My Sugar Series (December 2008) is made up of desserts that I’ve enjoyed recently. Because the holidays spell sweet excess, impress the people you love with any of the following desserts. They’re guaranteed to make an impression on them as they did on me.
Other desserts in this series:
Ann Puno’s Choc-Nut cake
“Nutter” About Peanut Butter
A “Fruitcake” To Fall In Love With
Pleasure for Plaisir
San Lo’s Famous…
Hazelnuts and Lemons
Delicious as Only DÃ¨lize Does It
NOTE: This series ends on Friday, Dec. 19, 2008.
Len (Elaine) Lo is one baker who never forgets about me. She makes a birthday cake for me every February and she sends me samples of her new creations at least twice a year. This year, she made me a cake with my name on it. Incredible! (Couldn’t resist making it this post’s cover photo!) Another time, she even gave me little note cards with my name on it ”“ a gift I love because I love stationery. And she’s been to all but one of my Dessert Comes First events. To me, she’s a treasure and a friend.
That’s why I couldn’t have been happier for Len when she told me about her newest venture.
Every (home) baker dreams of opening up their own store, a flagship of their hard work. For Len, that time has come. Together with her sister, Carla, the pair has opened Carla & Elaine’s, their bakery. Debuted just last December 10, the small space entices amidst the flux and pulse that is San Juan.
Inside, it’s an oasis of placid pink awash in aromas of butter and sugar ”“ what every bakery should (must) smell like. Packages of cookies, bars, and sweet loaves line the shelves, a center table displays a collection of articles, one of which ”“ I’m thrilled to see — is mine, written when I was still a columnist for Appetite magazine. The store’s stars are Carla’s beautifully crafted cakes, multi-tiered affairs that define every celebration. Len bakes the cakes and Carla dresses them up, though the two are equally adept at doing either task. On a table nearby are little sample bowls. Today, it’s cubes of pound cake, peppermint brownies, and the cigarette-wafers used to decorate their famous Concorde cake.
Meantime, the sun is streaming in through the glass window illuminating the desserts inside the pastry case, Len’s handiwork, framed by a whimsical photo collage accented by an obviously well-loved kitchen mitt.
My absolute favorite in this bakery is the Almond Toffee Crunch, a dessert that’s making me rethink my concept of what makes a good chocolate cake. Alternating layers of chocolate cream and chocolate cake ”“ midnight on deep khaki ”“ are plied with shards of almond-studded toffee: an interruption of crunch resounding through swathes of satiny cream and a softly dense cake. Dreamy and indulgent, it’s the textural variety that prevents the palate from monotony.
I believe that Carla & Elaine’s Frozen Sansrival is an example of a good dessert done well. While bakers currently try to beat each other in the battle of the frozen brazos, Carla and Elaine have turned their attention to sansrival. With a keen eye on flavor and texture, they’ve created a pastry without peer: crackly-thin layers of meringue sandwiching homemade ice cream that glimmers with vanilla. It’s a confluence of cool, crackly, and creamy, a creation whose flavor is complex as it is subtle.
Carla & Elaine
G/F Promenade Bldg, Wilson corner P. Guevara Sts., San Juan
http://www.carlaandelaines.com / http://www.cbcarla.com (under construction)