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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vanilla Bake Shop

512 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 458-6644

Following a successful dessert catering business, Amy Berman and her husband decided to culminate their culinary dream and opened Vanilla Bake Shop a few blocks from the Santa Monica shoreline. The name came from their culinary school days, when their instructor told them vanilla was the world's most universally loved flavor. Peculiarly, the word I would most associate with vanilla is plain. But, this bake shop is far from plain vanilla.

$1.25 Chocolate Macaroon (6)
There was about five flavors present on my visit. All made in-house, with the chocolate being the only one with a homemade center, so I chose that one. I'm not much of a macaroon fan, not solely because it's French, but they have this 'day-old' taste when you first bite into them. The creaminess of filling took it above average.

$1.65 Tart (top to bottom) Chocolate Peanut Butter (8) S'mores (9),
Passion Fruit Cheesecake (6)
It wasn't the best peanut butter dish I've tried, but it's very difficult to screw up chocolate and PB together. I've never met a s'mores I liked....until now. The marshmallow, the component I find most unappealing, appeared to be lightened with some cream and caramelized to perfection. The cheesecake was just ordinary with no memorable or additive flavors.

$2 Icebox Dessert Shots - Dirt Cake (7), Southern Banana Pudding (9)
Of all the desserts we tried, I'd have to give a slight edge to the dessert shots as the best. I loved how these tiny little cups packed so much flavor between each layer. At $2 a pop, they would be perfect as a side treat when you're hosting a cocktail party. The Banana Pudding was my favorite of the visit highlighted by the pastry crumb finish.

$20 - 12 Cupcake Babies (left to right)

(top row) Bittersweet Dark Chocolate - Dark Chocolate Cake, Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Sprinkles (6), Toasted Coconut - Vanilla Bean Cake, Toasted Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (7), Spicy Carrot - Carrot Cake, Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (7), Key Lime
Yellow Butter Cake, Key Lime filling, Creamy Vanilla Frosting, Graham Cracker Crust Crumbles (9)

(middle row) Vanilla Bean - Creamy Vanilla Bean Cake, Madagascar Bourbon, Vanilla Bean Frosting (6) Mom's Birthday Cake - All American Yellow Cake, Milk Chocolate Frosting (5), Banana Chocolate Chip - Banana Chocolate Chip Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting (8), Meyer Lemon Raspberry - Yellow Butter Cake, Lemon Curd Center, Vanilla Bean Frosting & Raspberries (8)

(bottom row) Black & White - Dark Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean and Dark Chocolate Frosting (7) Chocolate Vanilla Bean - Dark Chocolate Cake, Creamy Madagascar Bourbon, Vanilla Bean Frosting (6) Southern Red Velvet - Southern Red Velvet Cake, Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting (6), Key Lime (see above)

Doing a sampling of the babies is a great way to go on your first visit. The cupcakes that I liked the best typically had to do with the moistness, affinity towards certain flavors, and a center filling. My favorites were the Key Lime, Lemon Raspberry, and Banana Chocolate. The only one I didn't care for was the Mom's Birthday Cake.

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