For my most recent article for MyFrenchLife, I decided to mix things up a bit and pose a small challenge to readers. Here is the quiz… enjoy!
For the latest installment of my cleverly devised scheme to allow me to binge on cupcakes while in Paris, I bring you the full report of my experience with Berko’s Bakery.
The setting: We had plans to host some of of the Prince’s Royal Family for dinner, and we thought it would be a great idea to introduce some other Froggies to cupcakes and to get their valuable feedback. So on the day of our dinner I ventured over to the Berko’s location in the 18th arrondissement, just a short walk from the Moulin Rouge, to sample their wares.
At first glance: Both the website and the storefront were promising. The website lists a huge variety of both cupcakes and frostings, sorted by type (buttercream, cream cheese, mascarpone, mousse and ganache), which sufficiently wet my appetite. Once inside, their selection of cupcakes vastly outnumbered that at Scarlett’s Bakery, and I was eager to make my selection. The shop was very nicely decorated, evoking a feeling of vintage-esque Parisian sweetness. They also offer wedding cakes (among other things), which is typically a good indicator of a bakery that knows how to make a cupcake!
At second glance: Although the selection was large, I was double-disappointed with it! Not only were they not carrying the classic flavors I seem to be always hunting for, but the selection of buttercream cupcakes was so much smaller than any other type, and buttercream is my favorite. The cupcakes here are also minis, and the box they offer is designed well and holds your goodies in place like a trusty sports bra.
At first bite: The disappointment continued. The frosting was moderately tasty, but the cupcakes themselves were average. At Scarlett’s, you get cupcakes that are either the same or a corresponding flavor as the frosting, giving you a really flavorful experience for each bite. With Berko’s, you’re typically getting a plain cake with fancy frosting (if you can call it that). In some cases, the cupcakes had some sort of filling inside that, while yummy, doesn’t exactly make up for the lack of attention paid to the cake itself. Our guests reflected my sentiments by saying that the cakes were a bit dry and plain, and Frog Prince has asked me not to go back.
Overall: Their prices are higher than Scarlett’s for a lower quality product. The best thing about Berko’s is the box, and that’s obviously not enough to make it worth your time or money. My recommendation is to save yourself the hassle, and DON’T GO to Berko’s.
Recently, I decided to explore the Parisian world of cupcakes. As a first step, I spent some time browsing the web to see what our old friend Google had to say in terms of where to start. I got the standard map listing of places with the word “cupcake” in the name, and then another outdated website or two pointing me the direction of a few bakeries.
Last weekend, the Frog Prince and I had plans to go out for lunch at a restaurant we really dig in a neighborhood not too far from ours (posts about this place will follow, at some point, too. There is no shortage of good food in Paris, but the trifecta of good food, great service/ambiance and good pricing can be quite the rarity). Fortunately, one of the bakeries whose name came up in my search was located conveniently in between our place and the restaurant.
To start what I hope to be a long and delicious journey, I took the liberty of stopping in at a bakery that is touted for its cupcakes (and it’s tea) in the 11th arrondissement: Scarlett’s Bakery. Here’s my rundown of what Scarlett brings to, and puts on, the table:
At first glance – I was excited by the cute, clean shop. I didn’t take any pictures of the inside because it was small, we were the only ones there (when we arrived), and I didn’t want to be rude. But the décor of the bakery is colorful, warm, welcoming, and a little quirkier than most of the neutral-colored, traditional bakeries I find myself in in Paris.
At second glance – I was a bit disappointed. Scarlett seems to focus her cupcake energy on minis, which–although they are delicious and turned out to be the perfect size for splitting and sharing–wasn’t what I was looking for, or expecting. Additionally, although the flavors she had were amazing (wait for it), and typical of those you can find among French desserts (pistachio, tiramisu, etc.), some of the classic cupcake flavors were missing: namely chocolate, vanilla and red velvet.
At first bite – The first cupcake I went for first was cookies and cream, being that it was the closest I could get to the classic chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, which also happens to be my favorite. The cupcake was sublime. The texture of the cake was not too dense but full of flavor, and the frosting was smooth and creamy. Frog Prince went for tiramisu and told me that “it was amazing,” and a friend went for pistache and was also impressed. Other flavors in our batch included pistache fraise (pistachio cake with strawberry cream), spéculoos (a French cookie of sorts) and caramel au beurre salé (caramel with salted butter). All were top-notch.
Overall – the shop is sweet, the selection was a bit limited, but the desserts themselves are to die for. I can’t comment on pricing just yet, as I need to try other bakeries to get a feel for the value in this category, but her minis ring up at 1.80 € a piece, with deals if you buy larger quantities.
Keeping my recommendations to a basic “GO” or “DON’T GO” level, I can give the green light to definitely GO to Scarlett’s Bakery!
The French do many things well, not the least of which are their desserts. And one of the things that makes their desserts so universally well-liked is the uncanny ability to find the perfect balance of sweetness. Rarely is a French pastry ever too sweet, or not sweet enough.
But if you have a sweet tooth anything like mine, you may often find your cravings go unsatisfied in the realm of the perfect pastry. Although I can certainly appreciate and enjoy the macarons, tarts, gâteaux and other delights to be found in France, sometimes I feel the urge to dive head-first into a sea of sugar. And in those moments, cupcakes can often be just what the doctor ordered.
Cupcakes have enjoyed a State-side spotlight in the past few years, with several reality TV series focusing on cake creation and boosting the popularity of cakes and cupcakes alike. While living in Boston, I took the time to explore several cupcake shops, and was often impressed with the creative flavor combinations I was able to find. Not only are cupcakes just a little sweeter than typical French pastries, but the effort put into the carefully crafted frostings, which are often flavorful experiences all by themselves, is apparent.
To put France’s reputation for pastry-making to the test, I decided that I would not simply settle for trying out the things we already know the French are good at, but instead set out to discover what the world of cupcakes looks like when it is created with a Parisian perspective. Although I’m no expert, I do know a good cupcake when I have one (for example, in London, you simply must stop in at Sweet Couture–best cupcakes I’ve ever had! So far…), and I plan to see if cupcakes made in Paris can compete with those from the rest of the world.
My first venture into cupcake escapades was Scarlett’s Bakery. I’ll post a review with thoughts and pictures shortly. Bon appétit!!
Friday the 13th. An unlucky day? A lucky day?
Whatever your belief, you probably at least know that there is some stigma attached to this particular date.
I, personally, believe a lot in creating your own luck, and in karma. Whatever forces that drive our days, it is sure that some days leave you wishing you could crawl back into bed, while others have you hurrying to your local convenience store to buy some lottery tickets.
On this specific Friday the 13th, I seem to be having a lucky day.
As of now, I am the proud holder of my first carte de sejour (the thing I need to continue living and working in France since my visa has expired). Let’s pay no attention to the fact that I need to start the renewal process next week (no joke), and temporarily rejoice at the relative ease with which I have attained this little gem.
Perhaps my luck will run out at some point, but for now, I’m chalking this up as a win. Friday the 13th? My lucky day, indeed (so everyone playing Euromillions can just give up now). 🙂
What other lucky/unlucky charms are there? I want to hear’em all!
Since I had fallen off of the blogging bandwagon, I hadn’t shared with you my latest article for MyFrenchLife.
Here it is, in all of its rhyme-y goodness 🙂
That was the sound of me finally catching my breath.
The last few weeks have been INSANE, and in the midst of the craziness I have fallen off of the face of the proverbial planet. Shame on me.
But don’t worry–I have fueled up my space ship and am heading back down to earth. Prepare for landing. 🙂