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Archive for the ‘Cupcakes’ Category

I may have mentioned this before, but possibly my favorite movie of all time is Ghostbusters. John and I used to quote this movie to each other quite frequently. We still do from time to time. I recently watched it and was comforted to know that this 80’s movie stands the test of time. It’s still funny (Art Deco, very nice), and Bill Murray is….well, he’s just a genius.

And speaking of things that stand the test of time, how about a Twinkie? According to the Hostess website, Twinkies have been been hanging around on bodega shelves since 1930 (some of them quite literally). President Clinton even put one in a time capsule. I wonder what that one looks like now…

Dan Akyroyd and Harold Ramis (stars and writers of the film) were not immune to the immense power and omnipotence of the Twinkie. They worked it in to one of the best scenes in the film as seen below:

And now I’m going to tell you about a Twinkie. One that I found at Lulu Cafe in Chelsea. I had gone to Lulu in search of Intelligentsia coffee which they brew in their 8th Avenue shop. I found a whole lot more including some homemade Twinkies in different flavors.

At first I was intrigued by the sign (who wouldn’t be?):

And then the flavors! They offered:

Red Velvet Lulus
red velvet snack cakes filled with cream cheese frosting dipped in white chocolate

Lemon Lulus
lemon snack cakes filled with lemon curd, dipped in white chocolate

Brooklyn Blackout Lulus
chocolate snack cakes filled with dark chocolate pudding dipped in chocolate

Passionfruit Lulus
yellow snack cakes filled with passion fruit cream, dipped in white chocolate

I decided on the passionfruit variety and was not disappointed. The cake was moist and dense. In my opinion, real Twinkie cake is a bit insubstantial. I want CAKE. And by that I mean a mixture that is a touch hearty. This one was. And the passionfruit filling was a nice contrast: light, airy with a hint of that fruity flavor piped expertly through the center of the vanilla cake.

A few shavings of coconut graced the top along with a glaze of white chocolate to give the whole thing a graceful “petite-four” flair. I loved it.

So when your spirit storage facility is at capacity and your collection of spores, molds and fungus is getting a little out of hand, don’t panic (and DON’T cross the streams!). Just:

And then call Ghostbusters.

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John and I are as choosy with our Italian desserts as we are with our entreés (like pizza). I happen to be a tiramisú snob, and have turned up my nose at quite a few slices, while John will down well-made panna cotta like an Electrolux that’s just had its filter cleaned.

But the cannoli….Ahh…the cannoli. A perfect cannoli is a study in contradictions, a perfect blend of opposites in flavor and texture. As the holding device, the shell represents a challenge: It must be crispy and ever-so-slightly sweet. NEVER chewy or dense. With lots of airy holes for extra crunch.

The cream presents another challenge. First, it has to be ricotta cream. I know….I know, you may be thinking, “Who would fill cannoli with anything else?” If you asked that question, you’re hired!

You might be surprised to learn how many whipped cream filled cannoli I have encountered. And put down after the first bite, because that’s just wrong, people. WRONG.

Assuming that the filling is ricotta based, it should also be rich, thick in consistency and have a definite sweetness that is not overpowering. Light and airy are not characteristics of the filling – those belong to the shell.

Now a final word of caution: NO PRE-FILLING the cannoli shells. If you walk into a bakery and there are a stack of filled cannoli in the glass display case, don’t order them. They could have been sitting there since the Dharma Project’s last food drop.

The shells should be lined up, empty awaiting your order. Then, and only then, do they get their ricotta cream piped into them. This is because cannoli filling will make the super crispy and light shell a soggy, dense mess. True story.

As for toppings or additions to the cream filling, these are traditional and definitely allowed. I’m not a huge fan of succade, or chopped, candied citrus peel, I find that they don’t add much in terms of flavor and are just interruptions in the cream filling. Like speed bumps. I do, however approve of mini chocolate chips, either integrated into the cream or sprinkled on top. These do add flavor, and because they are firm, but not crunchy, an extra layer of texture. Pistachios often make an appearance, as does a nice dark chocolate dip. However, prepping the chocolate dipped varieties usually means pre-filling, so I’m not the biggest fan of this option.

OK, I think I’m done with my pastry-related tirade. Are you still here? I hope so, because Rocco’s cannoli are definitely worth the trip. To the West Village. In the pouring rain. And John doesn’t walk very quickly. So, if you’re going with him, you should know that.

Rocco’s has a lot of other treats that we didn’t sample. We went straight for the cannoli. But you might like to try some of these:

They sure looked tasty.

After navigating the somewhat confusing line (it seems that people just queue up in no particular order, and there’s no number system), we noticed the empty cannoli shells lined up in the back awaiting their creamy centers – a very good sign. We ordered 2, and got them to go.

Probably we should have enjoyed them at on of Rocco’s cafe tables. Instead, we ventured out into the pouring rain (did I mention that John walks slowly?) and to the PATH train to head back to Hoboken.

Both John and I are very impatient when it comes to food. We want to eat it NOW. Whatever it is. Now works. The train unfortunately arrived immediately, even as I was unwinding the intricately-laced bakers twine on the box.

John: “I have never wanted the train to NOT arrive before….” This said as I reluctantly returned the white box to its plastic bag.

Once on the train, all bets were off. Especially the ones saying “No Eating or Drinking on Path Trains”. John dove into his cannoli as I attempted to take photos of them on the moving train. Please keep in mind that we are professionals. You shouldn’t try this at home. Or anywhere.

I held off on eating mine as I wanted to take a nice glamor shot of it once back at my apartment (see the first photo for evidence of self-restraint). But I was curious, so I asked John some questions.

Me: “How is it?”

John: “Great.” (You might not think it, but this is actually very high praise from John).

Me: “Ummm…Could you give me more details? How’s the filling?”

John: “Awesome, man.”

I see.

Once I could sample mine in the comfort and stability of my non-moving apartment, I could tell that John was correct. It was a great cannoli. The shell was fried to perfection, and I detected a hint of cinnamon in the mix that added a subtle flavor. The cream was indeed awesome: a ricotta cream with very tiny and sparingly applied succade and topped with mini chocolate chips. I may have wanted the cream a bit thicker, but the flavor was true to form. The shell even maintained its crispiness throughout our soggy walk home, shattering as I bit into it (this is supposed to happen).

Rocco’s: a great place for awesome cannoli. Man.

Pasticerria Rocco
243 Bleecker Street
New York
New York, 10014

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I am still surprised (and delighted) that people read this blog. One loyal reader, Alison McGeary Stella, found us through Facebook. She and I went to the same High School and now, in addition to being a mom and a teacher, she makes cupcakes and other delicious desserts. I really like people that multi-task.

So I asked for some cupcakes. I thought I might be able to feature them on this blog. You might recall that John is generally apalled when I ask people for things. I’m not asking for blood, John – just cupcakes! Whatever.

Anyway! Alison was more than happy to put together a little cupcake care package for me. Which I did NOT share with John. I did, however, share them with Marmo.

The cupcakes we received from Alison were the following flavors:

The Ski Slope (requested by me): Dark chocolate cake with white chocolate mint filling and frosting.

Egg Nog: Egg nog/rum cake with egg nog flavored frosting and a graceful dusting of nutmeg.

Peanut Butter Cup: Chocolate cake topped with peanut butter frosting with a mini Reeses Cup inside (toy surprise!).

The conversation with Marmo and I went something like this:

Marmo: I know which one I want (she grabs the Ski Slope).

Me: That’s the one I want!

Marmo: Go get the other one, this one’s mine (she slices it in half). Oooo! Look – Filling!

I reach over and steal half of her cupcake. Marmo: Hey!

Me: Sorry, Mmmmffm mmeewy gwood.

Marmo: Ummm….What was that?

Me: Sorry, but that was good.

Marmo: Yeah….

So, we went on like this, tasting all the cupcakes and our professional (HA!) opinion is that they are awesome. The cake part is very moist – which I think is extremely important in a cupcake. I can’t have that little cake falling apart on me. I make enough of a mess, I don’t need any help.

The icing is fantastically flavored: hints of mint in the white chocolate variety; subtly spiced egg nog (arranged in a perfectly-shaped Hershey’s kiss dollop); and a creamy and delicate peanut butter. We are fans, officially.

If you’d like to order some of these little guys for your parties, events, or just to eat all by your darn self, you can visit Alison’s website here. And you can also check out all the other flavors and types of treats that she makes.

Many thanks for the cupcakes, Alison! I will tell John that it was very much worth bothering you for them.

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As Thanksgiving approaches, it has occurred to us, that while many of you may love food, maybe not all of you cook. Or bake. So we are taking it upon ourselves to help you find excellent food (in this case desserts) that other people have made for you.

Now, make no mistake: this is not food that is runner-up to home-cooked/baked fare. In fact, this IS home cooked/baked fare – it’s just been done by someone else. And it’s better than your grandma makes. Seriously. And I have nothing against your grandma, she’s a lovely woman. Tell her I said hi.

First up is Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. You may remember that they’ve been featured here before. Well, they are back. And for good reason: SEASONAL ICE CREAM FLAVORS. That’s right. In this case, the flavors are Pumpkin and Eggnog. These ice creams are just what you would want after your Turkey dinner to go with that Pumpkin Bread Pudding or Apple Pie (recipes forthcoming later this week). And they are mighty nice by themselves too. I should know, as both flavors barely survived this owl-themed photoshoot because I was eating them as I photographed. Not super-productive, but very, very tasty.

The pumpkin flavor, tastes exactly like the filling of the creamiest pumpkin pie, and the eggnog flavor is WAY better than real eggnog. It’s got a hint of that nog punch (I think the technical term for this is “nutmeg”) and something else (whisky?) whipped into a frenzy of deliciousness. You will want to eat it all the time.

For those of you that want a little cake with your ice cream (and who could blame you?) or just some cake, I have the perfect Thanksgiving cupcake treat: a pumpkin spice cupcake from City Cakes in NYC.

I can’t say enough about the moistness of the cake part of this cupcake. I really hate it when I bite into a cupcake and the thing crumbles in my hands. If all I wanted was a vehicle for frosting (and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that) then I would just eat frosting with a spoon. But I want the whole package. I love cake. Good cake. And I love pumpkin flavor. City Cakes puts these two loves together for me in this fabulous little cupcake with a cream cheese frosting that is the perfect complement to the spice of the pumpkin cake.

Evidence that the cake holds together:

When I got the cupcake (OK, I got four) from City Cakes, I thought, hey, I’ll just have a bite. Yeah, right. I downed that thing like someone was threatening to take it away from me. And so will your Thanksgiving guests.

So if you’re looking for a dessert that will make your guests happy, or at least keep you out of the kitchen so you can referee the shouting matches between Aunt Emily and Aunt Olga at the dinner table, check out Van Leeuwen and City Cakes.

* Both wonderful companies have many, many more flavors than the ones I’ve spoken about here. So check those out too! Pints of the seasonal ice cream flavors from Van Leeuwen are available only in the trucks. You can find out what part of the city the trucks are zooming around by following them on Twitter.

** You might want to follow City Cakes too while you’re at it – they announce flavors and specials via Twitter.

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