Archive for August, 2007


Open letter to Owen Wilson

I’d like to volunteer to nurse you back to health.

I will feed you tiny cupcakes topped with buttercream made with the finest butter imported from France. The frosting will be shaped in perfectly formed rosettes of pink, yellow and lavender. You can have sprinkles if you’d like, too. Just tell me what flavor, mon amor.

The deliciousness will be enough for anyone, even an A-list star, to forget their woes.

Or do you prefer pie? We can arrange for that, too.

As you eat, I will stroke the bump on your nose and remind you how good-looking, talented and funny you are.

You won’t miss your drugs or Kate a bit.


Desserts at Madeline’s, Ithaca — “Triple Threat”


There are people in this world who wish that dessert came before dinner, not as an “if I have room leftover” afterthought. I think it’s safe to say that my friends Jenny, Tom and I are those kinds of people. This past weekend we got our dessert on at Madeline’s in downtown Ithaca, NY.

I ordered the red velvet cake, a southern dessert made of chocolate cake dyed red (why?) with cream cheese icing. The cake was moist, the icing just the right amount of sweet. I’m foaming at the mouth just writing about it.

Jenny went for the Spyro Gyra (not pictured), a combination of layered chocolate cake & ganache, plus mocha buttercream. It was as rich as it sounds, yet the portion was pretty generous. Though she felt a bit sick towards the end, she braved on like a trooper until the plate was clean.

The Tiramisu (Tom’s choice) was presented like an ice cream sundae in a cup. If you want to know if it was any good–well, just look at him go at it.


here’s the real deal on flower cupcakes

so a couple of weeks ago, i posted about the mini flower cupcakes at whole foods, and how they were a big fat disappointment.

well, this weekend, i walked into sticky fingers, the vegan bakery, and found this gem in their display case:

vegan flower cupcake!

yes, a vegan flower cupcake!
and wow. this was GOOD. moist and delicious, with icing that was surprisingly soft, and piled on like you wouldn’t believe. i gobbled it down in an insanely quick manner.

but my dessert karma wasn’t so good all day. now, it’s hard to mess up pies, but when they are messed up, well, they are unsalvageable.
case in point – the vegan rhubarb pie at an unnamed local restaurant. it was stringy and gummy and just oh so wrong. the key lime pie next to it was better, but without the strong tang i like from my key lime pies. i ate about two bites and then had to quit. fortunately, the vegan dessert vacuum was there to gobble up the rest of these:

seriously, though – isn’t that flower cupcake pretty?


cakelove – a second opinion

Here’s a review of cakelove from one of our devoted vegan readers:

Please do not take this as a comprehensive review of Cakelove’s vegan offerings. The following are observations based on one cupcake, chocolate with lime icing (not an attractive pairing to my palate).  As such, more research is needed and will be conducted during movie screenings at the AFI Silver Theater.

The cupcake in question was consumed during the first 15 minutes of Brazil. Also note that the author is friends with a number of Cakelove employees, including one whom he suspects was the driving force behind Cakelove’s choice to
acknowledge the existence of vegans. None of these employees were present at the time of purchase.

Cakelove has a reputation, thoroughly explored in a DC City Paper article (, as a triumph of branding over product. A good-looking lawyer who hits upon an incredibly marketable name, who hypes his products (and by
extension himself) onto the Food Network among other places. The man has talent, no doubt, but how much of it involves baking is difficult to ascertain. (Note that the author is somewhat jealous of the man’s
entrepreneurial success; at the same time giving him mega-props for pulling it off… these feelings do not shade the product review… seriously!)

Cakelove, an instantly recognizable name, a name that screams quality, brainwashing a consumer. Give a foreigner a list of DC bakery names, and I bet he/she would pick Cakelove for cake. Cake from Cakelove has been derided as dry, with overzealous icing (presumably to mask the inferior quality of the cake). I wouldn’t know, because I won’t eat
it. Go vegan… seriously!

Cakelove started catering to vegans about the same time a friend of mine joined them at a position ranking above counter slave. Thus the question: which came first, the vegan staffer or the vegan cakes? The answer is unclear, whether she was hired to be the vegan baker/taster or if after she was hired she pulled the “bake vegan or I walk” card. But Cakelove now bakes vegan, and the one cupcake I had left me with the impression that Cakelove assumes that vegans will settle for whatever, as long as it’s sweet and lacks animal products. The Silver Spring store stocks one type of vegan cupcake six days a week, and has vegan chocolate chip cookies on the seventh. I’ve never been to the U
Street location.

Technical note: the same equipment is used for vegan and non-vegan baking. Cakelove is serious about cleaning, sanitizing, and avoiding cross-contamination.

I found the lime-chocolate combination fairly ugly, so I attempted to separate the cake and the icing as much as possible while eating. It was a good-sized cupcake, bigger than the average store-bought, and cost $3.

The cake…
A typical unskilled vegan cake, drying out by late afternoon and destined to be parched 48 hours after leaving the oven. Chocolate, okay, not that difficult a flavor. Not particularly appetizing on its own, but then again the key to 90% of cakes is the icing. Final verdict: although I can’t bake vegan worth a damn (except for my pies), my awesome lady friend makes better vegan (cup)cakes and is kind enough to bake for me when it’s cold out.

The icing…
This was weird. No argument on the lime flavor, not overpowering but well done. The consistency was very airy, whipped closer to a foam than a solid. This type of icing works on some desserts, but not on a cupcake. Maybe a mini-cupcakes topped with this airy crap, pop it all in your mouth at once, would work, especially if the cake was from the
angel-food family. But I want dense icing topping the traditional mini-cake, something that complements the solid, not delicate, bottom.

A few years ago, or in a less vegan-friendly town, I would say “kudos to Cakelove for baking a vegan option,” but with multiple vegan dessert suppliers in the DC area I feel that just being vegan isn’t enough. Sticky Fingers, much better cake, although their icing has its own issues, and for the militantly vegan their equipment is unadulterated.
Sweet Haven, while not supplying cakes in a cup, offers superior quality cake and icing in sliced sheet form. Perhaps Cakelove simply succeeded in matching the quality of their vegan and non-vegan products, while the marketing machine rolls on.

This issue requires more research, and should a better flavor combination result in a more pleasant overall experience, Pie V Cake will be the first to know.


pie v cake v….doughnuts?

our friend amit maintains that doughnuts are the highest form of dessert out there.

but look at our friend amit:
drunk on doughnuts

this man is clearly drunk on doughnuts.

and here’s our response:
pie v cake

no room for doughnuts there!


gratuitous cake shots

my sister and brother-in-law made this delicious lemon cake for easter dinner this year:
oooh! yummy!
yes, it tasted as good as it looks.
c’mon – they even dipped the lemon slices garnishing the cake in sugar. YUM.


whole foods v. safeway

this week, i taste tested the dessert offerings of two of the supermarkets here in dc: whole foods and safeway.

at whole foods, there was an ample dessert case with a bunch of mouthwatering choices, but I chose the cutest things on the menu: mini cupcakes with roses on top, and key lime tarts.

here are some crappy shots of them from my cell phone camera:
cute key lime tartscute cupcakes

well, whole foods put a lot of thought and effort into the appearance, undoubtedly to make up for the fact that these were awful tasting. the key lime tarts failed to be tart, with any citrusy snap lost under a pile of oversweet cream.

and the cupcakes were flat out awful. the white icing was tasteless, while the pink icing was vaguely berry flavored, although i detected some notes of flowery soapiness (yes, this could be due to the fact that this was an icing rose, but still). the greatest offense, however, was the fact that the cake itself was DRY. it crumbled apart in my hands, to the point that when i went to throw the food away, i trailed crumbs to the trashcan, like a forlorn jack or jill.

safeway, on the other hand, had nothing that looked as appetizing as the cakes in whole foods. rather, baked goods lie out under industrial lights, manhandled to the point that icing has rubbed off on their plastic containers (which is SO frustrating.)
i picked up a generous 3 inch by 3 inch square of sheet cake for $2.49 – $1.99 with my club card. it was a standard slice of vanilla cake with vanilla icing and a purple, slightly smushed flower on top.

the taste, however, was worlds better than whole foods. it was moist, with the sugary icing tasting of sugary icing. best of all, since i got so much cake, i can squirrel it away for several days, taking a bite now and then when my cake craving returns. count me impressed.

so how does this shake out?
if you’re going to an event where attendees will oooh and aaah over how the cakes looks, but then not really eat any of them, get a whole foods cake.

but if you’re going to hang out with real friends who love food and want to spend hours getting a sugar high on, go with safeway.

in my book, safeway wins every time.


Amy Ruth’s banana pudding changed my life


When I think of banana pudding, I think Jell-O banana pudding mix with soggy Nilla wafers offered at the dessert bar at those lunch places where you can buy food by the pound. This is different. This is the most sublime mix of bananas, real whipped cream, fluffy vanilla sponge cake and custard (?) from Amy Ruth’s, a famous soul food place in Harlem, 116th & Lenox. The tourists come here on buses for a taste of the honey chicken with waffles, mac and cheese and other amazing dishes. While my honey chicken was good, it’s the banana pudding I pine for.

We actually had to order another one because I started pigging out on the one Mamie, Elaine and I were supposed to share. I’ll spare you the photos of me on a gluttonous rampage, but here’s one of that little pot of perfection.


Cakelove cupcakes: it’s all about the buttercream

Behold the lime-icing-on-vanilla cupcake.


Last night my friend and I went to Love Cafe, which is just across the street from the original Cakelove store on U Street. We got 3 cupcakes. My friend balked at the $3+ price of each one. “I would charge $2.25, max,” he fumed.

Then he tried it. I think he’s a convert. I mean, Cakelove does the best buttercream around. It’s undeniable. The flavors are spot on, without a trace of artificialness about them. The smooth, thick layer of icing melts in your mouth (eat it refrigerated, when the icing is solid). Cakelove’s cakes used to be on the dry side, like old-school cakes your grandma would make before box mixes came along. For some reason the ones we had last night seemed moister. Maybe they altered their recipe.

Anyway, where else in DC are you gonna find a decent cupcake? After you’ve had the Cakelove ones, the cupcakes you get at the grocery store or Starbuck’s just don’t pass muster. And I like the fact that they had signs in the store saying they use 100% real butter. Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing.


the dc dessert

mimi and i had a long discussion yesterday and came up with something. we’ll share the recipe as soon as we fine tune it.