LINCOLN SQUARE — "Mad Men" is ending its series run on Sunday and the obvious way to bid the show farewell is to get drunk at work and accidentally drive a lawn mower over a colleague's foot.
Sisters Mary and Brenda Maher, better known to followers of Chicago's baking scene as the Cakegirls, have another, sweeter option.
Bid farewell to "Mad Men" with the Cakegirls chocolate-covered breadsticks. [Cakegirls]
To be clear, we're not talking about a chewable nicotine stick but a recipe for a dessert that looks like a cigarette, ashes and all, and tastes like a chocolate-covered breadstick, which is what it is.
"I'm not going to lie, some people have had mixed reactions," said Mary Maher. "Some people have been like, 'Ewwww.' "
A huge fan of the show, Maher said inspiration for the do-it-yourself faux cigs struck after she attended a number of "Mad Men" viewing parties that "were heavy on the cocktails" and short on pretty much everything else.
Nothing against alcohol, but as someone who built a career creating clever pastries, Maher thought she could come up with something people could try at home that would be slightly more original than a martini cupcake.
"What would be kitschy or tongue in cheek?" she wondered.
She didn't have to dig deep into the "Mad Men" archives for her answer.
"Every scene has a cigarette," said Maher.
Like most Cakegirls confections — see the Mahers' "shoe on a shoebox cake" — the "Mad Men" smokes are designed to look as realistic as possible, which posed a few challenges.
Mass produced by machine, the parts of a cigarette are uniform in appearance, something that hadn't really occurred to Maher until she started dipping breadsticks (ie, the filter) in white chocolate (ie, the cigarette paper).
"The little white line has to be at the exact same place," she said, as a tip to anyone attempting the recipe.
An even bigger conundrum: how to replicate cigarette ashes?
"At first I thought I could use shaved chocolate but that was getting too elaborate," Maher said.
"What's the basis of ash? It's dark and light," she realized.
Sanding sugar — a mix of black and silver — produced precisely the desired effect.
"Whoa, perfect!" was Maher's reaction when she hit upon the combo. "The ash part of it really drives the point home."
Another option for a "Mad Men" dessert: necktie cookies. [Cakegirls]
Creating step-by-step instructions for an upgraded version of candy cigarettes may seem a far cry from the Cakegirls' heyday as stars of the reality TV series Amazing Wedding Cakes and appearances on shows like "Last Cake Standing."
"People ask us probably a handful of times a week, 'When are you going to come back and make cakes?'" Maher said.
Never say never, but the sisters, who ran a wildly successful bakery until their Belmont Avenue storefront burned down in 2010, are more than content operating an online baking supply shop and DIY idea generator, said Maher.
"It's very different territory. Our business was local and now it's international," she said. "We just shipped to France and Greece. I can make a tutorial that thousands of people can see."
The Cakegirls website, which focuses on things people can make at home, reaches a far wider audience than their brick-and-mortar store, which traded in thousand-dollar cakes, ever could, she said.
"I grew up in a working class family," said Maher, who originally hails from Michigan but now lives in Logan Square. "I would never have had a Cakegirls cake."
Neither would Don Draper, who, in one of the show's most memorable scenes, confessed to stealing money to buy Hershey bars.
See, even a "Mad Man"'s gotta have his chocolate.
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