Look for dark red color and airy textures
in red velvet cake. Carefree Patisserie,
304 5th St., West Des Moines, 277-0705.
Hours are Tuesday through Wednesday, 11
a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 11:30
a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
Bake Shoppe, 6611 University Ave., Windsor
Heights, 255-2253. Hours are Monday through
Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. ad Sunday,
8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Crème Cupcakes, 1701 South Union St., 554-9007.
Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to
5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon.
Cupcakes are a 21st century super trend, even
replacing layered cakes in many weddings. A
search engine quest turned up more than a dozen
cupcake businesses in Des Moines. Not that many
were real stores, though, more like websites
for ordering cupcakes for delivery. Many offered
free delivery, too. There’s a drawback, though.
Wedding planners warn that some cupcake businesses
don’t work out of inspected kitchens, nor carry
insurance. As long as one doesn’t provide on-site
retail sales, it’s legal in Iowa to make such
products out of the house, even with dogs, cats
or pests. I decided to stick to storefront cupcakes.
Carefree Patisserie operates in a quaint Valley
Junction building. It’s no small business, though
— they just landed a contract with the state
fair for 20,000 “fair squares.” Chef and operating
partner Jennifer Strauss said she always sells
10 fresh cupcakes flavors a day, from a repertoire
of 101. Last week, a Blue Hawaii delivered pineapple
rum cake with blue citrus butter cream. Strauss
says butter cream is the most important ingredient
in cupcakes. Hers is made in 60 to 80 gallon
batches, by the company’s only male employee,
with sugar that is uncooked when it’s added.
She also advised party planners to be sure that
cupcake stands are sturdy — hers are all metal
or acrylic and imported from London where the
wedding cupcake fad originated.
She suggested that for comparison sake, one
should taste red velvet cupcakes “because they
are the easiest to mess up. It’s very tricky
the way your acid oxidizes your cocoa to turn
it red. The darker the red, the better the cake.”
Having only tasted red velvet cakes that added
food coloring to white cake, I didn’t even know
authentic red velvet was a chocolate cake.
At Crème Cupcakes, owner Christine Moffat said
she’s moving to the old Great Harvest Bakery.
When the move is complete, she will add dessert-only
dinner service, with former Baru Pastry Chef
Jess Dunn creating the menu. Moffatt thinks
the key ingredient in cupcakes is butter. She
uses a high-fat butter and never substitutes
oil or shortening.
“You don’t want the greasy aftertaste that
shortenings like Crisco leave. And don’t put
so much sugar in your frosting that you can’t
taste the flavors.”
She described her red velvet cake as half Southern
style (with cream cheese frosting and cider
vinegar for oxidizing acid) and half Waldorf
style (adding vanilla). She said she always
uses vanilla paste, never extract.
At The Bake Shoppe in Windsor Heights, long
loved for rye bread and petit fours, I found
10 different flavors of cupcakes. At $1 to $1.25,
they were considerably less expensive than the
others I found, even from delivery-only services.
Bottom line — Carefree’s red velvet was the
most chocolaty and deepest red. Crème’s was
subtler with both vanilla and chocolate tones
and the airiest texture. Bake Shoppe’s frosting
was by far the sweetest, and its crumb hardly
tasted of chocolate at all.
Baru 66 collaborated with Carefree Patisserie
to sell out two sittings, on a Monday, for this
all dessert menu: Smoked pork belly with caramel
corn shake; Foie gras mousse with rhubarb confit;
Tuna tataki with wasabi sorbet and ginger espuma;
Minestrone with cheese panna cotta; Cocoa rubbed
ribeye with white chocolate Bernaise; Sophia
ashed chevre with brown butter cake, apple relish
and Calvados jelly; Chocolate mousse torte with
hazelnut praline, chocolate ganache, brandied
cherries and cherry sorbet. CV