A Little Something Sweet
Petite women in a small shop on a quaint stretch of Marshall Avenue are producing miniature delicacies: macarons the size of 50-cent pieces, and cupcakes, some small enough to fit in the bowl of a spoon. Each is a work of art, touched with pale color, crowned with a curl of frosting, garnished with a tiny candy or half a nut.
The women are Krista Steinbach, a Culinary Institute of America–trained pastry chef, and Ly Lo, a former furniture designer who has turned her decorative attention to cake. Their St. Paul shop is Sweets Bakeshop.
You don’t have a sweet tooth, you say? I don’t, either. I drink red wine so dry it makes my tongue curl, eat popcorn sprinkled with cayenne pepper, and prefer vegetables to fruit. I can count on one hand the sweets in town that tempt me: pumpkin Ã©clairs that Butter used to make, carrot cake from Cafe LattÃ©, and now, the spicy chocolate cupcakes from Sweets.
Steinbach and Lo are adventurous (to wit, a breakfast cupcake filled with salty bacon and topped with a maple buttercream frosting) and their experiments occasionally produce a miss. But they shine with the spicy chocolate cupcake, a rich, moist, deeply chocolate cake topped with habanero-infused chocolate frosting. Steinbach uses a level hand with the pepper: just enough to burn.
Another winner is the Dreamsicle, a lovely orange cake topped with orange buttercream and filled with vanilla bean buttercream.
Sweets also offers macarons similar to the ones at Paris’s legendary LadurÃ©e. The salted caramel macaron is the perfect savory-sweet mixture for the non-sweet-eater’s palate.
But what makes Sweets superior is Lo’s extraordinary art. For one book club, she created a Huckleberry Finn arrangement: pastry sculpted into river and raft. Lo’s deft hands shape cupcakes in the form of frogs, and entire storybook tableaus—a family of bears eating a picnic, complete with paper plates and napkins—out of rolled fondant.
2042 Marshall Ave, St. Paul