Tag Archives: cake

SusieCakes: another SF bakery to the rescue

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Thanks to SusieCakes, I now have a place where I can find the perfect slice of cake – chocolate, red velvet, coconut, or carrot cake-mood alike. The thing that gets me about most cupcake shops is that 1) they limit themselves to cupcakes when they could easily make cakes and 2) the cupcakes are laden with excess, sugary frosting, and 3) they are just too fancy for my taste. SusieCakes stocks their display case with a variety of beautifully frosted treats that are straight forward, homey, and scrumptious. It’s my west coast Amy’s Bread. My favorite? The red velvet mini cupcake, but for any homestyle flavor you’re craving, you really can’t go wrong here. They even sell SF Giants cupcakes.

tiny shop

tiny shop

red velvet

Halloween treats!

Halloween treats!

Definitely worth a special trip if you’re not in the neighborhood, or check out one of the 8 locations throughout California!

Grade: A+
Location: 2109 Chestnut btwn Steiner and Pierce Streets
Website

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Filed under Featured U.S. City Posts, San Francisco, Sugar Surge

Jane on Fillmore: a neighborhood café to die for

JAne

As bustling of a food-city that San Francisco is, I’ve always been disappointed by the lack of bakeries or coffee shops with awesome home-baked goods. New York City is chock-full of them – from Amy’s Bread to Billy’s Bakery, there’s a bakery available to the cookie obsessed and the cake fanatics in every neighborhood. Sure, San Fran has a few cupcake shops (I love Kara’s cupcakes off Chestnut), and incredible artisanal bakeries that aren’t as accessible to the Pacific Heights resident (Tartine is amazing), but homey cafés with an abundance of cakes, muffins, cookies, scones, and other butter, flour & sugar concoctions are SERIOUSLY lacking. Maybe my 4 years working at UC Davis’s Coffee House, which pumped out cakes (and cookie samples) by the hour, caused my withdrawal. Whatever it is, it’s a well justified concern.

jane from second floor

jane from second floor

Thankfully, Jane on Fillmore street has recently come to the rescue. Over the last few weeks of fun-employment, despite having the chance to explore all my neighborhood has to offer, I just can’t get enough of this café’s almond milk cappuccinos and scrumptious baked goods. The plentiful case displays more than enough options, but I can proudly say that I’ve pretty much tried every single one of them. They’ve got a buttery citrus brioche. A savory scone with ham, chives and cheese. Banana bread – both vegan and regular. A vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffin for those sweet-craving mornings. The blueberry-banana muffin for the days I’m pretending to eat a healthy breakfast. There’s also a “Cooking for Breakfast” cookie that’s subtly sweet and stuffed with dried fruit and oats, for those who those who like that sort of thing. The cookies – which include flavors like sprinkles, salted white chocolate chip oatmeal, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate toffee chip, and peanut butter-quinoa-millet are to die for, especially the ones that sandwich a scoop of cream cheese frosting. As I write this blog, I’m noshing on a “Crazy Cookie” filled with chips, chocolate chips, toffee, and marshmallow. True, it doesn’t get much crazier than this.

cappuccino

cappuccino

my fantasy display case

my fantasy display case

cake of the day

cake of the day

savory quiche

savory quiche

But that’s not all – Jane has amazing food to order as well, all homemade and most of the time organic. The granola – both vegan and regular – is like crack. I’ve bought them both, and I eat the oats by the handful. The breakfast sandwiches, like the one with egg, cheese, avocado, and roasted tomatoes stacked between two thick-cut pieces of griddled sourdough bread, are the perfect hangover helper. And the salads (there are about 10 of them) are fresh, healthy, and delicious, especially the ones with their house-made green goddess dressing. And how could I forget the energizing green smoothie with apple, lemon, kale, and ginger?

chopped veggie salad with green goddess dressing

chopped veggie salad with green goddess dressing

salad nicoise

salad nicoise

smoked salmon platter

smoked salmon platter

egg white breakfast sandwich

egg white breakfast sandwich

The space itself is beautiful as well – the natural light and the black and white motif are the perfect setting for zoning out on a laptop. And, though it’s always bustling in here, the energy is contagious, not overwhelming.

To put it lightly, I am freakishly obsessed with this place, and I fear that my pre-business school food budget is going to rapidly dwindle if my daily habit continues. But when I’m saddened by the thought of a day without a creamy almond milk cappuccino, I realize that it’s totally worth chipping into my school books’ budget. I’m just waiting for the day that the barista remembers my name.

Grade: A+
Location: 2123 Fillmore between Sacramento and California Streets
Website

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Filed under Brunch, Cheap Eat, Erin's Favorites, San Francisco

Sugar Surge: Mille Feuille cake at Lady M and Cafe Des Amis

Ever since Sushi of Gari ran out of the Lady M Green Tea Mille Feuille cake I had SO looked forward to eating, I was on a mission to try the luscious 27-layered dessert as soon as I could get my hands on it. Fortunately a trip to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center placed me near Todd English’s Food Hall, so I didn’t hesitate one second to splurge when I spotted the cake at the hall’s very own Lady M stand. For $8, the piece is small, but each layer of whipped cream makes every bite taste like a thousand cakes in one. The sweetness is subtle, the creaminess is undeniable, and for such a densely layered cake, it achieves the quality of lightness that most cakes do not. But despite it’s beauty and deliciousness, I can’t ignore the fact that it lacks in some diversity of flavor. Maybe I should’ve opted for the green tea, or maybe I’m just used to ingredient-packed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but the cake needs something to brighten its mildness.

photo 2

the display @ Todd English Food Hall

photo 4

Lady M Mille Feuille

photo 3

count the layers!

Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself sitting in front of San Francisco’s Cafe Des Amis version, which they call the “24-layer crepe cake,” served with orange chamomile syrup. At first I was shocked at the adulteration of such a wonderful classic, but when I took a bite, I instantly knew the problem had been solved. The citrus added a necessary brightness to the otherwise dull taste of the traditional version, and I was happy as a clam.

Cafe Des Amis version

Cafe Des Amis version

I’m sad to admit that a somewhat random restaurant’s version of mille feuille cake beat out that of the critically acclaimed Lady M. My recommendation to Lady M, if it ever were to make a difference? Add a little lemon zest in the whipped cream to really bring out the flavors of the crepe.

Lady M Location: Multiple locations; 41 East 78th Street @ Madison
Grade: 
B+

Cafe Des Amis Location: 2000 Union Street @ Buchanan
Grade: 
A

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Kitchen Adventures: Chunky Apple Cake

This weekend, I decided to make a feast for my sister and her visiting high school friends. Not only did I want to welcome them with hospitality, but I really wanted an excuse to test out some of the Fall recipes I’ve been collecting in anticipation of a special occasion. My homey meal was easy to prepare in advance and turned out to be a big success. My menu consisted of an array of cold-weather recipes: pesto hummus and warm sourdough breadsinister apple cider cocktails, spicy turkey sausage lasagna (my favorite lasagna in the world) and salad. But the greatest hit was the finale: my chunky apple cake with cinnamon whipped cream. 

Chunky Apple Cake (pictured with cream cheese frosting)

When I was brainstorming the menu, I knew at the start that I wanted to serve a moist, apple fall cake. Most of the recipes I found online, though, required a spring-form pan (which I don’t have), cake flour (which I didn’t want to buy), or excessive spices (which can be nauseating). After days of perusing through blogs and websites, I came across this simple one sheet apple cake that required nothing more than a bit of mixing and spreading in a rectangular pan – my kind of no fuss process. The recipe calls for cream cheese frosting, which happens to be one of my favorite things on earth, but considering the heavy meal I was serving I decided to go with a lighter topping and concocted my own cinnamon whipped cream. After tasting the deliciously light combination, I couldn’t imagine the cake with any other accompaniment.

with melted whipped cream

The best part about this recipe is that it’s about 1/3 batter to 2/3 apple chunks, which leads me to believe it’s healthier than the average cake. The batter is thicker than a regular cake batter, but when mixed with the apple chunks, it tends to thin out, making it easy to spread in the pan. I suggest preserving the cake in the refrigerator and either warming in the oven (350 degrees for about 5 minutes) or the microwave when ready to serve. Or, if you prefer like me, you can eat it cold! Considering the ease of this recipe and the rave reviews it received, I will definitely replicate it for my family over Thanksgiving – it’s a simple, lighter alternative to apple pie.

thick batter loosens up with addition of apples

batter in pan

finished product!

Apple Cake (adapted from Southern Living Magazine): 

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped in chunks
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Stir together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in apple slices and 1 cup walnuts. Spread into a greased 13- x 9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Dollop with cinnamon whipped cream (below); sprinkle with walnuts, if desired.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
Pour all ingredients into a cold stainless steel mixing bowl; blend on high until stiff peaks form.
Recipe Grade: A+

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Lulu Cake Boutique

You don’t have to be my friend to know how much I love bakeries. The world would be a better place with more bakeries. I was so thrilled to discover that a new cake shop called Lulu’s opened up just a block away from work, and a five minute walk from my apartment. From the website, Lulu’s came across as pretentious and expensive, similar to Eleni’s (looks over taste), but I made it a priority to stop by this week to make a fair assessment.

From the outside Lulu’s appears to be the Pinkberry of bakeries – with bright white walls, floors, and chairs, sales people in uniforms, and pristine display cases, this is one of the less “homey” bakeries I’ve visited, and more of what its name claims it to be: a cake boutique. Scanning the display case of neatly aligned treats, I had no sudden urge to buy a slice of cake as I normally do. The cakes are pre-sliced and far too fancy to entice me. The cookies and bars, however, appeared to be the best of the selection. I decided to stick to cookies for my first visit and purchased 4 to taste: an oatmeal raisin, a whole wheat walnut chocolate chip, a poppy seed thumb print, and a chocolate raspberry rugelach. They all appeared chewy and delicious, but when I got home to sample, I was disappointed. The whole wheat walnut chocolate chip, which appeared the roundest and chewiest of them all was actually crumbly and too tough to sink my teeth into. The oatmeal raisin was worst of all – with a texture as crisp as a matzoh cracker, it defied all rules of the American classic. The thumb print was pretty tasty, and fortunately, its butter content helped soften up the base, but there was nothing unique or stellar to make me say WOW when tasting it. My favorite of all was hands down the rugelach. Unlike the other cookies, the rugelach consisted of many layers with multiple flavors and textures, and I could actually bite down without crumbs exploding from my mouth.

Considering this place focuses on cakes, I can’t say that I’ve had sufficient experience to give it a fair review. However, I come away with the expectation that their products will never top what I can find just steps away at Amy’s bread, and my bakery of choice has no risk of shifting.

Grade: B-
Website: everythinglulu.com
Address: 112 8th Avenue btwn 15th and 16th streets

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Billy’s Bakery

As I take a bite of my precious Billy’s chocolate cupcake, I can say without question that Billy’s Bakery is my favorite sweets bakery on the planet. I used to live life in ignorance, joining in others’ profession that Magnolia reigned supreme, and would settle for mile-long tourist lines to eat dry cupcakes covered with excruciatingly sweet frosting. Little did I know that a cupcake could truly reach perfection.

Then my friend Lauren’s birthday occurred, and we dove into her favorite – Billy’s banana cake with cream cheese frosting. It looked like a masterpiece, and changed my perspective on cake bakeries forever. Since that day, I frequently make the short trip to 9th avenue and 22nd to fulfill my cupcake cravings. The thing is, everything at Billy’s is delicious, from the cupcakes to the brownies to the giant slices of moist chocolate cake, so I could never get bored of options. Their cakes are dense and fluffy at the same time, and their frosting is perfectly sweet and smooth.

I get my sweet tooth from my mother, who just so happened to be in town this weekend. While she shopped in Soho, I decided to pick up her favorite – Red Velvet cake – and two cupcakes for my sister, aunt, and me to share. The chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is always my favorite, but this time the red velvet cake with a light fluffy buttercream really won me over. I generally prefer my red velvet with cream cheese frosting, but the subtly sweetness of their white frosting was a perfect complement to the rich cake.

Bottom line: Billy’s is amazing. Their cream cheese frosting is the best out there, and their cakes make me dream at night! You’re lucky to not find a crowd in this place, but I suggest going on weekdays after work hours – they’re open until 11pm.

Grade: A

Website: http://www.billysbakerynyc.com
Address: 184 9th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Street

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