I finally caved and checked out the Vanilla Bake Shop while I was down in Santa Monica for the Wednesday Farmer’s Market. The store is small and cute, to be sure, and the counterpeople were so pleasant and eager to help that impulse buys came easily.
At the moment of my visit, every single customer in the store was a woman, and two of them were buying loads of desserts that had to be carried out in large shopping bags. Who loves sweets THAT much and who are the lucky people these women are buying that many goodies for? Or maybe these ladies-who-lunch were purchasing some of the $150 couture cakes (i.e. 14-inch chocolate truffle made of bourbon dark chocolate cake, creamy Callebaut chocolate mousse in satiny dark chocolate ganache).
I looked at the glass cases filled with all manners of desserts from icebox tiramisu to cupcake babies. I paused before the beautiful regular-size cupcakes ($3.25 each) but opted for the cupcake babies (about 1-3 bites of cupcake depending on how famished you are). At a smaller size, I’d be able to try more flavors and at three for $5.
But I don’t know what happened; I ended up with six. It’s just that three didn’t seem like enough, especially considering how many flavors they were offering. I chose Mom’s Birthday Cake, Southern Red Velvet, Bittersweet Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Raspberry and Fudgy Brownie.
They carefully packaged it in a box specially sized to contain all six babies. A sign near the case warned customers to be careful while transporting the babies, saying that they need to be carried upright to prevent them from getting ruined. Aw.
Once at the register, my eyes lingered a little too long on the variety of icebox desserts in the refrigerated case and I added an icebox dirt cake dessert shot ($2) to my order.
It was a little sumthin-sumthin in a tiny plastic cup with a tiny plastic spoon sticking out. Layers of creamy chocolate mousse and whip cream blended with vanilla beans with crumbles of dark chocolate cake on the bottom. How did they prevent the chocolate crumbs from not getting packed together? I polished off that baby right away when I was only 10 steps from the store. That was $2? Its small amount reminded me of the sample sizes you get at dessert tastings. Pretty decadent.
Back at my desk, I waited til the 3pm sugar jones hit me to break into the white box. First up, the sparkly chocolate vanilla cupcake. Topped with vanilla frosting and bedazzled with green sequin-y sprinkles. It looked like a tiny birthday present. Twas OK. The cake was moist and the frosting was smooth and creamy but not overly sweet.
Next was the Southern Red Velvet, the staple of many a cupcake joint. I wasn’t too impressed with it. It had a grainy texture and wasn’t as moist as the other cupcakes for some reason. The frosting had a hint of cream cheese sourness but very subtle. I was glad that I had it cupcake baby size and didn’t pay for a regular size one.
I gave the Fudgy Brownie one away to a co-worker and saved the bittersweet dark chocolate and Mom’s Birthday cake for tomorrow. The latter I’ve had before and loved because it does remind me of the Duncan Hines cakes my mom used to make when I was a kid. And the bittersweet dark chocolate one, I’m sure I’ll like cuz you can’t go wrong with dark chocolate.
The chocolate raspberry one was delish. At first I hesitated before eating it, contemplating whether I should give that away, too, since I’m not exactly cuckoo for chocolate and berries together but its dark chocolate color swayed me. It was soo rich but not overwhelmingly so. I LOVE dark chocolate and this didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t too bitter and it was sweet but fortunately the size was small enough where I wouldn’t feel sick.
Anyhoo, I love the options of the cupcake babies (and love that they’re called “babies”). Sometimes a regular size cupcake — even though it, too, is simply a mini cake — can seem like too much.
FYI, on the cupcake menu, there are six daily flavors in addition to five rotating flavors (with the odd stuffed cupcake thrown in) every day except Monday.
But enough about cupcakes, I think I wanna give those icebox desserts a try. There are different types of cakes (Southern Banana Pudding, Dirt Cake, Tiramisu, or Triple Berry Shortcake) stuffed in jars (small $8, large $16). So weird and so intriguing.
Vanilla Bake Shop
512 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, California 90401 (map)