It all starts with a little taste. One little bite of some delicious morsel and your palette is overwhelmed with flavors that could either fill you with extreme happiness or even end your meal with disappointment. Good taste in food is important, but it’s never easy to get the right balance and combination of ingredients to create perfect harmony. That’s why, when cooking, you see chefs or home cooks always tasting their food. Turn on Food Network and if there’s a cook on right now, just watch them taste their dish at least 10 times. If you ever run into a chef or home cook that doesn’t taste their food, they’re either crazy or really good at what they do. Sometimes to figure out what people want and what works, all you need to do is ask, especially if you care about the quality of what your product. Fortunately, Thu Tran aka Tootie Baker, cares. We were recently invited to her swanky cupcake tasting for up and coming flavors she plans on adding to her cupcake arsenal.
Greatness doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work every day for it, sometimes every night. No rest. No water. No life. It may sound insane, but that’s what Thu does. Since beginning her baking journey in high school, she has devoted countless hours to improving her cupcakes in order to exceed her high standards. One of her goals was to get her cupcakes to a level at which people would think about them for days on end, and I can personally say that she is definitely almost there. I would do anything for one of her Matcha Mochi cupcakes right now (if you’re reading this Thu, please send some over). One of the things Thu has been wanting to do is gather her friends for them to try her new cupcake flavors before she released them to the public. Finally, after crushing her college finals, she baked the weekend away for us to enjoy her marvelous new creations.
Unfortunately, a heat wave hit California the weekend she held her cupcake tasting. I didn’t think much of it (I mean I wore black pants and a chester coat), but it definitely affected the atmosphere and the texture of her cupcakes. A minor setback for her, but the event managed to run smoothly despite feeling like we were walking through the flames of hell. But hey, the show must go on. aMuse gallery was the place to be and I don’t think she could have chosen a better spot. Wide open space with plenty of room to lounge, walk around, or stare at all the cupcakes. It lacked air conditioning, but they had a couple of fans going, which seemed to be the guests favorite spot to gather. The music was cool, people were friendly, decorations lovely (although the gold “cake cake” balloons were odd. Why not just cupcake?), and the food was amazing. All in all, the attention to detail and overall feel of the event was more like a casual gathering of friends rather than formal cupcake tasting. She did a great job putting her heart and soul into this and it was present in every little detail of the event.
A couple of her friends (including us), brought some mini bite-sized dishes for people to enjoy. These deviled steak and eggs by Amy were improperly named because they sure were heavenly. Below are our pizza tarts, the recipe for which can be found here!
TCF with the baking prodigy herself!
The flavored milks were a really creative, delicious, and unexpected addition to the event. Probably some of the best milk I’ve ever had. The strawberry one had a good level of sweetness, and white one was smooth as butter.
Those cupcakes be lookin’ mighty fine from over here … – Arthur
Marcus’ ice cream was on point! I wish the serving size was larger though. They were the perfect way to cool off on that hot, summer day.
One thing I really loved and appreciated at this event was the signs. It was creative, beautifully done, and highly informative. By dissecting the cupcake, Thu let us know what we were biting into which made giving feedback that much easier.
Including the vanilla cupcakes was a great way to show her dedication to quality and craftsmanship. A good foundation and base is always necessary when comparing crazy and creative flavor combinations. As the sign read, the vanilla cupcakes are one of her proudest accomplishments (which she doesn’t revel in that much. Such a sweet, humble girl.).
The feedback cards were a little cramped with text, making it difficult to write down a thorough opinion of her cupcakes. Making the cards double sided would have made commenting much easier! But anyways, onto what we thought of the cupcakes themselves!
Coconut Curry // Crispy coconut flakes, coconut vanilla icing, curry flavored cake.
The presentation for this particular cupcake was really beautiful. The coconut flakes were perfectly placed and added great texture to the cupcake. The flavor of the curry was kind of off putting though. Might have been a little too, for lack of a better word, spicy. It also felt a little dry without any sort of filling inside of it. Definitely needs improvement, but a great start and very innovative flavor combo.
The presentation for this one was good but the curls could have used a little work. These cupcakes were lacking in flavor in that it tasted like a regular chocolate/vanilla cupcake with hints of earl grey and lavender. Because those flavors were so subtle, this cupcake ended up being not very memorable.
Now this one. This cupcake, man. Reeeeeally good. What most impressed me was how well it withstood the heat. The frosting wasn’t as melted as some of the others and the filling didn’t seep into the cake. Maybe I’m biased because her matcha mochi cupcake is one of my favorites, but this one with the addition of the crunchy chocolate pearls knocked it right out of the park. Good texture and flavor, but concerned for the chocolate pearls. Those things need to be secured on there in order for the eater to enjoy all the deliciousness of the whole product in one bite.
Another stand out from the crowd. Although the heat really impacted the texture and presentation of the cupcake, the most important component, the taste, was fantastic. Arthur even says that, “10/10 would buy these cupcakes and tell people he made them [himself].” Funnily enough, everything melting together made it taste a lot like strawberry ice cream which we had no issues with. This flavor definitely has the potential to overtake my love of the matcha mochi cupcake. What do I have to say? 10/10 would buy these and eat them all himself.
I was really excited for this one but honestly, was a little let down. It was a good cupcake, don’t get me wrong, but it lacked that true Vietnamese coffee flavor. I feel like the mocha overpowered the flavor of the coffee and it just reminded me more of mocha ube rolls that you would get at Red Ribbon Bakery or Goldilocks. Everything else about the cupcake was solid from texture to presentation, but that coffee flavor needs a little amping up.
Once again we want to thank Thu for inviting us to her cupcake tasting. It’s great to know that at such a young age, she’s so passionate and driven to make Tootie Cakes a huge success. She’s continually growing and expanding her team and network, and is a genuine supporter of all local businesses and talent, whether it be in art, finance, and design. Hopefully this event has given her the honest, constructive feedback she sought to take the cupcakes to the next level. Soon enough, they’ll be available on her website for order and you best believe, we’ll be refreshing the page to get some of our own. If you’re impatient and are interested in trying some of her tried and true cupcake flavors, head on over to her website www.tootiecakes.com!
Thu, we’re extremely proud of your baking journey and can’t wait to see where it’ll take you!
Wishing you all the success one could hope for,
Brian & the rest of the Culinary Four