12/9/14

Did I just find the best cupcake in Pasadena?

As of late, we have been spending a good amount of time in Pasadena. Of all the places we have been so far in the Los Angeles area,Pasadena feels the most ‘us’. Perhaps one day we will set up home there but for now we are having fun exploring. With me around, that is always going to include checking out the foodie scene.

Happily, I can report that Pasadena has a very healthy foodie scene indeed. Putting aside the plethora of independent food spots, the town has its own outposts of Dupars, Rounds Premium Burgers and Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Factor in the inclusion an Arclight movie theater and just about everything that I have come to enjoy in LA is within a few well-manicured blocks of one another.  Oh and Old Pasadena alone has a British pub (though really it is a wannabe style place but I’ll take it) and at least three Indian places that I counted.  So, yeah,I could probably be happy in Pasadena.

By the standards of a foodie, no town can be given a proper thumbs up without the availability of decent cupcakes.  Really. I’m not sure I trust somebody that would turn their nose up to a good cupcake. To be fair though, cupcakes are a bit of a thing for me. It isn’t an accident that a cupcake ended up in the hand of the Doughgasm girlie. So, maybe others don’t give them such prominence in their foodie rating system but I do and that meant checking out the cupcakes of Pasadena.

In the Summer, I dragged Chris to a food truck event at the Rose Bowl. It is one of those events where you pay a hefty price to get in but then you are able to sample from all of the vendors once you are inside. I’m a bit of a sucker for them and this one and the LA Weekly event in the Spring are the two I make a point of attending. Each year, I discover a bunch of places that we then go visit throughout the rest of the year.  Already since this year’s LA food truck event we have become regulars at Short Order and Salt & Straw (how have I note done an entry about them yet?!?)  purely off the back of having tried their samples at the event.

Now we can add ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake to that list. At the food truck event, Chris was particularly taken with their Brown Butter Bacon cookie. I think it may have been one of only a few dishes that drew him back for a second helping. On my part, I was just happy to be trying a cupcake from a bakery that had won on Cupcake Wars.

Purely by accident, we found ourselves driving by their storefront on our first day out in Pasadena. For a moment we considered exercising restraint but then we regained our senses and headed in to check out what ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cakes had to offer.

Chocolate cake is a good benchmark of the quality of a cupcake place for me. Remarkably few get it right. Lack of a real chocolate taste or moisture are the most frequent casualties. So, on our first visit to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake, I gave their Black + White cupcake a try.  My thumbs went up as soon as I tasted the dark chocolate cake. It was super moist and I could taste the chocolate. Which, if you are going to say something is dark chocolate is a requirement. Also pleasing was the creamy vanilla frosting. It was light and fluffy with just the right level of sweetness to contract the dark chocolate.

Chris went all out chocolate and had their Chocolate + Chocolate cupcake. It certainly looked delightful and from his reports it was every bit as tasty as my cupcake.

Cool, I thought. We found a cupcake place we like and we can go back to now and then. Now and then has turned into most weekends for the past month. At this stage it may all be bordering on an addiction. Doughgasms  have a tendency to be habit forming. Understandable when each time we’ve gone to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake the cupcake I’ve had has been even better than the previous offering.

Much of the enjoyment for me is the creativity shown in their menu. I’ve never seen much point to having a vast cupcake menu if most of them never see the light of day. For the most part that leaves you with the same red velvet and yellow cake with chocolate frosting cupcakes that is on everybody’s menu. ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake has those too but each time there has  also been something truly different to tickle my taste buds.

Deciding to try the Nutella Supreme cupcake was a bit of a ‘duh’. The base vanilla bean cupcake was ultra moist and of overall high quality.

Nutella Supreme Cupcake

Looking at the frosting on the Nutella cupcake, I made the assumption that it would have been a hard set frosting. Most likely, that illusion was created by the liberal scattering of hazelnut chunks. I was pleasingly surprised when I bit into the cupcake to find that the chocolate-hazelnut frosting was actually a super light whipped frosting. Both the taste and the consistency created by the pairing of the frosting with sizable chopped hazelnuts resulted in a sensation reminiscent of of a Ferrero Rocher. Rarely a bad thing.

Next up on the ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake adventures was the Chocolate Bacon Caramel cupcake.  I was skeptical. The whole bacon in baked goods thing has been pretty well played out now. To the point where I’ve nearly forgotten that I rather like bacon. Kind of like when you like a song but you’ve heard it too many times that it has become more of an annoyance than entertainment.  Salted Caramel is also something that tends to make me a doubter because it is one of my favorite flavor profiles but there are so many lackluster salted caramel offerings from shops that think you just need to chuck a bit of sea salt on something for it to qualify.

My doubts were completely unjustified. The chocolate bacon caramel cupcakes were amazingly good. Letting the ingredients do the talking was the trick. The moist dark chocolate cupcake had a rich chocolate taste, the fudge frosting was dense enough to hold up to the caramel and bacon topping but light enough to not dominate.

The caramel and bacon were so buttery and yummy that I probably would have licked the excess caramel off of the paper if we hadn’t been eating it on a public street. That’s how a fat girl ends up a Vine meme!

It will take some doing for another cupcake shop to make a bacon cupcake that I enjoy more than I enjoyed the Chocolate Bacon Caramel cupcake from ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake.

As great as those cupcakes have been though, this weekend’s visit to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake I had the best cupcake I have had in a very long time.  Even better, it was unlike any other cupcake I have had in my life. I’m talking about the Armaaan Baklava Cupcake.

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I mean look at this thing! Have you ever seen a cupcake with baklava on the top? If you have leave the name of the shop in the comments so I can try it out because if it is anything like this baklava cupcake then it is something special.

From Chris’s account, I pulled a true Doughgasm face when I bit into the baklava cupcake for the first time. I couldn’t help it. There were simply so many sensations going on in one bite.

The baklava nest on top had a satisfying crunch which pushed down onto what I thought was the frosting. It turned out that it wasn’t frosting at all but instead it was a vanilla whipped cream. Delicate in texture but beautifully flavored with specks of vanilla bean. All of that before we even get to the actual cupcake itself.

Baklava Cupcake

It was so good that I am practically drooling thinking about it again.

Rather than going for a generic vanilla cupcake, they went all out and used a honey-almond cake. As with all of the cupcakes I have had from ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake, it was incredibly moist. Honey notes certainly came through but what really made the cake outstanding was the flavor of crystallized ginger that pulled everything together and delivered a touch of heat.

Truly one of the best cupcakes I have ever had. If the trend continues and the next cupcake I have from ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake is better than the Armaaan Baklava Cupcake then I might have to start up a Doughgasm award just so that I can send  it to them!

If your need for food porn hasn’t been satisfied by the abundance of cupcake photos, check out the video I put together of our various visits to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake in Pasadena. You might want to get a tissue ready to clean the drool off your keyboard afterwards.

 

05/20/14

How ridiculous is the Food Network’s new Rewrapped show?

If I am a food porn junkie then the Food Network is my dealer. Lately, their supply had become a bit stale. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Chopped and Diners Drive-ins and Dives as much as the next foodie but there are only so many episodes of them that I can watch back to back.

The Food Network must be aware of their shortcomings because they have recently introduced a series of new shows.  None of the offerings are particularly original but shows like Beat Bobby Flay and America’s Best Cook are perfectly watchable.

Then we get to Rewrapped.

Marc Summers will always get points from me for having hosted Double Dare and Unwrapped is a decent show but man did he miss the mark with this show. When I first saw  the commercials for Rewrapped, it looked like it would be a bit like the Top Chef round where they have to using vending machine junk food in their recipes. Most home cooks have crushed up cookies to make a pie crust so I could see how a show like that could be enjoyable and relatable. Sadly, Rewrapped did not go that practical path.

Rewrapped Show

Each episode has a theme featuring a popular branded food item. One of the first episodes,for example, was about Goldfish crackers.  The body of the show is made up of three professional chefs participating in two ridiculous cooking competition rounds.

The first round  requires the chefs to recreate the snack item. Not to do their own upscale version or give it their own slant. Nope, they are suppose to get as close to the original as possible so that Marc Summers and two other judges,including a representative of the featured brand, can pick apart their efforts.

It isn’t just like your company’s item? Really? Maybe that has something to do with your product being made in a factory and a ton of additives.  Who at the actual factory hand-cuts the Goldfish crackers?

The second round of Rewrapped is called the innovation round where the chefs have to use the featured item in an original recipe. This part could be fun but it all gets  spoiled by listening to Marc Summers criticize. Rarely is a kind word spoken. Even the Chopped judges say nice things and,unlike Summers, they are actual chefs.

Have I mentioned that the show is hosted by Joey Fatone? No? He makes that much of a impact as a host.

Sorry, Food Network, this one is a major food porn fail.