Saturday, September 15, 2007
Vanilla Bake Shop, Santa Monica
From the stenciled awning to the highly designed interior stocked with miniature desserts and glass jars filled with fake colored coordinated candies, Vanilla feels more like a dollhouse than a bakery.
Perhaps the best part of Vanilla’s offerings is the miniature sized treats allowing for sampling from the impressive variety. Each day features different cupcake flavors (menu is online).
I shared the shot glass of banana pudding in the shop and brought home a half dozen mini cupcakes (secured to the box with a dab of frosting).
The pudding was the perfect little bite presented like a layered trifle: crumbled vanilla wafers topped with custard, sliced bananas and whipped cream. There were other shot glass sized pudding/cream/cake/frosting combos called “ice box minis.”
With flavors like (bittersweet Callebaut chocolate mousse, crushed dark chocolate crumbles and whipped vanilla bean cream) (raspberries, blueberries and blackberries sandwiched between pound cake, vanilla custard, vanilla whipped cream, layered with Callebaut white and milk chocolate crumbles), and deconstructed key lime pie and meyer lemon tarts, these may well be more worthy of a future visit than the cupcakes. The same are available in larger quantities in varying sized mason jars.
Supposedly the owner of Vanilla has spent years perfecting her vanilla frosting but on the vanilla cupcake I was actually more impressed with the beany aroma of vanilla in the cake than the frosting, tasting like a basic butter cream. If this cake were paired with the vanilla frosting from Big Sugar bakeshop in Studio City, I may actually be sold on white on white cake.
In general all of the cakes, unfortunately more common than not in a cupcake, were on the dry side. The banana chocolate chip cupcake tasted like a day-old banana muffin studded with tiny chocolate chips. The peanut butter cake with milk chocolate frosting was fine but neither the peanut or chocolate was enhanced enough for adult enjoyment. Even when faced with the promising name, bittersweet dark chocolate, I’ve learned not to expect chocolate satisfaction from a cupcake (although the ones at Joan’s on Third come close). The cake, hinting of “dark chocolate” could not hold up to the flavor of the bittersweet chocolate frosting. Frosting for frosting, I’d prefer the layer of ganache coating the chocolate cupcakes at Joan’s. The ideal quantity of frosting on a cupcakes is a point of argument surrounding the cupcake shops around town but I think that if the quality is high, a thin spread is ample and a liberal dollop is not unappreciated.