2015 Chocolate Fest at the 92nd Street Y

 

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Dark Chocolate Toffees from Laurie & Sons - Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Dark Chocolate Toffees from Laurie & Sons – Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

At the 2015 Chocolate Fest at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, chocolate was not the only game in town.  Chocolate Fest attendees could also sample wine and cheese that pair nicely with chocolate.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  I totally ignored the cheese, tried a sip of a spirit made from cacao pulp (Solbeso), and lunged for the Chocolate.  And I was thrilled to see there were a variety of White Chocolate treats on display.

And what did my lunging yield? 

These novel, interesting, and tasty items:

Making Laurie & Son's Toffee - Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

Making Laurie & Son’s Toffee – Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Dark Chocolate Toffee Minis – Dark Chocolate+ Licorice+ Toffee, along with star anise, Pernod, and black Hawaiian lava salt.  The company behind this treat is New York-based Laurie & Sons, with its line of “Not-too-Sweet Candy Snacks with a Touch of Surprise.”

FIKA's truffles - Photo Courtesy of FIKA (NYC)

FIKA’s truffles – Photo Courtesy of FIKA (NYC)

From FIKA, the Swedish-style coffee bar in New York City, a Lingonberry and Dark Chocolate truffle, which is covered in red-colored sugar.  What are Lingonberries you might ask?  Small red berries that are even tarter than cranberries.  Also worth noting is FIKA’s Key Lime Pie truffle, with White Chocolate.

Cashew Brittle in White Chocolate, a delicacy produced by M.P. Frederick, Confectioner, was also available for sampling.

 

Chocolat Moderne's Lemon Up Bar - Photo Courtesy of Chocolat Moderne (NYC)

Chocolat Moderne’s Lemon Up Bar – Photo Courtesy of Chocolat Moderne (NYC)

Chocolat Moderne’s Lemon Up is a White Chocolate Bar filled with a tart caramel that is made with fresh lemon juice.  Also available for sampling from this New York City-based Chocolatier was Solbeso Mi Mucho – a bar made with Valrhona’s Dulcey (blonde) White Chocolate, and a caramel with sea salt, unsweetened Chocolate and Solbeso – the spirit distilled from the pulp of Cacao.

The Voila Chocolat Store - Photo Courtesy of Voila (NYC)

The Voila Chocolat Store – Photo Courtesy of Voila (NYC)

And for do-it-yourselfers, New York City-based Voila Chocolat was there with information about its chocolate making classes/chocolate event space.

On a sugar high from all my “sampling,” I left the tasting, convinced all was right with the world of dessert!

 

 

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Mindy Segal and Cookie Love

 

The Cookie Love Cookbook - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar (Chicago)

The Cookie Love Cookbook – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

I recently attended a talk on one of my favorite topics – Cookies!  Mindy Segal, author of the recently published Cookie Love cookbook and owner of Chicago-based HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar, provided the “Cookie Scoop.”

Mindy Segal, author of Cookie Love

Mindy Segal, author of Cookie Love – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Mindy is well qualified to discuss Cookies.  She is a pastry chef by profession, has owned her restaurant for 10 years, and perhaps most importantly, is an ardent Cookie fan.  As Mindy puts it “Cookies don’t save the world but they save the mood.”
 

Fresh baked rugelach - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Fresh baked rugelach – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

While Mindy created plated desserts for several years she decided to “let the young kids do this” and instead focused on her craft.  She baked Cookies every day and came up with a variety of different techniques.  In fact, when she opened her restaurant, the pastry case was filled with mostly…. You guessed it, Cookies!

Mindy Segal in Her Restaurant - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar

Mindy Segal in Her Restaurant – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar

Her mind explodes with ideas for Cookies.  Nutter Butter-type Cookies, Oatmeal  Cookies, Milano-type Cookies, Thumbprint Cookies…….the list goes on and on.  Mindy also likes creating “Dessert in a Sandwich Cookie.”  How about a Banana Cream Cookie?

Hot Chocolate - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Hot Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

She’s a seasonal baker – in February she developed a number of Chocolate Desserts and her restaurant is now featuring a spring collection of nostalgic desserts.

Blackberry Turnovers with Brown Butter - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar

Blackberry Turnovers with Brown Butter – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar

These are a few of her Baking/Cookie tips:
— After you beat hot fudge with a mixer and it’s aerated, it makes a great frosting
— And continuing the hot fudge theme…..hot fudge and jam make a wonderful rugelach filling.  When it bakes, the hot fudge will ooze out a bit, but that’s OK.
— Brown butter is a fantastic addition to desserts.  At the restaurant, brown butter is prepared in advance so it’s always on hand.
— Goat butter (not goat cheese) imparts a mild delicate tang to baked goods

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

I asked Mindy which Cookies were particularly popular now.  She thought Egg White Cookies (since egg whites provide a rich texture they can replace dairy, wheat or other ingredients) and French Macarons (of which she is not a fan).  But as she remarked “You can’t get away from Chocolate Chip Cookies – they’re number one.”

HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

And for those of us wondering what enables a restaurant to survive and flourish, since so many fail, Mindy summarized her own rules: she owns only one restaurant; she’s there six days a week; and when she’s not there, a trusted person, such as her husband, the manager, or the pastry chef, is.

Box of Cookies - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Box of Cookies – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Mindy believes “There’s a Cookie for everyone” (well, there are probably hundreds for me, but I digress) and “Cookies are tiny little nuggets of happiness.”  I couldn’t agree more!
 

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Banana Cake, Banana Bread, and Banana Cupcakes

Banana Colada Cake from Phipps Bakery Cafe - Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Banana Colada Cake from Phipps Bakery Cafe – Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Even though I sometimes prefer gooey, rich Cake, when I think about Cake with Banana, Banana Bread usually first comes to mind.

Starbucks' Banana Nut Bread - Photo Courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks’ Banana Nut Bread – Photo Courtesy of Starbucks

And why not?  There’s certainly nothing wrong with a good, classic Banana Bread.  For home bakers, it’s a good way to use up overripe Bananas.  And we want to purchase, in addition to bake, our Banana Bread.  As reported by Bloomberg News, after Starbucks purchased French-style bakery, La Boulange, it stopped selling its Banana Nut Bread.  What happened?  You guessed it. Customers missed the Banana Nut Bread and Starbucks brought this classic back.

Banana Caramel Cupcake from Kara's Cupcakes - Photo Courtesy of Kara's Cupcakes (CA)

Banana Caramel Cupcake from Kara’s Cupcakes – Photo Courtesy of Kara’s Cupcakes (CA)

Of course, as with so many other desserts, Banana Cake has gotten fancy.  Not just layer cake fancy.  But fancy in terms of the added ingredients.

Paradise Cake from Kara's Cupcakes - Photo Courtesy of Kara's Cupcakes (CA)

Paradise Cake from Kara’s Cupcakes – Photo Courtesy of Kara’s Cupcakes (CA)

Alfredo Garcia, of California-based Kara’s Cupcakes, summarizes the evolution of Kara’s Banana offerings.  First, there were Banana Cupcakes.  Then Banana Caramel Cupcakes joined the line-up.  And after Kara’s expanded its Cake line, passion fruit filling and toasted coconut flakes were added to Banana Cake and Paradise Cake was created.  Alfredo remarks “We feel Banana Baked Goods have always been popular, but we are now seeing more creative ways of offering the delicious treat.”

Banana Cupcakes from The Sweet Stash - Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Stash (Nashville)

Banana Cupcakes from The Sweet Stash – Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Stash (Nashville)

And alcohol pairs beautifully with Banana Cake.  The Whiskey Banana Cupcake is the most popular Banana item for Nashville-based Sweet Stash.  Whitney May, who owns The Sweet Stash with her husband, says “We find Banana is a polarizing flavor for the masses.  It seems like people either love it or hate it. But I think the whiskey [in the Whiskey Banana Cupcake] brings more people to the dark side…”

Even though Banana Cake is popular, Chocolate Cake isn’t going anywhere. 

Phipps Bakery Cafe's Chocolate Banana Cake - Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Phipps Bakery Cafe’s Chocolate Banana Cake – Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Janet Schreiber, owner of Toronto-based Phipps Bakery Cafe has this to say “Although anything with Bananas is popular, I would have to say the most popular Banana Cake would have to be the Chocolate Banana Cake.  Probably because chocolate is such a popular dessert ingredient.”

Banana Cake from Piece of Cake Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Piece of  Cake Bakery (Portland, OR)

Banana Cake from Piece of Cake Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Piece of Cake Bakery (Portland, OR)

Marilyn DeVault of Portland, Oregon-based Piece of Cake Bakery also agrees that Banana Cake is not as popular as Chocolate Cake. She offers up one of her Banana Cake secrets:  Mash your own Bananas instead of using commercially prepared pre-mashed Bananas. 

I’m tempted to make Banana Bread this weekend.  Maybe I’ll include some ground hazelnuts and Chocolate Chips for good measure.  That’s the problem with writing about Desserts – I want to eat them all!

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Doughnuts (or Donuts)

 

 

 

Blue Star Donuts - Photo Courtesy of Blue Star Donuts (Portland, OR)

Blue Star Donuts – Photo Courtesy of Blue Star Donuts (Portland, OR)

What’s not to love about doughnuts?  When they’re just out of the fryer, their sweet, greasy goodness is irresistible.

A box of Union Square Donuts - Photo Courtesy of Union Square Donuts (Somerville, MA)

A box of Union Square Donuts – Photo Courtesy of Union Square Donuts (Somerville, MA)

While I salivate over the descriptions of some very interesting sounding Doughnuts, (Jelly Doughnuts with freshly made jelly, Crème Brûlée Doughnuts, etc.,), really, there are just two Doughnut types: Cake Doughnuts, leavened with baking powder and fluffier Yeast Doughnuts.  (I recently came to the realization that I’m more of a “Cake” person, but I digress.)

DoCo's Honey Glazed Donut - Photo Courtesy of DoCo - Donut & Coffee Company (NJ)

DoCo’s Honey Glazed Donut – Photo Courtesy of DoCo – Donut & Coffee Company (NJ)

A word about spelling: While I’m using “Doughnuts” to refer to these tasty treats, if a specific product is known as a “Donut,” that’s what I’ll use.

Dough's Mixed Berry Doughnut - Photo Courtesy of Dough (NYC)

Dough’s Mixed Berry Doughnut – Photo Courtesy of Dough (NYC)

Move over Powdered Sugar Doughnuts and Glazed Doughnuts – here come very sophisticated Doughnuts.  (Not that I have anything against good traditional Doughnuts.)

Dough's Doughnuts - Photo Courtesy of Dough (NYC)

Dough’s Doughnuts – Photo Courtesy of Dough (NYC)

While New York City-based Dough offers Glazed and Cinnamon Sugar Yeast Doughnuts, it’s better known for its more creative flavors.  Fancy Gerson, Dough’s Chef/Founder, reports that the flavors most in demand are Dulce de Leche with Toasted Almonds and Salted Chocolate Caramel.

Blue Star's Blueberry Bourbon Basil Donuts - Photo Courtesy of Blue Star Donuts (Portland, OR)

Blue Star’s Blueberry Bourbon Basil Donuts – Photo Courtesy of Blue Star Donuts (Portland, OR)

Stephanie Thornton, pastry chef at Portland, Oregon-based Blue Star Donuts, indicates that Blue Star’s Donuts are brioche-based (so they’re yeast leavened).  And the most favored Donut?  Blueberry Bourbon Basil.

A Blue Star Donuts location - Photo Courtesy of Blue Star Donuts (Portland, OR)

A Blue Star Donuts location – Photo Courtesy of Blue Star Donuts (Portland, OR)

And it looks like we’re going to keep seeing these more innovative Donuts.  Stephanie said “The trend I see in Donuts is making them spicy, trying very different combinations of flavors, and taking them to a new level all together.”  She also thinks Donuts are becoming more popular.

As Doughnuts don’t keep well or travel well, freshness is key.  (I’ve revived day-old Doughnuts with a few seconds spin in the microwave, but the texture definitely changes.)  I’m guessing that’s why you don’t often Doughnuts available for sale online.

A DoCo  Store - Photo Courtesy of DoCo - Donut & Coffee Company (NJ)

A DoCo Store – Photo Courtesy of DoCo – Donut & Coffee Company (NJ)

Since freshness is so important, some Doughnut shops fry their Doughnuts to order.  New Jersey-based DoCo (Donut & Coffee Company) offers a variety of freshly made Cake Donuts.  Also on DoCo’s menu are Stuffed Donuts – freshly made Donuts with different fillings, including Boston Crème, Cannoli, and Chocolate Mousse.   Vinny DePaola, co-owner of DoCo, also thinks Donuts are becoming very popular – similar to how sought after Cupcakes were and still are.

A Union Square Donuts store - Photo Courtesy of Union Square Donuts (Somerville, MA)

A Union Square Donuts store – Photo Courtesy of Union Square Donuts (Somerville, MA)

Union Square Donuts, based in Somerville, MA, specializes in brioche-based Yeast Donuts.  Flavors on its line-up include Maple Bacon, Coffee Cream, Berry Pistachio, Peanut Butter + Jelly, and Brown Butter Hazelnut Crunch.  Josh Danoff, Union Square’s Co-Founder, reveals the most requested Donut is Maple Bacon.  Vegan Donuts and Donut Muffins can also be found here.

Preparing the Donuts at Union Square Donuts - Photo Courtesy of Union Square Donuts (Somerville, MA)

Preparing the Donuts at Union Square Donuts – Photo Courtesy of Union Square Donuts (Somerville, MA)

Josh had this to say about Doughnuts:  “There is something beautifully timeless about Donuts.  And right now, Donuts are in the midst of a resurgence – especially Donuts like the ones we are making – hand-rolled, hand-shaped, everything from scratch Donuts.”

Crosstown Doughnuts' Rocky Road Doughnut - Photo Courtesy of Crosstown Doughnuts (London)

Crosstown Doughnuts’ Rocky Road Doughnut – Photo Courtesy of Crosstown Doughnuts (London)

Doughnuts are also in vogue across the pond.  The Financial Times reports that gourmet Doughnuts are readily available in London.  Crosstown Doughnuts, with several locations in London, offers unusual flavors.  How about a Rocky Road Doughnut?  It includes raspberry jam with dark Belgian chocolate ganache, marshmallow pieces, biscuit crumble, and freeze dried raspberries.  Or a Morello Cherry Doughnut?  Or an Apple & Pear Crumble Doughnut, which is topped with a maple glaze and crunchy pecan crumble?

Dominique Ansel's Cronut - Photo Courtesy of Dominique Ansel (NYC)

Dominique Ansel’s Cronut – Photo Courtesy of Dominique Ansel (NYC)

A Doughnut posting would not be complete without mention of the Cronut – Dominique Ansel’s Donut-Croissant hybrid that has taken the dessert world by storm, spawned countless competitors, and regular lines snaking outside his New York pastry shop.

It might be a bit over the top, but I’d like to see a Triple White Chocolate Doughnut – with White Chocolate Chunks, a White Chocolate filling, then glazed with White Chocolate.

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Dessert Wish List

Grilled Coffee Cake from Southport Grocery and Cafe

Grilled Coffee Cake from Southport Grocery and Café – Photo Courtesy of Southport Grocery and Café (Chicago)

Around this time last year I devoted a posting to favorite desserts of mine that, sadly, are no longer available.  I’ll be more optimistic this year, and instead, will focus on desserts which I hope will start receiving the attention they deserve.

Here’s my Dessert Wish List:

Buttercup Bake Shop's Blueberry Coffee Cake - Photo Courtesy of Buttercup Bake Shop (NY)

Buttercup Bake Shop’s Blueberry Coffee Cake – Photo Courtesy of Buttercup Bake Shop (NYC)

  • Coffee Cake:  It’s funny—when I was younger I didn’t give Coffee Cake a second glance.  It was the rich, fancy desserts that captured my fancy.  While I still enjoy gooey desserts, now I often find myself craving Coffee Cake.  And lest anyone think Coffee Cake is only a “Plain Jane” dessert, the image at the top of this posting, of Southport Grocery’s Grilled Coffee Cake, shows that Coffee Cake can certainly be gussied up. My wish is to see Coffee Cake appear more frequently on restaurant/bakery menus and to change its image—from that of a brunch/breakfast food only to one of a Dessert that can be enjoyed any time.  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Coffee Cake.)

 

Graeter's Mocha Chocolate Chip Ice Cream - Photo Courtesy of Graeter's (Cincinnati)

Graeter’s Mocha Chocolate Chip Ice Cream – Photo Courtesy of Graeter’s (Cincinnati)

  • Coffee-Based Desserts:  Granted, this is a very broad category, encompassing Coffee Ice Cream, Mocha Cake, Espresso Cookies and Biscotti, Chocolate Bars with Coffee, and much more.  In addition to relishing the jolt from the java, I adore the taste of Coffee, and think it enhances most desserts.   One of my favorite Coffee Desserts is Graeter’s Mocha Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.  Since Coffee pairs so beautifully with so many dessert ingredients, my wish is for the rich tang of Coffee to be found in all manner of desserts—from fancy pastries to homey Chocolate Chip Cookies and Brownies to luxurious cream-based Desserts. 
A Slice of Tres Leches Cake from Ruggles Cafe Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Ruggles Cafe Bakery (Houston)

A Slice of Tres Leches Cake from Ruggles Cafe Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Ruggles Cafe Bakery (Houston)

  • Tres Leches Cake:  I can’t overlook one of my favorite Milk/Cream-based Desserts—Tres Leches Cake, a Cake made with three different types of Milk/Cream.  It’s one of these simple Desserts that’s just amazing.  Of course it can be spruced up so it’s no longer simple. My all-time favorite Tres Leches Cake sported a Cheesecake layer, in addition to a Raspberry filling.  And, unfortunately, it’s no longer available at my local Mexican restaurant although a Salted Caramel Tres Leches Cake is on the menu.  My wish is for Tres Leches Cakes to be available at most bakeries and restaurants.

 

Tiny Tarts from Dufflet Pastries - Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

Tiny Tarts from Dufflet Pastries – Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

  • Smaller-Size Portions of Desserts:  Anyone who reads the Dessert Surveillance blog knows that I’m a Dessert Glutton—I just love Desserts and can’t get enough of them.  To prevent my cholesterol level and weight from skyrocketing, I try to ration my dessert intake.  (Of course during the holidays, I’ve been a bit, shall we say, lax, in my rationing, but I digress.) That’s why I welcome the smaller-size dessert trend.  It saves me from having to cut a Dessert in half and either enjoying the 2nd half the next day or trashing the 2nd half.  To be brutally honest—it’s not so much that the smaller size saves me fat, calories, and sugar.  It’s more that I can indulge in two desserts instead of one!
Small Pastries from Wanda's Pie in the Sky - Photo Courtesy of Wanda's Pie in the Sky (Toronto)

Small Pastries from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky – Photo Courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (Toronto)

All the best wishes for a wonderful 2015 filled with delicious Desserts!

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Rose Levy Beranbaum

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Renee Fleming Golden Chiffon Cake - Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose site

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Renee Fleming Golden Chiffon Cake – Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose Web Site

As a dessert glutton, an advanced beginner baker (but don’t ask me to use a pastry tube or whip egg whites), and fan of cookbooks with photos of glorious desserts, I eagerly awaited the 92nd Street Y’s program (in Manhattan) featuring Rose Levy Beranbaum.  Rose is a noted cookbook author who is famous for her meticulous recipes as well as the deliciousness and beauty of her creations.  Her first cookbook, The Cake Bible, was published 26 1/2 years ago and she just published her 10th cookbook, The Baking Bible.

Rose Levy Beranbaum - Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose Web Site

Rose Levy Beranbaum – Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose Web Site

She was interviewed by Lucinda Scala Quinn, Senior Vice President & Executive Editorial Director of Food at Martha Stewart Living, and author of four cookbooks.

Rose's New Book, The Baking Bible -Photo Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Rose’s New Book, The Baking Bible -Photo Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Here are some highlights from the interview with Rose:

Rose's Mud Turtle Pie - Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose Web Site

Rose’s Mud Turtle Pie – Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose Web Site

The Internet is fearsome for publishers and authors.  If you can find recipes online, do you really need cookbooks?  But interesting things happened.  People who purchased Rose’s cookbooks started contacting her with questions and comments.  A community of bakers was connected through her books.  And groups of people started baking every recipe in her books.  In fact, for The Baking Bible, a group of “Beta Bakers” (recipe testers) were given the recipes before publication of the book.

■ And this community is international.  A baker in India was not able to locate Philadelphia brand cream cheese and wasn’t sure what to use in its place.  Another baker in India was able to suggest a good, locally available substitute.

■ Chocolate Chip Cookies are to American baking what Financiers are to French baking.  (Larousse Gastronomique defines a Financier as: “A cake made from a sponge mixture using ground almonds and whisked egg whites.”)  Both treats are characterized by few ingredients but many variations from one bakery to the next.

■ When I asked about baking trends—what’s popular now that wasn’t years ago, Rose replied “Cronuts.”  And she added Red Velvet Cake to this list.  But she developed a Red Velvet Cake recipe she was happy with.  In fact, a photo of her Red Velvet Cake, the “Red Velvet Rose,” occupies a place of honor—the back cover—of The Baking Bible.

■ Rose started writing cookbooks because she needed a way to keep track of the details (notes) she worked out while she was baking.  She later began working with Woody Wolston, who was not a professional baker, enabling Rose to fully appreciate the challenges faced by less experienced bakers.  And Rose’s nickname for their ongoing collaboration is Team “RoseWood.”

Rose's Pecan Pie (Baked i a Tart Pan) - Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose Web Site

Rose’s Pecan Pie (Baked in a Tart Pan) – Photo Courtesy of Ben Fink and the Real Baking with Rose Web Site

A few of Rose’s tips and explanations:

■ She usually doesn’t use almond extract.  She thinks it can impart an artificial taste.  But it pairs beautifully with cherries so she uses almond extract in her Sour Cherry Pie.  Rose pits the cherries by hand so they don’t get crushed.  And to ensure the cherries keep their shape, she stuffs them with currants. 

■ As I absolutely adore white chocolate, I was thrilled to hear Rose say that while she likes the flavor of white chocolate, she prizes it even more for its texture.  Baking with white chocolate ensures a higher rise and a more velvety texture.

■ If baking powder is old, the top of a cake will be dome-shaped, instead of flat.

■ Ingredients should be weighed.

■ Carrot cakes are usually made with oil, instead of butter.  These cakes typically sport a cream cheese frosting/filling, and if made with butter they’ll firm up too much in the refrigerator.  (Cakes with cream cheese need to be kept cold.)

Hmm, my big decision is trying to figure out which Baking Bible recipe I’ll make first.

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Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie from Sweetie-licious Bakery Café (Michigan) - Photo Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma's web site

Pecan Pie from Sweetie-licious Bakery Café (Michigan) – Photo Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma’s Web Site

Pecans are native to Texas and Louisiana and also strongly associated with other Southern states, such as Georgia.  So, is it safe to assume that Pecan Pie is a lot more popular in the South than in other parts of the country?
 

Chocolate Pecan Pie from Three Babes Bakeshop (San Francisco, CA) - Photo Courtesy of Colin Price and Three Babes Bakeshop

Chocolate Pecan Pie from Three Babes Bakeshop (San Francisco, CA) – Photo Courtesy of Colin Price and Three Babes Bakeshop

From what I can tell, the answer is complicated and seems to be “Probably, but the trend is not as clearly defined as you might think.”

 

Hy-Vee's Homestyle Pecan Pie - Photo Courtesy of Hy-Vee (stores throughout the Midwest)

Hy-Vee’s Homestyle Pecan Pie – Photo Courtesy of Hy-Vee (Stores Throughout the Midwest)

Here’s a recap of what some bakery owners/ managers across the country said about the popularity of their Pecan Pie offerings.   (While only eight bakeries were surveyed, it still may shed some light on regional Pecan Pie preferences.)

We’ll start with bakeries in the South.

Tiny Pies' Thanksgiving Pie Menu - Photo Courtesy of Tiny Pies (Austin, TX)

Tiny Pies’ Thanksgiving Pie Menu – Photo Courtesy of Tiny Pies (Austin, TX)

On the menu at Austin, Texas-based Tiny Pies are: Sweet Texas Pecan Pie; Bourbon Pecan Pie; and Texas Two Step Pie (Pecan Pie layered with Chocolate Brownie).  Tiny Pies’ Amanda Wadsworth Bates said the Sweet Texas Pecan Pie and the Texas Two Step Pie are equally popular and are the bakery’s best sellers.  And Pecan Pie is in demand all year long, but especially during the holidays.  Amanda noted Pecan Pie seems to be especially popular with men.

Pie Boxes at Royers Café - Photo Courtesy of Royers Café (Austin, TX)

Pie Boxes at Royers Café – Photo Courtesy of Royers Café (Austin, TX)

Also in the city of Austin is Royers Cafe.  Bud “Pieman” Royer, founder of Royers Café, summed up the appeal of Pecan Pie to Lone Star State residents “Pecan Pie is Texas!  And it is a holiday Pie favorite.”  Royers even offers a sugar free Pecan Pie.

Deep Dish Pecan Pie from Collin Street Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Collin Street Bakery (different locations in Texas)

Deep Dish Pecan Pie from Collin Street Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Collin Street Bakery (Different Locations in Texas)

Collin Street Bakery is headquartered 50 miles south of Dallas.  Collin Street’s LeAnn Curry said the Deep Dish Pecan Pie is more popular than the Fudge Pecan Pie.  LeAnn also pointed out “While sales do increase close to the holidays, the Pecan Pie is a very popular item year-round.”

Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie from Sweetie-licious Bakery Café (Michigan) - Photo Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma's web site

Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie from Sweetie-licious Bakery Café (Michigan) – Photo Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma’s Web Site

Moving from the South to the Midwest: Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe has three bakery locations in Michigan and sells its pies online through Williams-Sonoma.  Online offerings include:  Pecan Pie; Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie; and Lemon Pecan Chess pie.  Stephanie Haynie, bakery leader at Sweetie-licious, pointed out that demand for Pecan Pie is very seasonal.

Let’s travel to the West Coast.  

A Display of Pies from the Three Babes Bakeshop (San Francisco, CA) - Photo Courtesy of Colin Price and the Three Babes Bakeshop

A Display of Pies from Three Babes Bakeshop (San Francisco, CA) – Photo Courtesy of Colin Price and Three Babes Bakeshop

Lenore Estrada, co-owner of San Francisco-based Three Babes Bakeshop, had this to say about her Pecan Pies: “Bourbon Pecan Pie and Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie are the two Pecan Pie varieties we offer.  They are equally popular (i.e., extremely popular) and are in-demand all year long!  (By contrast, Pumpkin Pie and Sweet Potato Pie are in demand only in November and December.) Chocolate Pecan is gluten-free (made with graham crackers we bake ourselves from rice flour).  Bourbon Pecan is more of a traditional Pecan Pie with a sugary base made from brown rice syrup [as opposed to corn syrup].”

Salted Georgia Pecan Pie from Lauretta Jean's Pie Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Lauretta Jean's Pie Bakery (Portland, OR)

Salted Georgia Pecan Pie from Lauretta Jean’s Pie Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Lauretta Jean’s Pie Bakery (Portland, OR)

And north of San Francisco, in Portland Oregon, are the two locations of Lauretta Jean’s Pie Bakery.  Baker/Owner Kate McMillen explained: “People love the Salted Georgia Pecan Pie.  It is probably the second most popular Pie, next to Pumpkin, for Thanksgiving orders.  Of course it becomes more popular in autumn, but people really love the Pie year-round.  Here at the shop, I order as many boxes of Georgia pecans as I can.  This year I got 150 pounds.  I will use them until they are gone and then wait until next fall when they are in season again.  If I make it through Christmas this year, I’ll be lucky.  Currently we do the Salted Georgia Pecan Pie and a Derby Pie, which is basically a Chocolate Pecan Pie.”

Chocolate Coffee Cinnamon Pecan Pie from Magpie - Photo Courtesy of Magpie (Philadelphia, PA)

Chocolate Coffee Cinnamon Pecan Pie from Magpie – Photo Courtesy of Magpie (Philadelphia, PA)

Moving across the country to Philadelphia, you can find Chocolate Coffee Cinnamon Pecan Pie at Magpie.  Magpie’s Elizabeth Godown said:  “Here in Philadelphia, and in the region, Pecan Pie is certainly a Thanksgiving/fall/winter flavor and not a type of Pie that sustains consistent interest and demand.  Personally I am from further south, where Pecan Pie is on the menu year round and riots would break out if you said you didn’t serve it.  But around here, our customers seem to be more surprised to see it on the menu…” Magpie’s Chocolate Coffee Cinnamon Pecan Pie is on the menu from late September/early October through December.  Elizabeth also said she has no plans to offer other varieties of Pecan Pie since there’s not enough demand.

Rolling Out Pie Dough at Wanda's Pie in the Sky (Toronto, Canada) - Photo Courtesy of Michael Kohn Photography and Wanda's Pie in the Sky

Rolling Out Pie Dough at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (Toronto, Canada) – Photo Courtesy of Michael Kohn Photography and Wanda’s Pie in the Sky

And let’s not forget about Canada.  Toronto-based Wanda’s Pie in the Sky offers three types of Pecan Pie:  Black-Bottom Chocolate Pecan Pie; Chocolate Pecan Pie; and Classic Pecan Pie.  Leora Winkler said that even though Wanda’s sees an increase in the demand for Pecan Pie during the fall and winter, the Classic Pecan Pie is still an overall best seller in spring and summer.

I better nab a slice of Pecan Pie while I can!

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New York Desserts and Crain’s Made in New York Event

Ovenly's Brooklyn Blackout Cake - Photo Courtesy of Ovenly (NYC)

Ovenly’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake – Photo Courtesy of Ovenly (NYC)

I recently attended Crain’s Made in New York, an event which connects the small business food and beverage community with retailers and buyers.  As a dessert glutton, I think I fall into the “buyer” category.

Cake Slices from Make My Bake - Photo Courtesy of Make My Cake (NYC)

Cake Slices from Make My Cake – Photo Courtesy of Make My Cake (NYC)

 

These are some of the dessert-related exhibitors:

"Grandma's Mix-Up Bars" from Broadway Baker - Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker (NYC)

“Grandma’s Mix-Up Bar” from Broadway Baker – Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker (NYC)

Broadway Baker – Baked goods are produced in small batches using recipes that have been in the family for three generations.  Broadway Baker’s offerings include “Major Brownies,” “Grandma’s Mix-Up Bars” (chocolate, coconut, crushed pecans atop a graham cracker crust, drizzled with a sweet cream glaze), chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and more.  A portion of the sales of the treats are donated to charities.  Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Broadway Baker.

Cupcakes from Brooklyn Cupcake - Photo Courtesy  of Brooklyn Cupcake (NYC)

Cupcakes from Brooklyn Cupcake – Photo Courtesy of Brooklyn Cupcake (NYC)

 

Brooklyn Cupcake – Started by two sisters, along with help from a cousin, Brooklyn Cupcake’s menu reflects the founders’ Puerto Rican and Italian heritage.  Cupcake flavors include: Dulce de Leche, Flan de Queso (vanilla cake with homemade flan), Guava con Queso (yellow cake with guava paste and guava jelly), Rainbow Cookie (inspired by classic Italian rainbow cookies), as well as more traditional Cupcake flavors.

Beer & Pretzel Caramels from Liddabit Sweets - Photo Courtesy of Liddabit Sweets (NYC)

Beer & Pretzel Caramels from Liddabit Sweets – Photo Courtesy of Liddabit Sweets (NYC)

Liddabit Sweets – Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels and Beer & Pretzel Caramels are this Brooklyn confectioner’s two most popular products.  The kick in the Beer Caramels comes from Brooklyn Brewery’s Brown Ale and East India Pale Ale.  And let’s not forget about Candy Bars.  “The King” – a milk chocolate covered peanut butter and banana ganache bar is named after, you guessed it, Elvis.

Red Velvet Cake from Make My Cake - Photo Courtesy of Make My Cake (NYC)

Red Velvet Cake from Make My Cake – Photo Courtesy of Make My Cake (NYC)

Make My Cake – Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and pies are produced using family recipes that combine the southern traditions of Mississippi and Alabama along with Harlem soul.  Cake flavors include Red Velvet, Butter, Carrot Cake, Double Chocolate, Caramel, Coconut Pineapple, Lemon Butter, Strawberry Layer, and German Chocolate Throwdown.

Ovenly's Cookies with Oats, Currants, Apricots and Spices - Photo Courtesy of Ovenly (NYC)

Ovenly’s Cookies with Oats, Currants, Apricots and Spices – Photo Courtesy of Ovenly (NYC)

Brooklyn-based Ovenly incorporates interesting flavor combinations in its baked goods.  Ovenly’s offerings include Honey Blondies, Montego Bay Bars (date + cocoa), Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pistachio Agave Cookies, Carrot + Honey Buttercream Cupcakes, Cornflake Blueberry Muffins, Cinnamon Nutella Quick Bread, shortbread with espresso and burnt sugar and more. A number of these items are vegan, wheat-free, or gluten-free.

Logo of the Specialty Food Association - Image Courtesy of the Specialty Food Association (NYC)

Logo of the Specialty Food Association – Image Courtesy of the Specialty Food Association (NYC)

In addition to looking at (and tasting) exhibitors’ offerings, you could also attend seminars. I attended a very interesting one, which profiled the Specialty Food Consumer.  Here’s a very small sampling of what Denise Purcell, Editor/Senior Director, Content Development, of the Specialty Food Association, reported on:

■ Chocolate, Olive Oil & Other Specialty Oils, and Cheese are the top three categories of specialty foods purchased.  Frozen Desserts/Ice Cream took 6th place while 9th place was taken by Bread & Baked Goods.

■ 18 to 24 year olds are the group most likely to use Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Frozen Desserts, and other Packaged, Ready-to-Eat Food and Beverages

■ Taste is consistently the No. 1 reason for trying a new product

■ Slightly less than one-half (49%) of specialty food consumers purchase food online .  This drops to 14% when looking at online sales of Chocolate.

I’m glad I live in an area where so many dessert entrepreneurs are turning out their very tasty treats!

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Licorice Candy

Licorice from Myzel's Chocolate - Photo Courtesy of Myzel's Chocolate (NYC)

Licorice from Myzel’s Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of Myzel’s Chocolate (NYC)

I love Candy, but then again, it’s difficult to think of anything made with sugar that I don’t adore.

Allsorts from Catherine's Chocolate Shop - Photo Courtesy of Catherine's Chocolate Shop (Great Barrington, MA)

Allsorts from Catherine’s Chocolate Shop – Photo Courtesy of Catherine’s Chocolate Shop (Great Barrington, MA)

And I’ve always had a particular fondness for Licorice — especially Allsorts.

But what exactly is Licorice Candy?

According to Beth Kimmerle’s book, Candy: The Sweet History, Licorice is Candy flavored with the oil extract of a European or Asian Licorice root plant.  And Licorice Extract is naturally 50 times sweeter than sugar.

Red Licorice and Licorice Root from Robin's Candy - Photo Courtesy of Robin's Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Red Licorice and Licorice Root from Robin’s Candy – Photo Courtesy of Robin’s Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Robin Helfand, owner of Robin’s Candy, with locations in Boston and Great Barrington, MA, summarizes the differences between Black and Red Licorice and explains why European Black Licorice is so popular.

Red Licorice Nibs from Robin's Candy - Photo Courtesy of Robin's Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Red Licorice Nibs from Robin’s Candy – Photo Courtesy of Robin’s Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

“Today most domestically made Black Licorice — including the classic twist enjoyed in movie theaters across the country — does include some Licorice Root essence, although anise continues to remain the predominant flavoring.  We have yet to encounter a domestic ‘Red Licorice’ made with the [Licorice] Root…..”

Dutch Zout Diamond Licorice from Robin's Candy - Photo Courtesy of Robin's Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Dutch Zout Diamond Licorice from Robin’s Candy – Photo Courtesy of Robin’s Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

“In the 10 years since we began developing ‘Licorice Bars’ at our shops, our guests have become interested in trying more European Black Licorice — which is generally made with pure Egyptian or Sicilian Licorice root and often includes the mineral compound Salmiak (Ammonium Chloride).  Salmiak triggers the salt receptors on the taste buds and enhances the overall Licorice taste.

“Known in the U.S as ‘Salty Licorice,’ Salmiak Licorice is available in dozens of shapes and strengths — from mild Dutch Salmiakki Pastilles to firm, powerful Dutch ‘Double Zout’ Coins.  Currently, Double Zout varieties are the strongest varieties permitted for sale in the U.S.”

Robin attributes the growing popularity of Salty Licorice to an increase in the number of adventurous eaters who are eager to sample unusual, novel, and/or international foods.

Sugar Mountain - Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

Sugar Mountain – Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

Debby Adams, of Toronto-based Sugar Mountain, believes Licorice is much more than a passing fad.  She’s been with Sugar Mountain for 10 years and during that time, the Store has always carried an extensive selection of Licorice.  Debby reports that Dutch Salted Licorice is very popular with her customers.  And the most requested varieties are Dutch Coins and Double Salted Licorice.  She notes: “The thing we have learned about Licorice over the years is that people like very specific kinds and they don’t tend to move too far out of that flavor profile.”

Amy's Candy Bar - Photo Courtesy of Amy's Candy Bar (Chicago)

Amy’s Candy Bar – Photo Courtesy of Amy’s Candy Bar (Chicago)

The most requested variety of Licorice at Amy’s Candy Bar in Chicago is Soft Black Licorice.  The owner, Amy Hansen, thinks Licorice is becoming more popular because people are more open to trying it and discovering the nuances in all of the different varieties.  She usually carries between 15 to 20 different types and every few months she brings in a new type to try.  Amy thinks Licorice that is both sweet and salty is gaining in popularity in this country.

 

Black Licorice from Licorice International - Photo Courtesy of Licorice International

Black Licorice from Licorice International – Photo Courtesy of Licorice International

An online store devoted to Licorice?  Why not?  Licorice International also has a brick-and-mortar store in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Its most popular Black Licorice is Australian.  When I asked about the popularity of Licorice, a spokesperson for Licorice International noted: “Licorice is becoming more popular because it is more available now than it had been during the 70s through the 90s.  We started Licorice International in 2002 and worked hard to raise the visibility of Licorice.  When we have the opportunity to add Licorice products, we do, We are always on the lookout for something new or otherwise unavailable in the United States.”

While Salted Black Licorice is becoming more popular, there will always be people (myself included) who still fancy more sugary Licorice.

Candy at The Candy Store - Photo Courtesy of The Candy Store (Ottawa)

Candy at The Candy Store – Photo Courtesy of The Candy Store (Ottawa)

Meredith of The Candy Store in Ottawa sums up Licorice preferences this way: “There tends to be two camps when it comes to popular Licorice flavors — one side is all for the Salted (Dutch) Licorice — the other is for the sweet (think Allsorts).  So it really depends on the person and their preferences.  We did carry up to 12 flavors of Licorice at one point in the store but have since decreased to around 3 or 4 varieties to free up space for some other products.  Licorice doesn’t tend to be a flavor that becomes trendy or hot at some times more than others simply because it us such a polarizing flavor. For most people, either you like it or you don’t so I find it hard to convince non-lovers to give it another chance.”

Candy at Candyality - Photo Courtesy of Candyality (Chicago)

Candy at Candyality – Photo Courtesy of Candyality (Chicago)

Another interesting Licorice trend was reported by Terese McDonald, founder of  Chicago-based Candyality stores.  “This spring, soda pop flavors of Licorice came to the market — Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, Grape Crush, Hawaiian Punch, and A & W Root Beer.  They have been a big hit, especially the Dr. Pepper flavor.”  Terese notes that Licorice has always been very popular at Candyality, and it’s known for having Chicago’s first “Licorice Bar.”

Allsorts from Sugar Mountain - Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

Allsorts from Sugar Mountain – Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

I think it’s time for some Allsorts!

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Banana Cake and Banana Cupcakes

Banana Peanut Butter Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Banana Peanut Butter Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Since they’re available year-round, I take Bananas for granted.  And while I really like Banana Cake and Banana Cupcakes, I think I take them for granted as well.  So the time has come for me to give Banana Desserts their due.

Banana Cream Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory - Photo Courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory

Banana Cream Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory – Photo Courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory

It’s not surprising that Bananas would find their way into Cake and Cupcakes.   This tropical fruit is very versatile and pairs beautifully with Chocolate, Caramel, Rum, Coconut, and so much more.

Banana Split Cupcake from H Bake Shop - Photo Courtesy of H Bake Shop (NYC)

Banana Split Cupcake from H Bake Shop – Photo Courtesy of H Bake Shop (NYC)

Interestingly, I came across many more Banana Cupcakes than Banana Cakes. Hmmm….are Cupcakes more popular than Cake, overall, or are Banana Cupcakes just more popular than Banana Cake?  Further investigation, preferably involving the sampling of Banana Cake, is needed!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake from For the Love of Cake - Photo Courtesy of For the Love of Cake (Toronto)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake from For the Love of Cake – Photo Courtesy of For the Love of Cake (Toronto)

But regardless of which is more popular, people sure like their Banana Baked Goods — particularly when paired with a thick Cream Cheese frosting or rich fillings.

Banana Cake from Icing on the Cake Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA)

Banana Cake from Icing on the Cake Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA)

Lynn Magnoli, owner of Los Gatos-based Icing on the Cake Bakery, said “Our fresh Banana Cake is our #1 selling Cake.  It is well known and famous, with cream cheese icing,”

Banana Chocolate Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Banana Chocolate Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Toronto-based Prairie Girl Bakery offers two “Everyday” Banana Cupcakes — a Banana Cupcake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing and a Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing (the more popular one).  And some “Treats of the Week” (specials) feature Banana — such as a Banana Caramel Cupcake.  As Orna Quinn, Prairie Girl Bakery’s Catering Manager, notes:  “As these [Banana] Treats of the Week have been well received, we can imagine creating new treats that involve Banana.”

Sweet Elizabeth's Cakes - Photo Courtesy of Sweet Elizabeth's Cakes (Philadelphia)

Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes – Photo Courtesy of Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes (Philadelphia)

Elizabeth Paradiso, co-creator of Philadelphia-based Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes, explains: “Our Roasted Banana Cake is super popular!  We make it seasonally, usually around Easter/Springtime and around deep wintertime.  While the Cake is a hit, it’s not the most popular flavor we create.  I think one of the draws of this Cake is the Nutella Buttercream we pair it with.”

Bananas Foster Cupcakes from NoRA Cupcake Company - Photo Courtesy of NoRA Cupcake Company - Middletown, CT

Bananas Foster Cupcakes from NoRA Cupcake Company – Photo Courtesy of NoRA Cupcake Company – Middletown, CT

On the line-up at NoRA Cupcake Company (Middletown, CT): a Fat Elvis Cupcake (a Banana Cake filled with Marshmallow Fluff, topped with a peanut butter icing that is then rolled in candied bacon bits) and a Bananas Foster Cupcake (a Banana Cinnamon Sugar Cake, filled with Caramel, topped with a Vanilla Whipped Frosting that is drizzled with more Caramel as well as Pecans).  Other Banana Cupcakes include a Choco Nutty Nana and a Banana Split.  NoRA Cupcake’s Carrie Carella reports that the Fat Elvis is the most popular Banana Cupcake.

Espresso on Banana Cupcake from Butter Lane Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Butter Lane Bakery (NYC)

Espresso on Banana Cupcake from Butter Lane Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Butter Lane Bakery (NYC)

The Vanilla Cupcake is the most popular Cupcake at New York City-based Butter Lane Bakery, but owner Lisa Liu said that her favorites are the Banana Cupcakes.

Let’s hear it for Banana Cake and Banana Cupcakes!

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