Author: Tara Daley
Though depressingly decrepit in areas, downtown L.A. is full of underappreciated beauty and city secrets. While the area is rich with history and nostalgia, modernization has entered the domain, detracting from some of the district’s classic beauty but also improving the landscape with new and developing trends. The Theater District confuses with its grand classics and grungy shops, but it feels more connected and cohesive than any part of L.A. I’ve ever visited – it is empowering, pulsating, intimidating and inviting. People are out of their cars and in the public sphere, giving this little district of Los Angeles a historic, lively city-feel somewhat reminiscent of New York or Boston.
Walking downtown feels entirely intuitive, and even on a chilly, overcast day, I enjoyed my time wandering. Turning off Broadway and onto 6th Street, I went in search of one of Downtown L.A.’s newest eateries, one I was eager to visit. When I first heard of the cupcake boutique Babycakes NYC, I was infatuated and desperately wanted to trek out to New York City, but living in Eagle Rock made this slightly impossible. As soon as rumors of their new L.A. location circulated, my obsession grew. Sadly, however, the establishment continually pushed back its opening date. It wasn’t until after my tour guide mentioned cupcakes that I realized Babycakes NYC was just around the corner, and my vegan, gluten-free cupcake dreams were just minutes away from actualization.
Nestled alongside a handful of eateries and boutiques, Babycakes NYC can only be aptly described as utterly adorable. The staff consists of a handful of friendly hipster twentysomethings, decked out in 1950s-style uniforms. With cheery smiles adorned with red lipstick, the girls fit perfectly in the shop’s warm, vintage-trendy atmosphere. Low lights, cutesy pink walls, dark-wood embellishments and hand-written signage make Babycakes an intimate bakery-café nestled in the heart of a city, an establishment incomparable to a bakery chain like Au Bon Pain.
While I entered with the preliminary intent of only purchasing a single cupcake, I ended up leaving with one cupcake, a box of day-old banana bread and a frosting-filled cookie sandwich. Though I wanted to throw all inhibition to the wind and create a new record for baked good consumption, I paced myself and began with the cookie sandwich: pastel green frosting elegantly piped between two large chocolate chip cookies.
The frosting was the true star of the extravaganza, winning my award of “most normal-tasting vegan fauxbuttercream ever.” Honestly, it could very well be one of the best frostings I’ve had, period. Moist and creamy, the frosting was comprised mostly of coconut flour, coconut oil and agave nectar with a splash of vanilla, but the result was not overwhelmingly tropical as most coconut dishes tend to be. The coconut emerged with subtle, milky sweetness to create an incredible frosting that even coconut-haters could appreciate. Unfortunately, the dense cookies harbored a distinctly gluten-free flavor.
Though the frosting was addictive and fantastic, as soon as I bit in, the artful piping was ruined as frosting squeezed out of the edges of the hard cookies. Once I got over the mess, I enjoyed this decadently sweet cookie sandwich as I strolled along 6th Street. For anyone who is gluten-free, I’d definitely recommend this treat, if only for the frosting and the pure novelty of the item. However, for those of you who do not avoid wheat, I’d pass on these sandwiches, for I’m sure you can find something much cheaper that tastes just as good.
After leaving Babycakes NYC, I was in a semi-permanent state of euphoria. I saved the gluten-free carrot cake cupcake for later, a choice which allowed my bliss to last even longer. This exceptionally tasty, creatively decorated delight is forever cemented in my memory. The cake was light but had no strange “health food” texture to it, and the green and orange frosting (naturally colored) was, again, delicious and classically cute, culminating in a final product quite on par with normal, wheat-flour cupcakes.
Again, this may just be because the treat was essentially a vehicle for indulgent frosting consumption, but isn’t that what most cupcakes are for anyway? The cupcakes were moist and fluffy, without any unappetizing gluten-free aftertaste and stand as something that even wheat-lovers could enjoy.
The baked goods from Babycakes NYC are definitely adorable and worthy of praise, but the ridiculously high pricing of items makes each indulgence all the more extravagant. Cupcakes and most other treats, ranging from teacakes to donuts, come out to be about five-dollars a piece. Though vegan and gluten-free ingredients are surely expensive, Babycakes NYC’s goods are priced to be luxury treats, not breadbasket staples. Though they do offer half-price second-day goods, the box of day old banana bread I purchased for $5.50 was quite subpar, tasting strange and slightly salty, paling in comparison to other gluten-free and wheat-filled banana breads I’ve savored.
While visiting downtown L.A., which I definitely recommend, park your car and set out on foot to explore the classic 1930s style and bustling new developments. A friendly addition to the area, Babycakes NYC brings a taste of a quaintly hip Manhattan boutique bakery to the West Coast, and if you can overlook the prices just momentarily, you’re bound to enjoy something delicious. If you’re vegan or gluten-free, indulge and rejoice, for Babycakes NYC is a godsend for those with special diets. Even if food restrictions don’t plague you and alternative flours deter you, bring your vegan and/or gluten-free friend to Babycakes NYC and support them in their excitement. They will love you forever.
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