THE PERFECT AGE For Cupcakes

Ciao For Now carrot cake cupcakeDEEP DOWN IN THEIR HEARTS, BLOGS ARE PUBLIC DIARIES. Some blogs convey what’s coming, others inform the present, yet others chronicle the past. But, collectively, all blogs provide snapshots of the way we were in retrospect. My blog didn’t know what the hell it was until a year ago when Jason suggested I make Stupidly Simple Snacks. I figured the videos would be helpful at best and unwatchable at worst. If the latter turned out true, then I’d just stop making them.

I was updating my YouTube channel the other day when I noticed I launched it on August 31, 2009. It’s been nearly 365 days since I shared the first Stupidly Simple Snacks video in which I bumbled through banana shakes.

It’s weird to read old posts and remember sitting on a park bench considering a cupcake a year before today. And I’m sure, in another twelve months, the photo on the left which I took at Ciao For Now in the West Village on Saturday will resonate and I’ll recall taking a chance on a surprisingly moist carrot cupcake crowned with cold frosting. But the best recollection of all will probably be of the chatty little girl and her pug-shaped piggy bank. While her dad paid for a chocolate cupcake, the girl introduced me to her amazing multitasking pup, which had tape wrapped around its neck like a collar on a pet with a real chance of running away.

I started Amy Blogs Chow as a way to get to know – and remember – those who love food and what’s on our plates. Funny thing is I’m just realizing now that “foodies” are as young as eight. amy • august 30, 2010

August 30, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . cupcakes, random, West Village. Leave a comment.

RASPBERRY BAKESHOP: Explained

Raspberry Bakeshop mini cupcakesRaspberry Bakeshop pistachio cupcake with rosewater buttercream  "Blackberry Hazelnut" mini cupcake with blackberry buttercream frostingRaspberry Bakeshop carrot cake bite

Raspberry BakeshopBrooklyn, New York

I first met Roopa of Raspberry Bakeshop at the Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment in November. There were about two dozen contestants slinging chocolate bites that day, but Roopa’s Thai chili-lime chocolate ice cream and mini hand-rolled cocoa ginger Thai basil cones won the competition and deservedly so! I’d never seen a pop-up ice cream operation run so smoothly, cones so small, or names as long. When I learned that Roopa is a long-time baker, I was naturally keen to try her other creations. Months after looking for an opportunity to sample her posh-sounding Pistachio Rose and Blackberry Hazelnut mini cupcakes, I finally got lucky when one of her orders yielded extras with my name on it.

Roopa’s signature cupcakes combine Indian spices like cardamom in pistachio cake, which is then crowned with rosewater buttercream. While the flavor pairings make for some sophisticated bites of cake, they’re arguably unusual compared to everyday chocolate, vanilla and red velvet cupcakes. I have enough trouble explaining Kumquat Cupcakery‘s lavender lemon cupcakes to potential customers at the Brooklyn Flea so I imagine Raspberry Bakeshop flavors might fall under “Acquired Taste” for the less adventurous palate. (Jason took one look at the blackberry hazelnut cupcake with its yellow cake/purple frosting and assumed it was a lemon lavender cupcake.)

ChikaLicious fans may notice Roopa’s cakes have a similar moist and sponge-like quality. Her buttercream, on the other hand, is so airy it borders on mousse. Exotic flavors – even the not-so-exotic carrot cake – are Raspberry Bakeshop‘s strengths. They’re not classic American cupcakes, but if you’re fond of Asian spices, flavors, and desserts (Think: Pichet Ong), Roopa’s cupcakes elevate the everyday treat and you won’t be disappointed. amy april 28, 2010

Visit raspberrybakeshop.com to see more flavors! Say hello to Roopa aka @rspberryeggplnt and try the recipes on her blog, Raspberry Eggplant. Two recent posts on Manchego cheese popovers and Drunken noodles sounded particularly enticing…

April 28, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . cupcakes, review. 2 comments.

BOOZY CARAMEL SAUCE with Kumquat Cupcakery

THOUGH WE MAY BE HALFWAY THROUGH JANUARY, I continue to wish friends a happy new year. Sometimes we need the reminder, I think, way beyond the first week. To help ease you into the next 350 days – or at least through winter – I joined forces with Keavy Landreth, the heart and brain behind Kumquat Cupcakery, in my first Stupidly Simple Snacks video of 2010! You may recall how I gushed about meeting Keavy at the Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment and then, of course, there was more enamored emoting on “Kumquat Cupcake Wednesday“. We got together earlier this week to make caramel sauce with a shot (or two) of whiskey to liven cupcakes, ice cream, and tart, green apple – not the worst way to start the year. amy january 15, 2010

WHAT YOU NEED 3/4 cup heavy cream | 3 tbsp unsalted butter | 1 cup granulated sugar | 1/4 cup water | bourbon (but whiskey will do just fine if you forget to buy bourbon) | 8 minutes to cook | 2 hours to cool

OPTIONAL apples, ice cream, mini cupcakes

MUSIC Peter Bjorn and John Young Folks

January 15, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Brooklyn, caramel, cupcakes, Greenpoint, Stupidly Simple Snacks, videos. 7 comments.

SAVING BEST FOR LAST in Red Hook • Brooklyn

offManhattan travelRed Hook's freshest cup of coffee at Hope & Anchor“IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE LAST MINUTE, nothing would ever get done” so the saying goes. We suspect whoever coined the phrase did it in December. After all, between entertaining out-of-towners and amassing a collection of white elephant rejects, the end-of-year is probably the last place you’d look for an eleventh-hour escape. But Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood provides exactly that – a few hours of relief from the crush of holiday crowds, making it a favorite quick getaway for local artisan crafts, affordable eats, and a head-on view of the Statue of Liberty just twenty minutes from Manhattan.

Along Van Brunt Street, Red Hook’s main thoroughfare, fig-and-nutmeg chocolate cupcakes from Baked fuel excursions down cobblestone roads while boutiques, like antique dealer Erie Basin, are plentiful with gifts your giftee won’t already have. On weekends, transportation to the historic area is free thanks to IKEA water taxis, which ferry across New York Harbor between Wall Street and Red Hook.

Pumpkin whoopie pie from BAKEDFirst things first – break in the day with pastries from Baked, a bakeshop-café brightened by orange furnishings and a woodsy aesthetic that would make any hip lumberjack feel at home.

Metal & Thread entranceThe Baked story began with two colleagues who left advertising jobs to pursue the perfect cake in 2005. Soon after, the pair’s painstakingly-created desserts captured national attention when Martha and Oprah took notice. Nowadays, neighbors wander in before noon for muffins and savory “hot pockets” (veggie version also available), while the rest swing by with laptops through the day to make the most of brownies and free wi-fi. When it comes to Baked cakes, we are hopelessly devoted to the Red Hook Red Hot cupcake, a red velvet treat made with Valrhona cocoa topped with cinnamon buttercream. We’d also recommend the signature Sweet & Salty, which combines decadent dark chocolate cake with caramel chocolate ganache. It’s not an award winner for nothing.

Walk off your sugar high and drop by Erie Basin for 19th century jewelry and antique home furnishings. We promise an object d’art from here will leave even the most discerning receiver impressed by your shopping savvy, but it’ll cost a pretty penny.

A few doors down, longtime collaborators Denise Carbonell and Derek Dominy sell their sturdy, but whimsical, wares at Metal and Thread. Working with local artisans, the shopkeepers encourage the use of salvaged materials to illustrate the relationship between invention and recycling for environmentally sound art. Denise’s quilts, for example, combine strips of second-hand fabric to form vivid one-of-a-kindMuffaletta from Hope & Anchor tapestries. And Derek, a skilled blacksmith, reuses metal, which result in the likes of iron shelving with, not only handmade appeal, but a past life too.

Grab lunch down the road at Fort Defiance, which attracts bookish locals from eight in the morning until midnight (2 a.m. on weekends). The daily-changing menu boasts New American dishes with a penchant for French, Italian, even Asian cuisines. (We’re especially keen on the return of a certain Vietnamese bánh mì.) On our last visit, we ordered the muffaletta, the celebrated Sicilian sandwich from New Orleans (pictured left), which sated our craving for cured meats and cheeses dressed in olive salad. The olive spread soaked through the focaccia-like bread, intensifying the flavor of oil and sausage with each bite. While we hear this particular muffaletta leads Louisianans down memory lane, we bet it induces food coma as well.

Revitalize the troops for the rest of the afternoon with a cup of Counter Culture Coffee prepared in Fort Defiance’s custom-made brew rail. Amiable baristas measure out whole beans and freshly ground them for each cup so this dose of caffeine is as fresh as it gets. It’s a time-consuming method, sure, but the attention paid to each cup is worth the wait. Besides, the pouring procession (pictured top left) is fun to see.

Cup in hand, stroll to Valentino Park and Pier to see the remnants of Red Hook’s once active shipping industry. Today the site is a small industrial park where families toss footballs, fly kites, and do handstands on green patches of grass in more clement weather. Even on brisk days the Steve's Key Lime Piepier attracts visitors with its head-on view of the Statue of Liberty and quiet vantage point on picturesque New York Harbor.

As you retrace your steps to Van Brunt Street, take a detour and follow the signs to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie where kitschy seaside knick-knacks inadequately convey the gravity of New York City’s ultimate key lime pie. Don’t let the luau décor fool you – these are serious pies made from limes the size of golf balls. Get the single-serve tart or go chocolate-dipped with the “Swingle”. It’s fine to share, but you probably won’t want to.

With bellies satisfied, meander through the Liberty Sunset Garden Center where exotic plants, like 20-foot Yucca trees, elephant ears, water lilies, and a collection of exotic cacti mingle with shrubs and trees. We’re quite positive we saw a (very green) pineapple in its early stages last time.

As we ambled back to IKEA to catch a Manhattan-bound ferry, we discovered Saipua, a florist and soap shop, tucked in what appeared to be the front half of a large garage (we later learned their workshop is located out back). The storefront – pictured below – is easy to miss given its position off the main strip, but for those who find them, Saipua captivates passersby with its small, elegant setup. It’s like a stage for pretty things, complete with fragrant bouquets, drawn curtains, and a friendly dog named Nea. Sometimes, you can’t help but save the best for last. Share These Red Hook Tips!

Saipua (147 Van Dyke Street)

December 29, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Brooklyn, cupcakes, offManhattan, Red Hook. 3 comments.

KUMQUAT CUPCAKE Wednesday

Kumquat coffee caramel bourbonI ARRIVED EARLY TO SELL CUPCAKES ON WEDNESDAY. It was the first job I’ve had to physically report to in a year so I was anxious I’d be late. But thanks to actually leaving the apartment on time, I made it to the corner of 4th and Lafayette with ten minutes to spare! (Cue the happy dance.) If you’re wondering why I left my life of leisure for cupcakes, well, read on.

My new friend Keavy Landreth – proprietor and baker extraordinaire behind Kumquat Cupcakery – was in hot pursuit of a funny-sounding thing called sweet wort that beckoned her to Brooklyn on Wednesday. Unable to be in two boroughs at once, Keavy needed someone to sell her fantastic product at Gifted, the pop-up holiday flea market in Soho, in her stead. She sent out an SOS; I answered. And that’s how I found myself sitting with 400 mini cupcakes between a table of vintage knick knacks and an Australian skincare line the next day.

bacon mapleLast weekend, I stopped by Gifted when the space teemed with holiday shoppers jockeying for elbow room. In contrast, hump day customers came in drips. But I didn’t mind as I’m well-practiced in self-distraction and brought along the New Yorker food issue. I’d been meaning to read the Michelin guide article, anyway, so that’s what I did while waiting for sugar fiends to snatch up coffee caramel bourbon (left), peppermint chocolate (below), lemon lavender, red velvet, and maple bacon cupcakes (right). When passersby saw Kumquat’s small-scale cakes, their faces lpeppermint chocolate kumquat 3it up and the women cooed. Cupcakes are like puppies – they make you very popular.

At 3 p.m., my neighbors – the other vendors – descended. One after the other, they came by with dollar bills and a palpable look of relief. “We were holding out for three [p.m.],” they said, implying I would’ve been swimming in money earlier had it not been for their awesome self-control.

The pace picked up at 5 p.m. when the after-work crowd filtered in to poke around and hide from the rain. Some commonly-heard phrases: “These are the perfect size! Just small enough so you don’t feel bad about eating one.” “Debra, look at this. Aren’t they beautiful?” “These would be perfect for a party.” “Maple bacon!?” “I’m coming back for another one.” By 6 p.m. I was pretty confident in my cupcake-selling skills and was able to put maple-bacon skeptics at ease, reassuring them “the maple bacon cupcakes are kinda like pancakes with a side of bacon. There’s no bacon in the cake.” (According to the Kumquat website, the maple bacon cupcake is “maple cinnamon cake topped with vanilla frosting and a thick cut of bacon.”)

At seven, having successfully procured sweet wort, Keavy returned to Soho. She sent me home with a dozen cupcakes, which Jason happily ate for dinner as I already had my fill during the day. (Someone had to eat the six accidentally-squished cupcakes.) I ordered Japanese takeout, put on some socks, watched the new episode of Glee and filed it all under Happy Day. amy december 5, 2009

Visit the Kumquat Cupcakery blog! Pictures of me from Wednesday here.

December 5, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . cupcakes, Dessert, SoHo. 5 comments.

BILLY’S BAKERY : All I Ever Wanted

Billy's Bakery cupcake in Madison Square ParkMe: Happy to hear the beach was everything you wanted it to be! Did you swim?

Jackie: Indeed I did and saved some clams from death!

IT’S BEEN AN AGREEABLE Labor Day weekend and it was in these 80 degree days that I got to thinking about happiness while watching a homeless guy dip his shirt in the fountain at Madison Square Park.

Saturday began with a laundry drop-off and bagel pickup – two things that reek of Domesticity, which I generally avoid, like conversation with suburbanites, make-your-own-salad bars and the Upper East Side. But I’m running out of underwear and Jason was hungry so we pursued the cleaners and Ess-a-Bagel before meeting my cousin Lily downtown.

Later, Nicole crashed our party of three with cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery. Together we looked on with our mouths full as the topless man laundered in the distance.

Sensing the irony of the situation I decided “I’m happy as a clam” out loud, prompting Jason to counter that clams probably aren’t very happy at all. There we sat on a sun-drenched bench in the middle of Manhattan contemplating the emotional state of bivalves. Then I thought, “There’s too much frosting on this cake.” So I let the excess icing melt to the ground and moved aside for a sharp-eyed pigeon who flitted over to feast on my crumbs. After all, one man’s loss…

September 7, 2009. cupcakes, Dessert, Madison Square Park, Manhattan. 1 comment.

BAKED NYC : As Good As It Gets

Baked NYC Red Velvet 6.21.09Baked NYC | 359 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, 718 222 0345

BY THE LOOKS of the last three posts, it probably appears that I decided to screw savory eats indefinitely for sweets. Truth is, while I have yet to give up cheeseburgers and chicken in real life, I find desserts much more photogenic than cuts of meat. (more…)

June 24, 2009. Brooklyn, cupcakes, Dessert, Red Hook. Leave a comment.