Cakewalk in Berlin Part 1: Seeking Vegan Sweetness in Berlin
By Cake Gumshoe Melisser
Maja's Deli: Adorable cow banners declaring, "Holy Cow, it's Vegan!" hang from sunny yellow walls, while tulips in bottles adorn every table. This tiny all vegan cafe serves delicious food, but also has a large rotating selection for baked goods coming fresh from the kitchen all day. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, brownies, & tarts: they're all there! While I can't recommend the cheesecake, the Apple Raspberry cake I had was lovely & many of the other baked goods looked to die for! Maja's Deli, Pappelallee 11, 10437, Berlin; online at majas-deli.de.
Hans Wurst Vegancafe: Just a few blocks from Maja's, Hans Wurst scraps the sunny vibe in favor of a sleek one with hardwood floors, large windows, & modern seating. While the main focus is on 100% organic, 100% vegan food, Chocolate Mousse & other desserts are available daily. Hans Wurst Vegancafe, Dunckerstrasse 2a, 10437, Berlin; online at hanswurstvegancafe.blogspot.com.
Cupcake: A dreamy retro styled bakery in Friedrichshain, Cupcake is one of the most gorgeous cupcake shops you'll find anywhere! The owner Dawn is an American gal who moved overseas & opened her shop, the first of its kind in Berlin! A daily rotating Vegan cupcake or two is available alongside the non-veg versions. Additionally, they've been known to have vegan pie! To wash everything down, grab yourself some soy milk or coffee with soy. We still think about the awesome Chocolate cupcake with fluffy Peanut Butter buttercream; so dreamy! Cupcake, Krossener Strasse 12, 10245, Berlin; online at cupcakeberlin.de.
Caramello Eis: Not feeling like baked goods? How about some vegan ice cream? Caramello Eis will cure your craving with a large selection of fruit flavors or options made with soy milk such as Latte Macchiato, Hazelnut, or Walnut! Just be sure to ask which options are vegan, so you get what you came for! Caramello Eis, Wühlischstraße 32, 10245, Berlin; online at caramello-eis.de.
Cakespy Note: We know that sometimes you need something savory to work up an appetite for cake--if that's the case, Melisser says run, don't walk, to Vöner, located at Boxhagenerstr. 56 for some Seitan Döner fresh from a rotating grill placed in freshly baked bread filled with veggies & spicy sauce!
Veni Vidi Vegi: An absolutely animal-product-free haven for vegans! Veni Vidi Vegi is a small, all vegan grocery store with tons of sweets & other goods for sale! Here you'll find the Nutella-like spread Chocoreale, White Chocolate bars, Rice Milk Chocolate bars, Gummies, cookies, brownies, & other prepackaged delights. They also have a freezer with lots of vegan ice cream bars & pints. Be prepared, they only accept cash. Veni Vidi Vegi, Pücklerstr. 32, 10997, Berlin; online at veganladen.de.
Yellow Sunshine: Known as a vegetarian & vegan fast food spot, amongst the veg*n burgers & seitan currywurst you'll find options for your sweet tooth as well! Tiramisu is made in house daily, although it's not always ready when you are, so call ahead if you're insistent on consuming it. They also have chocolate & caramel soy puddings, plus other grab & go sweets. It's a great place for a quick bite before heading next door to Wild At Heart to catch a band or a beer (or both)! Yellow Sunshine, Wiener Straße 19, 10999, Berlin; online at yellow-sunshine.com.
Cakewalk in Berlin, Part 2: A Love Letter to the Baked Goods of Berlin
It's that time of month again--that magical moment before rent is due, and when it's time for a Daring Bakers Challenge, a monthly online baking event. The Cakespy crew always awaits this moment with bated breath: it's always such a fun opportunity to misbehave. This month, the challenge was Cheesecake Pops, a recipe chosen by Elle and Deborah, from the aptly titled Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor. What could be cuter (or more decadent) than bite sized cheesecakes, dipped in chocolate and served on a stick? How 'bout mini cheesecakes shaped like slices of "big" cheesecake? See above for our offering. While we offer our apologies for the lack of chocolate dipping, we believe we've more than made up for this omission through cuteness--it has a mini graham cracker crust! And a dollop of faux-whipped cream (made of a daub of cake frosting)! And even a mini marzipan strawberry with glaze!
Q: Can I use any type of cheese in cheesecake?
A: What is New York Cheesecake?
A: New York-style cheesecake, made famous by establishments such as Junior's in Brooklyn, is a dairy-loaded confection: its filling consists of heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs, and sometimes sour cream too: the result is just about the densest, creamiest, dreamiest cheesecake you'll ever find. The New York Cheesecake is most frequently, but not always, made using a springform pan; most versions have a graham cracker crust, but of course Junior's famous cheesecake has a sponge cake layer.
Q: I have a problem really like wine. Any suggestions for pairing wine with cheesecake?
Q: My cheesecake cracked on top! Do I have to throw it away?
A: On the contrary. Cracked cheesecakes are fairly common--it is often attributed to over-beaten eggs. However, don't despair! Just take a hot knife to the surface and make like a sculptor to redistribute the cake to smooth the cracks. If so moved, this is a great chance to get artistic with your cake, perhaps creating lovely whirls or design elements to the surface. If still lacking a little flair, perhaps you could consider adding a sweet topping in the likeness of a celebrity visage to cover a multitude of cheesecake sins.
Q: Will cheesecake make me fat?
A: No doubt about it, cheesecake is delicious--but in all its rich, creamy and decadent glory, it is not what one might call a low-cal food. However--may we preach for a moment?-- this ought not be a reason to deprive yourself. Fact is, anything can make you gain weight--from carrots to rice cakes to pizza and chips, depending on how much you eat and how active (or inactive) the lifestyle you lead. It's our belief that while it's smart to enjoy rich foods in moderation, it's not at all smart to avoid them entirely if you love them--you'll just keep on eating other foods to compensate, and will end up miserable! So just enjoy your cheesecake!*
*In moderation. As an example of how not to eat cheesecake, consider the example of professional eater Sonya Thomas, who holds the World Record for cheesecake eating, having put away 11 pounds of cheesecake in a mere 9 minutes.
Q: I'm lactose intolerant / vegan / or otherwise can't or won't eat dairy. Whaddya have to say about that?
A: Go soy! Soft tofu varieties and Tofu cream chees, combined with soy milk or creamer, yield a silky-smooth and absolutely decadent result; even nonvegans may find they don't miss the dairy! This one looks pretty awesome to us.
Q: I like cheesecake so much better the day after it's made! Is there something wrong with me?
A: On the contrary. Cheesecake flavors do tend to develop after baking, making the smooth, creamy cheese blossom on the taste buds once the flavors have had some time to set (though truly, we suspect fairies or elves might play a part too). Our serving suggestion? Make your cheesecake, keep it in the fridge overnight, then leave it at room temperature for an hour or two before serving. Sublime.
Q: I just did a Google search on Cheesecake and came up with pictures of scantily clad girls. What gives?
A: We see you've stumbled upon a classic pinup genre of photography. Here's the story: The "Cheesecake Pose" is said to have gotten its name in 1915 when a newspaper photographer named George Miller noticed a visiting Russian diva, Elvira Amazar, just as she was debarking her ship in New York. Miller asked the opera singer to hike up her skirt a little for the sake of the picture. Later, the photographer's editor, something of a gourmet, is supposed to have exclaimed, "Why, this is better than cheesecake!". So there you go.
At 12pm PST our Faceoff Cake Poll closed...so who wins the prize?
The big winner is Jeannine, an artist and cake enthusiast located in SE Virgina! Jeannine had some pretty strong feelings about our faceoff poll. Let's learn a bit more about her dessert preferences, shall we?
- She prefers muffins to scones
- Don't you dare put pineapple in her carrot cake!
- She would gladly swipe a spoon across all three flavors in the Neapolitan carton of ice cream
- She prefers Gelato to Panna Cotta
- Making cookies for her? Make 'em soft and gooey, please!
- When dining in a fancy restaurant she gravitates toward the Crème brûlée
- When choosing cupcakes, she'd choose vanilla over chocolate
- Cheese on Pie? She's not scared! Bring it on!
- On her shortcake, make it sponge cakey!
- And in the war between pie and cake? She's on Team Pie!
At Cakespy, we entertain a little bit of a fantasy of how it must be like to be a professional baker. Of course, our vision-- which is populated with roomfuls of flour through which bakers wade like in the opening credits of Duck Tales, flavor labs in the style of Willie Wonka, and nary a judging eye to keep us from licking the batter bowl clean--might be slightly unrealistic. However, in talking to Kelly Carver of Carrboro, NC-based special order cupcake and cake bakery Cakewalk, which specializes in straightforward, simple yet completely delicious treats, we learned some of the real tricks of the trade. Ranging from the realistic (running a business) and yes, maybe a magical aspect or two (the real appeal of red velvet!), here's a summation of our sweet talk:
Kelly Carver: Sure. Back in March 2006, a friend and I decided to start a cupcake business in Chapel Hill. She had just graduated from culinary school and I was working as a baker in a local restaurant, and we were both obsessed with the cupcakeries popping up in larger cities. But after about a year, she left the business to pursue other interests, and I decided to continue on but changed its name and structure. I've also kept the menu simple and straightforward, with a focus on classic Southern favorites like red velvet and hummingbird.
CS: Are you professionally trained or self-trained as a baker?
KC: I'm self-trained. I've been baking professionally for about three years now, but prior to that, it was just something I did as a hobby. I've been baking cakes and cupcakes for friends since high school, and sometimes I can't believe that I do this now for a living! (Corny, I know, but it's true!)
CS: What types of cakes did you have for special occasions while growing up?
KC: My mom kept our pantry well-stocked with cake mixes and used them frequently. (She thinks I'm crazy for baking cakes from scratch!) Usually she made sheet cakes - the classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles was a favorite. But for a really special occasion, it was an ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins.
CS: What are your feelings on cake mixes?
KC: I can understand the appeal of using them, but it's really not that much harder to go out and buy your own dry ingredients. I think that a cake made from a mix will still taste a lot better - and be much more appreciated - than one bought at the grocery store bakery.
CS: You currently only sell by special order, but you do retail through some wholesale accounts. Do you have plans to open more wholesale accounts or to open a retail storefront?
KC: The community here in Carrboro is very supportive of local businesses and I would love to open a little bakeshop in the downtown area. I'm hoping to get something going by the end of the year!
CS: It looks like you mainly do cupcakes and cakes. Do you (or will you) ever bake anything else?
KC: Well, I do plan on offering a wider variety of baked goods once I have an actual storefront. Other things in the "cake-like" category, such as brownies, cookies, and muffins. And maybe cheesecake.
CS: What is your most popular flavor?
KC: Definitely red velvet. With cream cheese frosting and pecans, of course.
CS: Red Velvet seems to have become very popular in the past few years! Any thoughts as to why it is so popular?
KC: I can't really explain the appeal of red velvet cake. I think it's just the shock of seeing that deep red interior when the cake is sliced -- maybe people remember their mom or grandmother making it years ago, or maybe it's just some kind of morbid fascination. All I know is that people get very excited at the sheer notion of it!
CS: Running your own business can leave you tired and exhausted! What keeps you inspired / keeps you going?
KC: It can be exhausting, but it's also really rewarding. And it helps to have an amazingly supportive group of friends, many of whom are also exploring their own creative pursuits, who I can turn to for advice and pep talks when I'm feeling overwhelmed.
CS: You do "cupcake decorating parties". We're intrigued. What happens at a cupcake decorating party?
KC: This was something that one of my customers requested. It's been a big hit with parents looking for a creative activity to have at their child's birthday party. We provide unfrosted cupcakes, a bunch of frosting (tinted a variety of colors), sprinkles, and the tools the kids need to decorate their cupcakes. It's fun to see what the kids create; some really get into it. And some just want to eat the frosting. I'll have to take some pictures at the next party to put on the website!
CS: You're based in North Carolina. What types of sweets are popular in your area of the world?
KC: Hmmmm.... I can't speak for the entire state, but around here (the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area), I'd have to say that pie is probably one of the most popular desserts, year-round. It's such a classic Southern thing. This time of year, you also see a lot of bread puddings on restaurant menus. Anything with pecans is also popular, especially if they're candied. And in the summer, it's all about local fruit like peaches, berries, and figs. They're in everything.
CS: Has the experience of eating cake changed for you since running your own cake business?
KC: Yes. I am much pickier than I was before. I notice everything about the cake: the texture, temperature, frosting consistency, etc.
CS: What in your opinion is the most important aspect in making a great cake?
KC: Most important aspect: making sure everything is at the proper temperature: the dairy should be at room temp, the oven needs to be calibrated, the cakes need to be completely cool before frosting, etc. It's really important to be patient - you can't bake in a hurry.
CS: What is your favorite dessert?
KC: Well, besides cupcakes, it would have to be ice cream, in any flavor, preferably with lots of chocolate chunks and swirls of caramel. There's a dairy farm a couple miles outside of town called Maple View that has the best ice cream around.
CS: Do you see any emerging trends currently in the cake or dessert world?
KC: It seems inevitable that the cupcake madness will probably die down a little, but I think there will always be a demand for cakes in general. What's a wedding or birthday without one?
CS: What is next for Cakewalk?
KC: Getting started on that storefront!
CS: Any advice for individuals looking to start their own business?
KC: It can be difficult sometimes to stay positive even if not everyone around you believes in your idea(s). Make it your goal to prove them wrong! And try to keep yourself as organized as possible, from the very earliest stage. Get a separate business checking account and save those receipts!
Are you located in the "Triangle" area of North Carolina? Well. You can get treats from Cakewalk by special order (919-260-9416), or at these retail locations: Johnny's in Carrboro, 3 Cups in Chapel Hill and the Nordstrom Cafe Bistro in Durham. Not in North Carolina? Well, you can still enjoy their treats from afar at cakewalkcarrboro.com.
First off and perhaps most importantly, a big, huge, with whipped cream and cherry on top thank you to all of our readers. Because of you, dear sweet freaks, the illustration and writing opportunities have made it possible for Head Spy Jessie to quit her day job (she was the product manager / art director of a refrigerator magnet company--no joke)! All we can say is brace yourselves--this means that the Cakespy enterprise is about to get even sweeter! Thank you all so much for your support.
How can you put your name in the running? It's easy! All you need to do is this:
- To satisfy our nosy tendencies (we are spies, after all), fill out the below Cake Poll! You can leave your responses in the comment section, or send your responses via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- At 12pm PST on Friday, April 25, the Cake Poll will be closed. The winner will be chosen at random, not based on their responses. The original will then be shipped to the lucky winner within 48 hours, via the most economical method.
- As for our fine print: The results of this poll will be used for entertainment and Cake Gumshoeing purposes only; we may summarize the results of this poll in upcoming posts. Your private information will not be shared with any outside parties. Also, we've elected to leave the cake poll open to all US Territories, Canada and abroad--so even overseas cake enthusiasts can take part! *As for the prize itself, it is the miniature framed painting pictured at the top and to the left; no substitutions are allowed.
FACEOFFS! If the following pairings were put in a boxing match or found themselves in a dark alley vying for your sweet love, which would win? Which do you prefer? Feel free to expound on your reasoning if you'd like!
In the Morning: Scones or muffins?
Carrot Cake: With or without pineapple?
Neapolitan Roulette: Strawberry, chocolate or vanilla?
Mambo Italiano: Gelato or Panna Cotta?
Cookies: Soft and gooey or crisp and crunchy?
Fancy Restaurant Desserts: Tiramisu or Crème brûlée?
Cupcakes: Vanilla or Chocolate?
Apple Pie with Cheese: Delicious or disgusting?
Over the past week, we asked you, our readers, which fancy French cookie you preferred: the macaron or the madeleine. Both cookies are steeped in tradition and lore--while the macaron has a place amongst royalty and in fancy tea salons, the madeleine was immortalized by Proust and also has its own rich history. At the end of our poll, the vote, while certainly not a landslide--was decidedly in the macaron's favor: 169 vs. 123 out of 292 votes.
But what did all of it mean? Like the spies we are, we delved on both sides of the ring to find out more:
Lydia, who is planning on entering a pastry program very soon, sums it up nicely: "Macarons are like fairy cookies. They probably eat them in Middle Earth and Oz."...but don't think she's talking about their relative the coconut macaroon, for she goes on to say "I'm actually offended when someone thinks I'm talking about a coconut macaroOn in such glowing tones." Owch. Of course, Lydia has also had the privilege of eating macarons from Pierre Herme, which may explain why she's such a devotee.
For Veron, who runs the macaron-and-cupcake-makin' business Petites Bouchées (best business ever?), it's the variety and possibility that appeals: "With macarons, the flavors , color and uses are endless - your limit is your imagination. You can just sandwich them simply or make them part of an elaborate dessert. As she goes on to say, while perhaps an acquired taste, they do ultimately hook you: "When I first brought macarons in [to work], it took a while before the container became empty maybe because a lot of people are not familiar with them. Nowadays, on my way to the breakroom to leave some macarons I get stopped on the way so they can have first dibs."
For Kelly, soon-to-be culinary school grad and brand-new pastry chef at A Voce, prefers the shell-shaped cookie: "I'm a bigger fan of the madeleine. I prefer their texture and flavor. As you well know, crispness has its place in cookie-land: i.e. biscotti. But in this case, I have to opt for the soft madeline. I believe the madeline's capability to stand on its own makes it superior to le macaron, that needs something like coffee and tea to compliment them. Even look at the petit four 'Sarah Bernhardt,' that macaron base needs that cream center and chocolate coating. Plus, macarons don't remind me of children's book series the way madeleines do...."
Upon moving to Seattle, we were surprised to hear that one of the city's famous desserts was the Triple Coconut Cream Pie from restaurateur Tom Douglas' Dahlia Lounge (you may recognize the restaurant from the timeless classic Sleepless in Seattle). Our wariness was twofold: first off, while a good dessert, coconut cream pie has never been a major player in our dessert vernacular, more often something that we'll eat because it's there, a second or third choice at best. And second, did we really trust a restaurateur who had a neon sign in his own image boldly hung outside of the restaurant? Was it a gesture of self-deprecating tongue in cheek humor, or just plain ego? And so, two years of residence passed before we even tried this pie, which has been their bestselling dessert for over twelve years.
But oh, to think back to the day we finally did try the famous pie. As will happen from time to time, a baked good is so well-made that even if it's outside of your general taste preferences, it will make you a believer. The taste of fresh whipped cream, laced with vanilla and coconut, is the first taste that hits you: rich, creamy and decadent. At an indeterminate point, the whipped cream ends and the pie filling begins, filling the mouth with a custardy, indulgent cocunutty taste; that gives way to a light, flaky pastry crust, also infused with coconut--all summing up to make you think that maybe, just maybe, becoming morbidly obese on this stuff wouldn't be so bad at all. Their restaurant portion will satisfy Herculean appetites; servings for all appetites can be found next door at the Dahlia bakery: from mini individual "bites" to larger sizes depending on how big a crowd you're feeding (or, you know, how hungry you are).
If you're coming to Seattle, we deem it worth seeking out; if you're not in the Seattle area, then don't despair, here's the recipe (which can also be found in the worth-buying book Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, available here)
Triple Coconut Cream Pie
(Makes one 9-inch pie)
For The Coconut Pastry Cream
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- One 9-inch Pie shell (go ahead, put coconut in the shell too!)
- prebaked and cooled
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 ounces unsweetened "chip" or large-shred coconut (about 11/2 cups) or sweetened shredded coconut
- Chunks of white chocolate (4 to 6 ounces, to make 2 ounces of curls)
1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling) by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 Cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.
3. When the pastry cream is cold, fill the prebaked pie shell with it, smoothing the surface. In an electric mixer with the whisk, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe it all over the surface of the pie, or spoon it over.
4. For the garnish, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, watching carefully and stirring once or twice, since coconut burns easily, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls.
On The Plate
Cut the pie into 6 to 8 wedges and place on dessert plates. Decorate each wedge of pie with white chocolate curls and the toasted coconut.
A Step Ahead
If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be consumed within a day. Prepare the garnishes just before serving. The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored chilled in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above. Fill the pie shell and top it with whipped cream and garnishes when you are ready to serve the pie.
Recipe borrowed from Books-for-Cooks.com, Copyright © 2002.
Lately, we've been thinking about carrot cake. Really, when you think about it, it's a bit of a strange beast: a culinary crossroads where cake meets vegetable and yields a beautiful result. How did that combination come about, we wondered? Well, turns out carrot cake (along with other veggie-rich baked goods like zucchini and squash breads) came into popularity during World War II, when butter, eggs and sugar were in short demand. During this time, many baked were made using oil instead of butter, which yielded a dense, pound-cake like texture--and vegetables gained popularity because the water they release during baking yields a tender crumb, and they added a bit of natural sweetness.
How'd we do it? We took this basic carrot cake recipe (we left out the nuts) and separated it into small batches, subbing different veggies for the carrots into the cake batter and mixing them into individual cupcakes (we did make one carrot cupcake--you know, as consolation if none of them tasted good). All of the creations were topped with cream cheese frosting, and for added cuteness and discernibility, each one was crowned with a veggie garnish.
As for how it all tasted...
Radish Cake: This one was a pleasant surprise; it had savory, spicy flavor that crept up on the palate, ultimately blossoming into a complex, unusual flavor--one that perhaps might not be for everyone, but it certainly kept us coming back for more. Overall though, if served this cake not knowing it was radish, we might not have been able to identify the flavor.
Parsnip Cake: Once baked, the taste of this one was so similar to that of carrot cake that if it were a blind tasting, we'll admit we might have been fooled. In fact, it was only the aftertaste, slightly spicy, which gave away the vegetable's identity as the carrot's albino cousin. If you've got extra parsnips (not sure how often that happens), give it a try!
Cakespy Note: This interview also appeared on our Cakespy Seattle outpost!
Let's face it--between the paper-mill aroma and the collapsing bridges, Tacoma doesn't have the best reputation. But have you been there recently? Like whoa. Downtown Tacoma has undergone a massive revitalization and has become quite the budding art scene, what with its gorgeous museums, newly-renovated airy artist lofts, and a thriving UW campus. But really, to the Cakespy crew, the most exciting part of this revitalization is hello, cupcake, a cupcake shop whose wares have been aptly described as "coo-worthy". Walking into hello, cupcake is like becoming a child again: there's no turning back once you're greeted by an intricate cupcake mosaic tile design on the floor, on a crash course toward sugar overload...but then again, why would you want to? The cupcakes are not only adorable but delicious, with a tender, moist crumb and creamy, rich frosting which melts oh-so pleasingly in your mouth (not your hand). Recently, we had a chance to talk cupcake with one of the owners, Reina Miller; here's what we found out about life, love and the pursuit of cupcake nirvana:
Cakespy: What made you decide to open hello, cupcake?
Reina Miller: Developing the idea for hello, cupcake began about four and half years ago after reading a short article in a magazine about cupcakes. The idea of a cupcake bakery sparked all kinds of discussions and brainstorming sessions between my mom, my sisters, and I. Since I have always been the baker in our family, I was immediately engaged with the thought of opening a specialty bakery.
CS: Are you formally trained in baking or are you self-taught?
RM: Coming from a family of six children it seemed like there was a celebration at least every month. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of being in the kitchen with my mom and sisters baking and decorating cakes. Throughout the years I have experimented with baking all sorts of desserts and in the past four years have focused mainly on cupcakes. I haven't been formally trained, but developed all of my recipes by researching and trial and error. It was a long and at times, frustrating process, but I am proud of all of my creations.
CS: Did any other cupcake shops or bakeries elsewhere in the world serve as inspiration when opening hello, cupcake?
RM: Over the past four years I have been able to travel all over the country and visit many cupcake shops and bakeries. There wasn't any certain bakery that served as inspiration when opening hello, cupcake. Experiencing each shop's unique idea of a cupcake bakery was in itself interesting and inspirational.
CS: Do you sell anything other than cupcakes? Do you think you ever will?
RM: Presently, we offer a variety of cupcake flavors, drip coffee and a selection of bottled drinks. We also have t-shirts, hello, cupcake coffee mugs, ceramic cake plates and other cupcake stands. At this time we have no plans of adding any other baked goods to the menu, but there is always a possibility of that in the future.
CS: What is your most popular flavor?
RM: It's hard to top a classic, vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream has been the most popular from the day we opened. It is followed closely by red velvet, a southern tradition that has found a new home in the northwest.
CS: If you were on a desert island and could only
RM: It is only offered on our menu for a few months during the holidays, but chocolate peppermint is my favorite and I could enjoy it anytime of the year.
CS: What is your favorite non-cupcake dessert item?
RM: At home I still enjoy baking, other than cupcakes, my favorite is classic chocolate chip cookies.
CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake, in your opinion?
RM: Any time is a good time for cake.
CS: In your opinion, what is the most important aspect in making a great cupcake?
RM: For me, the most important aspect in making a delicious cupcake is baking with quality ingredients.
CS: Is there a "correct" way to eat a cupcake in your opinion? Or perhaps an "incorrect" way to eat one?
RM: I don't feel there is a correct or an incorrect way to eat a cupcake. All that really matters is that it is being enjoyed. I like to eat cupcakes with a fork and knife.
CS: What is next for hello, cupcake?
RM: As I am continuing to experiment with different recipes we will be introducing new seasonal flavors throughout the year. Look forward to a local favorite, we will be starting an Almond Roca cupcake soon.
hello, cupcake is located at 1740 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA. (253) 383-7772; online at www.hello-cupcake.com.