Wednesday, July 01, 2009
A sweet opportunity
Pastry chef Lisa Lusk is opening Bubblecake, a cupcake bakery, in South Roanoke.
Photos by JEANNA DUERSCHERL The Roanoke Times
Lisa Lusk decorates cupcakes in her kitchen in South Roanoke. Her bakery is scheduled to open this month on Crystal Spring Avenue.
Lisa Lusk adds umbrellas to her Key lime cupcakes.
Bubblecake will offer gift packaging for to-go orders.
Food writer Lindsey Nair
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Look who's cooking...
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Remy and Miles Lusk might just be the luckiest kids in Roanoke.
For the past few months, as their mother has been testing recipes for her new bakery, Remy, 5, and Miles, 2, have been her quality control division.
"They have eaten so many cupcakes lately," Lisa Lusk said. "I'm afraid if anyone draws their blood, they'll get frosting."
It has been very important work, though. When Lisa Lusk opens her cupcake bakery, Bubblecake, on Crystal Spring Avenue in South Roanoke, she wants her creations to be lovely and whimsical, but above all, delicious.
Lusk, 40, worked as a pastry chef for about 10 years before moving to Roanoke seven years ago and starting a family with her husband, Rob, 37. Now, she is jumping on a trend that seems to be sweeping the country.
Devotees of Magnolia Bakery in New York City say it all started there, where chocolate and vanilla cupcakes piled high with decadent icing are sold for $2.50 apiece.
The treats became so popular that even Sarah Jessica Parker's character on "Sex and the City" was seen noshing on a pink Magnolia cupcake in one episode.
Magnolia now has three locations in the Big Apple, and another Manhattan cupcake bakery, Crumbs, is rapidly expanding across the country.
Even the wedding industry has been besieged by the tiny cakes, with brides ordering cupcake trees instead of tiered wedding cakes on an increasingly regular basis.
A modest indulgence
You might ask, what's so great about cupcakes?
Well, in this health-conscious era, the convenient single-serving portions are just large enough to be an indulgence without becoming an all-out binge. It helps that customers can buy just one, too, saving them a little money.
When you taste some of Lusk's cupcakes, though, you may want to buy a whole dozen.
I sampled the deliciously summery Key lime cupcake, while some co-workers tasted the extreme chocolate. Other flavors on the menu include pistachio, coconut ("the South in your mouth"), cinnamon roll, hazelnut white chocolate, peanut butter cup, bananas foster and caramel apple.
There's a pink cupcake with purple icing for the princess in the family. It's dotted with "pearl" sprinkles. And for the miniature superhero, how about a red velvet cupcake with blue cream cheese icing?
A lot of Lusk's energy goes into the details, such as the tiny umbrella in the Key lime cupcake or the surprise toppers that will adorn the birthday cake cupcake.
"The styling of it is what I enjoy the most," she said. "I want people to feel like it is a throwback to childhood or birthday parties."
Every day, Lusk will also have a special cupcake flavor or two, which will also be featured on the menus at Fork in the Alley and Fork in the City, restaurants owned by David Trinkle, a Roanoke City councilman.
Trinkle also owns the white house where Bubblecake will be located. The house, which has been home to a series of failed restaurants, is being divided up so the bakery can take up one half.
Trinkle is still deciding what to do with the rest of the space. He said he may use it as banquet seating for Fork in the Alley, which is located next door.
Trinkle said Lusk's cupcakes will be available at his restaurants each day until they run out. On nights when Jefferson Center -- just down the street from Fork in the City -- is hosting events, he hopes to have extra cupcakes on hand for the dessert crowd.
Lusk's treats will sell for $2.25 to $2.50 apiece and about $25 for a dozen. Even single cupcakes come packaged in white boxes sealed with pink Bubblecake stickers. They can be wrapped in colored ribbon to make sweet gifts.
Any cupcake flavor on the menu can also be ordered in a Texas-style sheet cake, Lusk said, and she will do special orders for weddings and parties. She's also hoping that Bubblecake will become a destination for decorate-your-own-cupcake parties.
Her vision for the bakery, she said, is "French tea house meets the Mad Hatter party." So far, she has painted the walls pink and installed a handsome display case made of salvaged parts.
The bathroom is hot pink, and the whole place will be accented by black-and-white rugs and furniture, as well as cafe tables for customers who prefer to eat their treat right then and there.
Bubblecake will have coffees and teas, but the Lusks say they don't want their drink offerings to be overcomplicated because the focus is on the cakes.
If the cupcakes are a success, customers might find more pastry offerings in the future. Lusk said she will wait a few months, until she "finds her feet," before thinking about expanding her menu.
For now, she's just excited to be doing something she loves again.
"I never expected I would come full circle and be back in the kitchen," she said. "I am so happy."
Lindsey Nair's column runs in Wednesday's Extra.