After 2 weeks of non-stop travel, my first week back home in Paris has been pretty busy. I had an amazing time in my hometown of New York. It was nice to visit with some old friends and satisfy my cravings for some of my favorite foods like pizza, chinese, burgers and cupcakes! But it wasn't all vacation; I did work on some very fun projects while I was there......
A few weeks before I left for New York an old friend from pastry school called to ask if I would be interested in creating a cupcake with him for a new restaurant he's opening later this year in Manhattan. Would I? You bet! I answered.
24 hours before we were to meet, Tomas called and briefly described to me the restaurant concept. He spoke about some of the dishes and desserts they would be serving and asked me to focus on the color white (this fits in with the overall restaurant theme but I don't want to divulge too much so let's leave it at that). I met up with Tomas at a friend's restaurant bearing several bags of different ingredients I thought would come in handy. Since their cuisine is to be primarily fusion with a nod to Tomas' homeland of Thailand, I had something sweet and spicy in mind. For some reason I could not get the image of white-blond rocker Billy Idol out of my head and his song Hot in the City. Tomas wanted something different but easy enough to recreate at any time of year, something traditional with a unique twist. I love cupcake tastings and assembling all the various options of a new flavor combo. In total, we tried 6 different cupcakes, each had between 4-7 different iterations and unanimously settled on a winner. Keeping with the white theme, we concocted a coconut cupcake with a white pepper-macadamia nut-cocount cream filling and a white chocolate ganache mohawk frosting. Tomas of course has my permission to modify the cupcake as he and his partners see fit. I wish them lots of luck and patience over the months to come as they secure their funding and get ready for the big opening. I'm tickled pink to have been invited to work with them and look forward to our cupcake's NY debut!
I also had the opportunity to spend a day with Elisa Strauss, the founder of Confetti Cakes, to learn the art of gumpaste flowers. All I can say is that I had an amazing time - I love Elisa! She is a patient and enthusiastic teacher, clealy dedicated to her craft and is so very talented at what she does. Her cake studio is decorated with cake dummies from her books and they are just as incredible in real life as on the printed page. In 5 hours, we were able to cover a number of different flowers and I can't wait to try them for myself at home. I would highly recommend taking a class with Elisa to anyone in the area or further afield. A huge thank you to Elisa for taking me under her wing as a student for the day - I look forward to seeing you again (maybe one day in Paris?) and taking another class in the future.
One of the things I loved most about my visit to the US was the TV programming -- Cupcake Wars, Amazing Wedding Cakes, Last Cake Standing, etc., I could not get enough! Even my kids were hooked. I was so impressed by the skills of all these bakers and the unbelievable flavor combinations and structures they assembled in such a short period of time - 1000 cupcakes in 3 filled varieties with hand-made decorations in 2 hours! You have got to be kidding me! I still don't know how they managed to pull that one off. So, when my best friend's husband "challenged" me to take on Crumbs in a red velvet taste-off, I could not say no. Red velvet is one of my favorite cupcake varieties and I think I make a pretty darn good one. Thankfully, this request came in before I left Paris, so I traveled with a sachet of pre-assembled dry ingredients to NY.
Finding the equivalent of the butter, buttermilk, oil, etc. that I use was a challenge enough in a NYC supermarket (and wow was it expensive!) as was baking in my friend's apartment. You know that joke "My wife makes dinner every night...her favorite thing to make? Reservations!" Well, that sums up my friend perfectly. So when it dawned on me that I hadn't thought to bring vanilla beans for the frosting, I had to make due with the only thing I could find in her cabinets -- French Vanilla flavored Splenda! The horror! I wasn't present for the taste-off but my friend later told me her hubby and his family were "raving about my cupcakes" so I'll take that as a thumbs up. :)
As I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, we did a lot of eating while in NYC and I'd love to share some of my favorite addresses with you (especially for cupcakes)! This post is aready getting long so I'll fill you in next time about where we ate and the new cupcakeries we explored......
Crumbs Red Velvet photo courtesy of tambbr.blogspot.com