A rose, by any other name is just as sweet, but even better if I can eat it.
Boo, my daughter, is planning her own cupcake café. She’s only 10 years old, you must understand, but she’s got a notebook devoted to the cupcake varieties that she’ll sell. In keeping with the cupcake fixation that’s overtaken her life, and presumptively ours as well, she’s reading The Cupcake Diaries, a series I wish was around when I was her age. It’s interesting reading for serious foodies-in-the-making, as my little girl is.
The cupcakes I’m trying today with Boo are from The Flour Girl aka Nicole Uy. It’s not a stretch to see why she’d call herself as such. “A friend once asked me what I’m good at,” Nicole recounts, “and I answered, ‘anything that has to do with flour.’” Cupcakes are made with flour and it’s what The Flour Girl sells “…since that’s what most customers look for.” In Manila’s dessert roster, cupcakes are a constant but since everyone offers them, bold statements are what’s needed to catch my attention.
The Vanilla Rose is just the ticket and so appropriate for Valentine’s Day, too. A carefully crafted rose breathes life into buttercream, it adorns a dense cake and is decorated with dragées, delicate pearls dotting curves. The cake needed to carry such beauty needs structure surely, but this cake could use just a little less density, but not by much. You must be prepared however for the frosting, imbued as it is with rose water or something similar; Nicole calls it “rose-flavored.” The flavor is full-on flower, focused and unfiltered. It takes some getting used to but Boo, my burgeoning expert on all things cupcake, likes it. My Bin has no problem with it either, says the rose flavor is so prominent that it’s almost candy-like. You decide.
Nicole makes the best Salted Caramel cupcakes that’ve graced my dessert plate. Smatterings of salt point up a glaze cooked just enough for that burnt edginess I look for in a good caramel – a bite, a taste, and ooh, that hit of salt at the back of the throat for a finish. This is Nicole’s bestselling cupcake and it’s easy to see (taste!) why. It’s a jewel she took home from one of her internships in New York City where she graduated from the Classic Baking and Pastry Arts program at The French Culinary Institute two years ago.
I appreciate that Nicole pays attention to accentuating the flavors of her cupcakes which include Banana Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Carrot, and her Chocolate Orange cupcake is infused with sugar rubbed with orange rind. I imagine how marvelous it must be and I’m upset that I don’t get to taste it because a visitor helps himself to it while I’m out. Since my house is known as the “house of never-ending dessert,” I occasionally get – hmm, I’ll call them, “visitors,” – who pop in and help themselves to whatever’s in the fridge or on my dining table. Note to self: attach a Do Not Touch sign on desserts being deliberated on. As I’m shooting Nicole’s cupcakes, Boo fixes the L-O-V-E above them while nibbling on the Red Velvet. I forget to tell her to leave me some. Must’ve been good.
But more, much more than the cupcakes, and what bring unmixed delight to me are Nicole’s Sticky Buns. Everyone makes cupcakes but not everyone makes bready, sticky things. Boo tells me that she’ll offer “Cinn Rolls” in her someday-café using my recipe, but for now, Nicole’s will do. “I’ve been trying to bake a good batch of cinnamon rolls for my family since I was young, but it was never a success,” she recalls. Reasoning that it was her lack of knowledge in bread baking, she set out to redeem herself upon her return from pastry school. Made from a brioche dough, the rolls are enmeshed in a spicy cinnamon paste clinging to crevices and whorls. Caught in the middle are walnuts and pecans with raisins adding a bit of black to a blend of brown. There’s supposedly some liquor in these rolls – I don’t taste them – and yes, I wish that they could be just slightly more gooey, but they’re wonderful warmed up and ripped into with abandon.
As I’m finishing up the shoot of Nicole’s desserts, Boo turns to me and shows me her now-expanded list of cupcake varieties that are no doubt inspired by Nicole’s. One day, not too far away, I’ll have my own Flour Girl at home.
The Flour Girl by Nicole Uy
0917 543 6350
On FaceBook: theflourgirlbakery