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Bite-size treats

June 1, 2012 - 18:20 By Korea Herald
Tiny temptations high on cute, low on guilt

What’s less than 2 inches wide, covered in candy and impossibly adorable?

A cake pop, those irresistibly moist confections made by mixing crumbled cake and frosting. The blogger Bakerella first unleashed these miniature cakes on sticks back in 2007. Once they went viral, pastry chefs, home bakers, even Starbucks jumped on the trend, creating ambitious shapes and speckled surprises at about 200 calories a pop.

As a result, a miniature movement is upon us.

Inspired by the pops’ portability, moderate calorie content and undeniable cute factor, pastry chefs are coming up with miniature versions of other desserts, from cookies and cupcakes to seasonal tarts, whoopie pies and eclairs no bigger than a cocktail wiener.

There is much to love about these mini treats, says Paulina Tsagaris, whose Campbell, Calif.-based boutique catering company, Sweet Luna Desserts, specializes in all treats miniature.

“They’re small, so you don’t have to feel guilty,” says Tsagaris, who makes baby eclairs filled with vanilla pastry cream and dipped in Guittard dark chocolate glaze. “And they’re usually full of flavor, so you’re left feeling satisfied in one or two bites.”
(From left) Mini pastries: Chocolate Hazelnut Pop Tart from Starbucks, Chocolate Cake Pop from Tea Cake Bake Shop, Birthday Cake Pop from Starbucks, Chocolate Brownie bite from Tea Cake Bake Shop, Vanilla Cupcake from Tea Cake Bake Shop, and Double Fudge Mini Donut from Starbucks (Contra Costa Times/MCT)

They’re also small enough that you can try a variety without looking like a sweet-toothed hog.

Each month, Tsagaris fills orders for thousands of customized cake pops, including a creamy cheesecake version that’s dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate. Her tangy lemon curd tarts are a hit at weddings. She serves her banana cream custard in shot glasses small enough to make even an ogre feel dainty.

“They give people the opportunity to walk around and socialize,” Tsagaris says, “whereas cake usually takes place at a table with a fork.”

At Teacake Bake Shop, they use locally sourced eggs and imported chocolate and vanilla to make a variety of miniature treats, including cupcakes, coconut macaroons, strawberry thumbprints and tiny cookies that are sold in bags of six to eight for $5.

Owner Agnes Hsu says they launched the minis program two years ago when customers began asking for smaller desserts.

“There’s a big health movement going on in this country, with Michelle Obama leading the fight against obesity, ” says Hsu. “We are moving in that direction, but people still like to indulge, so we can do this and keep the calories low.”

Teacake also makes two simple cake pops: a pink velvet cake covered in creamy white chocolate and a chocolate cake dipped in ... more gooey chocolate.

Many bakers use these plain canvases to fulfill their customers’ whimsical requests for graduation hats, baby chicks, soccer balls, Strawberry Shortcake pops and Mr. Potato Heads. You name it, they’ll cake-pop it.

The queen of these candy-coated creations is Angie Dudley, better known as Bakerella, the Georgia-based blogging sensation. Her precious Easter basket pops ― with sugar cones for baskets and green Sour Patch straws for handles ― are so intricately designed, one look would make most novices retreat to their kitchens with a bag of Tollhouse Break and Bake.

But Dudley swears that even detailed pops are not difficult. All it takes is box cake mix, ready-made frosting, an edible ink pen, tons of candy ― and vision.

“I don’t look at candy as something to eat anymore,” says Dudley, the author of “Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats” (Chronicle Books, 2010). A second book focused on winter holiday pops is due out later this year. “I look at it as inspiration. I look at it proportionally. A Junior Mint is a hat. Coated sunflower seeds make great noses.”

She says the mini madness likely will continue, not only because the smaller desserts are portable and affordable, but also because they’re simply too darn cute to die out.

“People love cute things,” Dudley says. “It’s great to make a delicious cake and put it in the center of a table, but it’s so much more fun putting a stick on a little dessert. People are drawn to them.”

By Jessica Yadegaran

(San Jose Mercury News)

(MCT Information Services)