Austin LaBaugh, and now it's made daily at Buzz Bakeshop, where she's the culinary director.

Once the apples are cut into thin slices, you can cut them further into pieces of any size.

MAKE AHEAD: The loaves can be wrapped well and kept at room temperature for several days.

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1-3/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups flour

4 medium apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced, then cut into pieces (4 cups packed)

1-1/2 cups pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans with cooking oil spray.

Whisk together the cinnamon, allspice, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs and oil in a mixing bowl until well incorporated. Stir in the flour just until no dry spots remain, to form a stiff batter, then fold in the apples and nuts; the mixture will look more like coated apples and nuts than like cake batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans, smoothing the tops. Bake (middle rack) for 60 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each loaf comes out clean. The tops will be firm and browned. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then dislodge from the pans and place on the wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Makes two 8-1/2-by-4-inch loaves, or 12 to 16 servings

Nutrition per serving (based on 16): 320 calories, 3 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 150 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 25 grams sugar

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MAGGIE AUSTIN'S BRUNCH CUPS

NOTES: Cake baker Maggie Austin LaBaugh came up with this recipe for her sister's family because they love savory, eggy breakfasts. The cups have become a breakfast-on-the-go staple at Buzz Bakeshop. It's the perfect meal to make with any leftover croissants or cooked bacon you have on hand.

You will need a standard-size 12-well muffin pan.

MAKE AHEAD: You will have some of the spice blend left over; it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several months. The unbaked brunch cups need to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours and as long as 24 hours. Baked brunch cups can be reheated in a 325-degree oven for 8 minutes or in the microwave on medium for 20 seconds.

3 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

3 butter croissants, preferably stale, cut into very small cubes

1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (220 grams)

6 teaspoons coarsely chopped chives, plus more for garnish

7 or 8 strips (7 ounces total) bacon, cooked, drained and cut into 1/4-inch dice

6 large eggs

About 1-1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) whole milk

Generous 3/4 cup (6 1/2 ounces) heavy cream

Combine the salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. You will need a total of 1-1/2 teaspoons of the spice blend for this recipe; reserve the rest for another use.

Grease the muffin pan wells with cooking oil spray.

The layering begins in this step; make the croissant and cheese layers as even as possible. Use half of the cubed croissants to create a bottom layer in each well, pressing them in slightly. Use three-quarters of the shredded cheese to create the next layer, then sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of the spice blend over each portion of cheese. Next, scatter 1/2 teaspoon of the chives in each one, then divide the bacon evenly among the wells. Use the remaining croissant cubes to create a layer on top of the bacon, then the rest of the cheese on the croissant layer.

Whisk or use an immersion (stick) blender to combine the eggs, milk and heavy cream in a mixing bowl. Pour this mixture over each cup, filling just to the rim of the well. Press down slightly to ensure the ingredients will be soaked, adding more of the egg mixture as needed. (You might not use all of it, depending on the freshness of the croissants; leftover egg mixture can be refrigerated in an airtight container for as long as 3 days.)

Cover the muffin pan tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours and as long as 24 hours.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Discard the plastic wrap; if there's room, top off each cup with any leftover egg mixture. Bake (middle rack, straight from the refrigerator) for 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pan from front to back halfway through, until the internal temperature of the brunch cups registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. The brunch cups will be puffed and lightly browned.

Let the cups sit in the muffin pan for 5 minutes before dislodging or serving.

Serve warm, garnished with chives.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 230 calories, 10 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 115 milligrams cholesterol, 440 milligrams sodium, 0 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar