Authors: Kir Jensen
50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet
This book is dedicated to one very inspiring woman—my mom. Thank you for teaching me to be an expert fruit fondler, lover of good food, feeder of the masses, and diner by candlelight.
is chef/owner of The Sugar Cube. She lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first book.
is a food writer whose work has appeared in the
New York Times
and is coauthor of
Mother’s Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again
. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
is a photographer specializing in lifestyle, fashion, and food. She lives in the Northwest.
I remember it like it was yesterday, the moment that sparked my lust for all things sweet. I’m about six years old, standing patiently next to my mom in the kitchen, our favorite room in the house. I loved how its soft lighting just seemed to glow and how the warm yellow hue of the walls and the sky-blue–tiled backsplash reminded me of the sunniest summer days. For my mom, a native Swiss, the colors were a reminder of her homeland.
I’m rapt, watching as my mom’s strong hands wrangle the old workhorse hand mixer, the beaters clattering against the faded yellow milk-glass mixing bowl as she beats the yellow cake mix into a thick, fluffy cloud. As it whines like a mini motorboat, nearly drowning out the soft rock playing in the background, cake-mix dust wafts toward my crinkling nose. I can almost taste the sweet, creamy batter, but between my mom’s watchful eye and the ferocious blades of the mixer, I don’t dare dip in a finger.
The motor stops.
“Here,” my mom softly whispers.
Finally! Time almost seems to stand still as my mom lovingly hands me a batter-coated beater. As the not-so-natural yellow goo drips all over my tiny fingers and feet, I quickly set to work, trying to lap up every drop.
“You know, you’ll get vurms if you eat too much of the raw batter,” my mom says almost halfheartedly in her thick Swiss accent. She was big on old wives’ tales and Old World superstitions, but her fear was no match for the pleasure she got from looking at the joy on my face. I knew I’d soon be licking the bowl, too.
And that’s when something deep within me just clicked. That’s when I realized that food and love were deliciously, beautifully intertwined. When she handed me that beater, my mother taught me not only to love food but to love sharing it with others, too.
Twenty-seven years later, I’ve turned that lesson into my career.
Looking back, it seems almost inevitable that I would end up attending the Baking and Pastry Program at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, near my hometown. Soon thereafter I began working at Trio, a four-star restaurant in Chicago, where I trained under renowned pastry chef Della Gossett, whose creativity and skill helped shape the way I bake.
When I got the itch to head west, I moved to Portland and spent several years working at acclaimed bakeries and restaurants like Florio, Genoa, Noble Rot, and Clarklewis. Finally, in 2008, I decided it was time to pave my own way. With limited funds but enthusiasm to spare, I opened The Sugar Cube food cart—my own space—where I could grow as a baker, define my own style, and connect with my customers in a personal way that’s usually not possible in a commercial kitchen. Not only would I get to bake their treats, but I also would be able to hand them out personally and see the pleasure on their faces as they took a bite. Finally, I’d be able to really spread my own brand of sugar love.
My cart was one of the first in the city to offer something beyond the usual taco-truck fare and certainly the first to specialize in desserts, so word quickly spread. Portlanders were hungry for my deliciously twisted takes on cupcakes and cookies, puddings and drinks, all made with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. Then journalists started calling, photographers started snapping my picture, and soon my little cart was getting ink in publications like the
New York Times
Los Angeles Times
Travel + Leisure
It always seemed to surprise people that I baked everything out of the cart. It wasn’t just a tiny retail space; it was also my workspace. This got me thinking: If I can make ganache-filled brownies, salted caramel-topped cupcakes, and brown-butter tarts out of an eight-by-fourteen-foot food cart, then anyone can, no matter how tiny the kitchen. And that’s how this book was born. I don’t have space for big, fancy equipment, acres of tools, or miles of shelves with luxurious staples. But I don’t need them, and neither do you.
So this book is for all you dessert hounds out there who think you can’t bake because you don’t have the right kitchen, the right equipment, or the right recipes. That’s B.S. If you can follow a recipe and have a little patience, you can become a whisk-wielding badass—and you don’t need a six-burner Wolf range to do it. I’ll tell you how to outfit your tiny kitchen or baking area and work efficiently within it, how to pick the best ingredients, and how to turn those ingredients into kick-ass desserts.
Don’t forget that baking is something that is done with love and care, and making family recipes is one of the best ways to remember and honor the ones you love and miss. If you’re lucky enough to have a big box of old recipes from your mom or grandma, cherish them—and use them. Let this book encourage you to fire up your oven and remember your roots.
So turn the page and don your apron. There’s nothing terribly difficult or labor intensive in here, because that’s not what I’m about. But you will find plenty of chances to get your hands dirty with a little butter and sugar—and plenty of delicious reasons to share the sugar love.