Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bakery Review: Icing on the Cake

Icing on the Cake - visited July 13, 2013
One of the questions I'm often asked as a baker, third only to "what's your favorite dessert?" and "what's your favorite thing to make?", is "what's your favorite bakery?"  I usually hem and haw because it's hard to pick ONE favorite place where I like everything they make as opposed to one bakery that makes one thing fabulously well and another bakery that makes something else worthy of homage.  But there is one bakery in Los Gatos, CA that comes close and that would be Icing on the Cake.  I was first introduced to it at a former company when my group ordered a banana cake from there for one of my coworkers for his birthday.  Something came up where we couldn't have the cake on the day we picked it up so it went into the fridge and we had to celebrate the following day.  What stuck in my memory was, even after an extra day in the refrigerator, the slice of banana cake I had was delicious.  Moist, flavorful and with an awesome fluffy texture.  Usually I don't even like refrigerating cakes because that dries them out.  But the banana cake from Icing on the Cake not only survived the overnight chilling but it was probably better on its second day than many bakery cakes I've had on their first day.
Inside Icing on the Cake
Ever since that fateful day, I've become a fan.  At first it was just because of their banana cake; in fact, there was a time when I obsessed about trying to recreate it.  I could get the taste down but not the fluffy texture.  My obsession was such that I even considered applying to work there part-time (on top of my 60-70 hours-a-week full-time day job at the time) just so I could learn how to make it.  Yes, I was that obsessed.  AND that's probably the highest compliment I as a baker could pay to any bakery :).  I finally accepted that I couldn't make a banana cake as good as Icing on the Cake, it wasn't practical to give up sleeping to take on a second job to learn how to make it and I would have to content myself with making the long-ish drive to Los Gatos to get some banana cake.  Now, it's become my tradition around my birthday to make the drive there and buy myself a piece of banana cake.

There are several things I love about Icing on the Cake.  First, they are a small business started by Lynn Magnoli that has become successful and grown because they put out quality products.  They didn't grow and flourish because of fancy marketing or glitzy outreaches.  They grew because they tasted good.  There's a "homemade goodness" to their baked goods that I haven't experienced in any other bakery I've tried.  By that I mean almost everything I've tried is something a good baker can make in his or her own kitchen (their banana cake being my personal exception!).  And the reason I like that is because it's not decorated super fancy but it's quality made with fresh ingredients.  Which is what any baker strives to do and why people make their own homemade baked goods.  Icing on the Cake has managed to capture that homey taste and I always associate that homemade goodness with their products.

Second and on a more practical note, I like them because, in addition to whole cakes, you can buy individual-sized portions of everything.  Not just cupcakes or big, thick cookies but also brownies, bar cookies and cake slices.  You can imagine how important that is when I want a slice of banana cake but not a whole cake...because I would probably eat the whole thing and end up feeling sick afterwards.  To contribute to the homey-ness factor, the individual cakes and bar cookies are wrapped in plastic wrap similar to how I wrap up baked goods and give them away in goodie bags.  No fancy packaging - just simply showcased, delicious products.

The third reason I'm such a fan is they have a wonderful variety of baked goods to offer.  Since they're a bit far for me to drive just for a piece of banana cake, I make a point of buying a couple of other things to try each time I go, just to taste test, of course.  Their cakes are my favorite and I can personally recommend the lemon, the German chocolate cake and the marble cake.  Probably the only thing I haven't liked - and it's more of a personal preference than anything wrong with the cake itself - is their carrot cake.  As I've blogged before regarding my favorite carrot cake recipe, I like my carrot cakes to just have carrots in it, not all the other extras like nuts, pineapple and raisins.  Icing on the Cake's Super Chunky Carrot Cake lives up to its name in that it has so much other "stuff" in it, it actually crumbles (although the cake is moist) as there's barely enough cake to hold all the raisins, nuts, etc together.  But that's just one cake out of dozens of baked goods that are surefire winners so I can't complain.
The banana cake of my obsession
See that fluffy texture?  That's what I can't replicate, no matter how many times I've tried.  And I've tried....and tried...and tried some more.
For this year's trial taste test(s), I chose a slice of their coconut pound cake.  I love the moistness and texture of this cake as well as the coconut.  The only thing that gave me pause is I think they used coconut or almond extract or both in this and I'm not a fan of the taste of either of those extracts - it's just too artificial-tasting to me.  Extract taste aside, I did appreciate that while there was a healthy amount of frosting on the cake, it wasn't drowning in it and I only had to scrape off a minimal amount to go with my cake.
I love the homemade-goodness look of their coconut pound cake.
The third thing I tried was a cookie.  I forgot what they called this in the bakery display but it's basically an Orange Cookie with frosting.  The sales person who waited on me put the cookie in the bag with only the thin paper liner on the bottom along with the wrapped slices of cake so it got a little smushed when I tried taking it out.  Regardless though, this was a nice, moist cookie, perfectly flavored with fresh orange.  It's the type of cookie I could make myself (and have) but still, it was good.  Sometimes you don't want to go to the trouble of whipping up a batch of cookies and you just want one, perfectly yummy cookie.  Icing on the Cake is there for you.
Now the only drawback there might be for Icing on the Cake is they can be a little pricey in comparison to other bakeries but they're not too outside the norm.  The 3 things I bought came to $10.75 which might seem a little expensive for 2 slices of cake and a cookie.  I don't think it's outrageous considering cupcake places like Sprinkles charge $3.25 a cupcake and many other bakeries charge $4-$5 for a slice of cake or an individual-size dessert.  Plus, let's face it, even if it was costly, I'd rather pay a little more to get the best instead of saving a couple of bucks for something mediocre.  And I consider this bakery one of the best.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the bakeries I've blogged about or will blog about in the future.  These are my own honest observations. :)

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