rolling out the pastry cart!

"The fine arts are five in number: namely, painting, sculpture, music, poetry and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry." ~ Marie-Antoine Carême (1783-1833).


Happy March! *licks lips*

A new month, a clean slate — time to shed our pjs, dive into bowls of creamy batter, and dip ourselves in velvety rich chocolate ganache. It’s been a tough winter, and the way I see it, we deserve to cavort with the custard. Care for a fondant au chocolat?

photo by Xiaozhuli.

Back in April 2009, we served up joyous portions of poetry and cake here at alphabet soup, but I barely got to lick my share of icing before the month was over. I wrote about the country’s insatiable appetite for cupcakes, especially the gourmet variety, and visited the much touted Georgetown Cupcake in the name of research. Since then, owners Sophie and Katherine have moved their flagship store to a larger location a block away, and opened a second shop in downtown Bethesda. What’s even sweeter is that they’ll also be starring in a brand new six episode TLC reality series, "Cupcake Sisters," which will air beginning in July. 

Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis.
photo credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post.

Yep. Cupcake mania is as rampant as ever. Every time I turn around, another cupcakery has popped out of the oven. The famous New York-based Crumbs (which already has 26 stores in the country), is set to open the first of five D.C. area stores in May, and co-founder Jason Bauer is quite confident that their cupcakes are far superior to all others. We shall see!

With the weather warming up, I can hear all those little cuppies callin’ me. Looks like a few foodie field trips are in order, not just in the name of cupcakes, but in celebration of bakers, bakeries, pâtisseries and pastry chefs (part of my civic duty). I have always wanted to own a bakery. My fantasy involves a quaint and cozy establishment oozing with charm, where the aroma of sweet buttercream frosting beckons like sugar-whisper sirens, exacting pure bliss. 

"Sweet Cafe" is available as an 8" x 8" unframed print here.
Isn’t this place cute? I think it’s in Brighton, England.

Have you noticed how people seem to smile more in bakeries? In the pastry palace of one’s dreams, anticipation reaches an all-time high, fueled by the thrill of luscious flour fantasies and tête-à-têtes with a pâte à choux. All those beautifully decorated gateaux! Those glass display cases full of éclairs, glazed doughnuts, bear claws, Danish, fruit tarts, cream pies, napoleons, jam-filled sandwich cookies, strudel, and of course, cupcakes! When I was little, supermarkets didn’t have a bakery section. We got our butter rolls and custard pies from Shan’s, our birthday cakes from Kilani Bakery. For really special occasions, a chocolate dobash cake from Kapiolani Bakery, or if you happen to be driving by, a haupia cake from Dee-Lite. Double yum.

Whenever our downtown relatives came to visit, they brought a box of Danish (love the custard filled ones), or a fresh apple pie, or warm, sugary malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts). I came to associate good times and family togetherness with baked treats. Left alone to my own devices, I also loved my stories sweet. Blame it on the baker’s man! I learned early on that food is poetry, and poetry is food: "Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can." I became fast friends with Little Jack Horner and Simple Simon, drooling over the pies. Is it any wonder dessert has flavored my speech ever since?

Vintage 1950’s Mother Goose illo from SurrendrDorothy’s photostream.

This month, I’m looking forward to reading (and possibly reviewing) as many cupcake, bakery, and pastry-related books as I can. On my list is The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler, It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder, Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper, What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, Pantaloon by Kathryn Jackson and Steven Salerno, Hamlet and the Tales of Sniggery Woods by Maggie Kneen, Pastry School in Paris by Cindy Neuschwander and Bryan Langdo, and Sisters Club: Rule of Three by Megan McDonald. 

I’ll also be talking cupcake with a couple of special guests and researching some types of pastry I’m not familiar with: e.g., macaron. (You never know when you’ll win a free trip to Paris, so it’s best to be up on these things.) Of course there’ll be delicious poetry on Fridays and a chat with Gianna Marino, an alphabet artist after my own heart. Looks like March will be a month of sweet indulgence, so I hope you’ll stop by often.

Before you go, help yourself to a cookie, in honor of Dr. Seuss’s 106th birthday today!

photo by Sweetie’sBakeshop.

BTW, do you know of any other bakery/pastry-related books I should read? I’d like to add to my cake and pie thematic picture book lists, and compile a list of chapter book/middle grade titles. While you’re here, can you think of any good movies featuring bakery scenes? Thanks!!

In the Night Kitchen (Maurice Sendak) photo by monkeysox.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.