Well, we have reached the end of the Great Cake Quest. It has been a sweet ride with so many delicious ports of call; I have had cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and more along the way. I have been enchanted and beguiled, sweetly surprised and just plain underwhelmed but this was a trip well worth taking. I have met some extremely talented artisans as well as passionate and capable up-and-comers and this last one is no exception. Please read on.
On a warm September day, just after the autumn’s commencement and the final leg of the Great Cake Quest, I found myself in the company of a rather charming and talented young baker. While on this journey, I’ve met many passionate and capable artisans, but there was something about Laura Falcone Martin, of Sugar Cupid, that seriously raised the bar in taste and presentation for all my future confectionary expectations.
I had first heard about Laura through my friend, Mikaela, who had casually met her at a mommy-and-me type event. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Laura mentioned to my friend that she makes cookies, cake pops and the like, and directed her (and subsequently me) to her Facebook page, Sugar Cupid LLC. A page bursting with color and whimsy greeted me, filled with familiar themes and characters from film, story books and Laura’s own imagination. What was interesting was that they took many forms. There were cake pops, full sized cakes, Rice Krispie treats, pretzels and iced sugar cookies. This made me very curious to see her operation and how this well-oiled machine came together to create such incredible pastries.
Meeting at her home, she welcomed me like an old friend. Her affable and sincere smile revealed the joyful spirit that no doubt is the heart of Sugar Cupid, and that made me anxious to see the delights I had viewed on the Facebook page live and in person. As she went to retrieve a tray of various goodies for my private tasting, she left me to peruse an album of some of her more recent creations. The first thought that came to mind when I saw her work was the impeccable craftsmanship that went into it. Every color was correct and vibrant, if called for. Every line was perfection, with no errors I could detect. Everything about the execution of cake pops to iced cookies was deliberate, intentional and purposeful like any passionate artist. Laura returned, snapping me out of my trance and presented me with a tray of well-appointed delectables. Upon looking at the tray, I was reminded of a place in NYC that I loved, Eleni’s Cookies, in Chelsea Market and how amazing those cookies were. I would often send these beautiful and delicious iced cookies to far away friends for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. As far as I could see, Sugar Cupid had some big and yummy cookie sheets to fill.
In front of me was a silver tray populated with bride and groom cake pops, two cupcakes gorgeously decorated so that they looked like two roses and 4 or so fancy iced cookies. Where do I start! I asked Laura about her cookies first, inquiring if they were shortbread cookies or sugar cookies. “You tell me,” she retorted while broadly smiling, bringing my attention to “The Taste Chase” cookie she made especially for me.
“I have a recipe that I am satisfied with but I am not sure if it’s a sugar cookie or a shortbread cookie,” Laura said.
Weighing the differences in my mind but knowing the proof would lie in the tasting, I obliged her and partook. Not wanting to be mislead by the icing, I concentrated on the cookie portion. I smelled it, looked at it and finally tasted it. I could taste clearly what Laura had meant. This was undoubtedly not a case of “either/or” but of “both/and” and deliciously so. Her cookie had the look of a sugar cookie but with the buttery taste and textural “snap” of good Scottish shortbread without all the crumbs. The vanilla and butter flavor held its own and was not diminished or extinguished by the presence of icing. Just to be sure, I asked Laura if she had any uniced cookies that I could taste. She did and promptly shared a few with me. These cookies were all together delicious, without the icing, only confirming that her well-balanced and tasty royal icing only complimented a stellar cookie. I knew she saw my satisfaction and didn’t hide her smile. I could taste why so many call on Sugar Cupid for birthday parties and weddings favors, in addition to other glorious confections.
I asked her about her daily operations. “Right now I bake only a few times a week,” she informed me as I eyed one of those beautiful cupcakes. “I work in a state certified commercial kitchen where it is just myself and a good friend who helps, when she can, to get my orders out.”
I recalled the pages and pages of creations on both her Facebook Page and in the album I thumbed through upon arrival and was floored that all I saw — the numerous cookies, cake pops and full-sized cakes were conceived and created, basically, by one person. Alone.
“I’ve been operational for almost a year now and am looking forward to one day having my own shop.” I was excited to hear that. “Grammy Fay taught me how to make zeppoles when I was a child, both the sweet ones with powdered sugar and the savory ones with anchovies for the Italian Christmas celebration of the 7 fishes,” Laura reminisced fondly, remembering her grandmother.
Anticipation was getting the best of me and asked her if I could indulge in this gorgeous cupcake that sat before me, silently cat-calling my taste buds. The ecru colored icing beautifully decorated like a rose, was sprinkled with cinnamon and the faint scent that I couldn’t quite place, vexed my mind and my palate.
“Try it and let me know what you think,” Laura prodded.
The texture was divine, almost sumptuous, as my teeth glided through the frosting and then the cake itself. Immediately, I tasted banana but there was something different about this familiar flavor. It tasted at once like a cupcake and also like banana bread, which, in my opinion, is usually not as sweet but more full-bodied and natural.
This one cupcake, this Sugar Cupid creation was, wait for it…singularly, the best cupcake I have had on this quest. Not only was it visually alluring but it delivered in all the categories I value when tasting anything. There was nothing left to say, so I said nothing and just reclined in sweet, toe curling, satisfaction. (Seriously, it was that good.)
My friends, Laura Martin does it all.
“I’ve always been crafty,” Laura continued, taking advantage of the happy place I was now in. “I started out making regular sugar cookies, cream cheese thumb prints and ‘sand tarts’ which are similar to snickerdoodles. People loved them and asked for more.”
This Early Childhood Education major has used her craftiness and her penchant for ingenuity in the kitchen and it has paid off incredibly. “I have so many repeat customers and the list is growing.” After what I have tasted, things are only looking way up for this mother of one son, very soon to be a mother of two. “I wasn’t sure if I could really make the iced sugar cookies the way I wanted to so, I avoided them. I’m not an artist. But then people just kept asking for them,” Laura stated. Not an artist? Please. Let me direct you to the accompanying photos in this article and if you are not convinced, then you should RUN to her Facebook page, look at her offerings and order!
Upon leaving, I gathered up the remains of my tasting and went home, glad that I happened upon a baker with such talent, passion and artistry. The chocolate bride and groom cake pops were amazing and for me to say that is in itself amazing. Most I have had were dry, like a Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkin, whose only flavor was sugar. These were a rich, moist dark chocolate, enrobed in white chocolate and immaculately decorated. They were big enough to fill your mouth (but not choke you) with an honest, decadent, chocolate flavor you’d find in an upscale confection that only makes you want one, two or six more.
This was a sweet swan song for The Great Cake Quest and I got my own private concert. I was so impressed with these cookies that we ordered 100 for the first Race and Diversity in the Valley gathering held in October. Everyone raved about these cookies and of the twenty-five business cards she gave me, I took home 3.
The holidays are upon us and you will be looking for hostess gifts, unique treats for all your holiday gatherings, food gifts to send to friends and family who are far away, military personnel, the boss, the executive assistant and toothless Aunt Gertrude. Go to the Sugar Cupid, LLC Facebook page and see what Laura has to offer. She does it all and will even create a whole dessert table with various treats that will undoubtedly make your party the talk of the town…and get you that promotion! When I tell you that this was probably the highlight of this Quest, trust me. My hips don’t lie.
Contact Sugar Cupid, LLC on Facebook or email Laura at: Lauraf@udel.edu. She is taking orders until December 8th. Yum it up. Tell all your friends.