Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Tale Of Three Bakeries

Ever since discovering the Miette website a few years ago, my dream was to take some baking lessons with the bakery one day. When their book came out last year, I hunted for friends who were coming back from the US to bring me a copy. Of course now I am waiting for the revised edition because the first edition has many mistakes, something to do with the conversion in weight.

I never thought that I'd be seeing Miette cakes in person. I know, I sound like a star-struck kid but I really identify with the way the cakes are decorated. I love simplicity in cakes and Miette's Tomboys especially are  to me the epitome of a simple classy cake. Watch this video of how the Miette Tomboys are frosted.

Fishermen's Wharf (Pier 39) in San Francisco was fun the first and second times I visited (the second time was with Hub, Yi and Ming, 15 years ago) but the third time, this time, I found it really touristy and even cheesy. The only things I like are the sea lions. They seem to have not moved in 15 years. They still make "ounkounk" sounds like sea dogs.

1 Ferry Building a few blocks down from Pier 39 is a restored ferry terminal (there are dozens of ferry terminals along the Embarcadero waterfront) that houses upscale gourmet markets and restaurants. The most famous restaurant in the building is The Slanted Door, a modern (westernized)Vietnamese restaurant. Yi had the privilege of dining there one night but she was not impressed although her companions, all non-Asians, were, so she didn't want to seem uppity when they raved about the food. Over and over, I've found that the really fancy Chinese/Asian restaurants are more on presentation and fame rather than taste and the patrons are usually corporate high spenders. The best food I've had actually are those in less fancy restaurants, frequented by 'locals'.

Miette (meaning small and sweet) is pronounced "mee-at", the cashier told me when I gushed about how happy I was to be finally there. Started by Meg Ray, the bakery now has four locations. I went to the Ferry Building location but found out later that the Jack London Sq location was near to where I was staying.


Finally, I saw the Tomboys in person! I could hardly control my excitement. Unfortunately, we were going to be out the whole day so bringing a whole cake along with us would not be wise. It turned out true because we ended the night on a wild tram ride on the hilly streets of San Francisco.


I shielded these cupcakes, hanging to the pole on the tram and they didn't end up too badly squashed. I love the one on the left the most. The icing was really good, soft, pillowy and slightly sticky. All the cupcakes were delicious and my impression was that they tasted like they were made with the best ingredients any home baker would use. 

Walking home alone one night on 8th Avenue, NYC, I saw a this bakery, Empire Cake.


I bought 3 cupcakes (dulce de leche, raspberry and red velvet) and they were all SO good. Two of them had filling inside and I decided that that's how I like my cupcakes from now on.

On our final day in NYC, I made sure we had breakfast at Empire Cake. Turned out all they had was cakes so yes, it was cupcakes for breakfast.




Peanut frosting and raspberry filling--omg, so goood!

A coconut bomb.

One day, we were on Fifth Avenue and came upon this bakery. *gasp* Magnolia Bakery! I've seen their books, made their cupcakes.

The bakery was so full of people, we couldn't even squeeze into it. We left and went back again on another day and it was still packed. I couldn't take photos without sticking my head in between people.



Magnolia Bakery's new cupcakes for the new Ghost show that just opened on Broadway the day we arrived in NYC.

Every bakery we went, red velvet cupcakes were the hit items.

This was not just the reddest red velvet cake I've ever eaten, it was also one of the worst. Utterly disappoiinting, since it was Magnolia's and the store was swamped with tourists. Which explains it. I am more and more skeptical of highly rated restaurants and eateries, especially those rated by Tripadvisors and so on. This was dry and awful, the frosting tasted of commercial frosting my daughter said. I agree and we threw the rest of the cake away.

The devil's food cake was even more disappointing. Overly sweet, dry and lacking any chocolate flavor. We took a bite each and threw this away as well. I think Magnolia Bakery is over-rated and quality has been compromised by its success. 

Since we didn't have access to the Internet, I didn't find out until I was about to leave NYC that Magnolia Bakery is not even rated in many cupcakes polls. That doesn't matter because tourists can't get enough of the cupcakes although I wonder how many of them would go back for seconds. I baked Magnolia's vanilla cupcakes before and they were very good so my guess is that they are compromising on quality because of the overwhelming demand. Here's a video of their recipe and how to get that Magnolia frosting swirl if you are still keen. Based on this, this and this, the top consistently highly rated cupcakes in NYC are from Two Little Hens, ChikaLicious, Baked, Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Anybody has any comments on NY cupcakes?


Mandy said...

so you dont have internet access! no wonder i didnt hear from you!! look like you covered lots of great places! did you go up to the highline not too far from the chelsea market?

Michelle Chin said...

You should try the red velvet cheesecake... It was the best red velvet thing I ever had!

I actually hate red velvet a lot!

Simply June said...

I was very disappointed with Magnolia's cupcakes as well. I forgot what I had, but remembered that it was dry and not great.

Eil said...

I was there in early April and decided to try the real Magnolia (mainly to try the frosting!) since I normally use their recipes too. I tried chocolate cupcake w vanilla frosting was good - cake was reasonably chocolate-y, frosting was smooth and sweet and buttery, although I couldn't bear to take more than one spoonful of frosting, just knowing how much sugar goes into it. I agree the velvet cupcake was atrocious (quarters of the cupacke were given out as samples), but you should note that it is their standard frosting, but 'whipped vanilla'. I threw the red velvet away after a small taste too.

ng said...

I agree with you that Magnolia cupcakes are not good anymore. I only love their banana pudding there. Banana, vanilla wafers, condensed milk and cream, all soaked up. Yum!
Next week when I go to SF, will go to Miette. Thanks!

terri@adailyobsession said...

mandy: mandy! i gmailed you! i didn't get a reply n thought you changed ur mind about meeting up so i didn't push it:( would've loved to meet up with you over tea n cakes:0 yes we did go to highline, but we took the metrot o hell's kitchen, saw there was nothing much there n then walked all the way to highline. such a sperb idea, the park.

michelle: where? magnolia, miette or empire? i really don't get the hype over red velvet. then again, they taste good. maybe it's the thrill of eating smthing unhealthy?

simplyjune: high5

eil: what i didn't like was how commercial magnolia cakes tasted. tt devil's food cake didn't even taste of choc. shame. miette cakes tasted of good quality ingredients.

ng: oh no i ate the werong thing. but surely if the bakery is good, a random pick shd still be edible? ok ,thnx for the link, will check it now. hv a fun trip in sf. envy ur being able to be there:0


timjaymom said...

You went to Miette! *so jealous*!!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

timjaymom: i'm jealous too, of myself lol! seriously, their cakes were good but not undoable at home. u n i can bake cakes as good as miette:)

Mandy said...

really?! it could have ended up in my spam folder! :( i looked but cant find it anymore! what a shame! would have love for you and yi to come see the bakery and eat some pastries. :( I thought maybe you were too busy that's why you changed your mind about meeting. sigh.....

NT said...

i only get two things at magnolia cupcake: the chocolate one w marshmallow filling inside and their banana pudding. i find their cupcakes too dry and sweet.

my favorite cupcake shop in new york is crumbs. they also have it in LA & Beverly Hills.

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