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Sweet escapes at the Dolce Lab in Florence

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While I wouldn’t consider myself a person that constantly craves sweets, when I do – it’s an itch that pretty much is mandatory to scratch. Luckily, living in Italy has provided a plethora of ‘sweet escapes’ to indulge in like tiramisu, panna cotta, various torte and much more. Thank god I live on the third floor with no elevator. 

Of course, I do get the occasional craving for a single perfect cupcake, scone or brownie – which is when I head over to the S. Ambrogio area of town to the Dolce Lab – a cake design laboratory / shabby-sheek concept cafe serving up all of the goodies I miss and then some.. Truth be told, while I love to cook and think I am pretty ok at it, I am no Betty Crocker in the baking department. I can happily make a cheesecake or a fruit crisp in an afternoon while everything else has a 50% chance of either getting burnt, tasting like oven or bicarbonate soda.

This past weekend, I headed to Dolce Lab for a special short introduction to dessert-decorating with 7 other lovely foodie bloggers Barbara, Chiara and Marta, Tiana, Stefania and Simona & Claudia. We got the chance to see how they make their cakes so much better than mine while occasionally sneaking a not-so-discreet bite of whatever crossed my path. ;-)

Who is Dolce Lab?

Dolce Lab was created by two lovely girls, Sara & Francesca, one with a background in architecture and one in event design who left stable jobs {which we all know is rare in Italy – so for that I already give them major kudos} to realize their dream of bringing a unique kind of cake design to Florence. Not only did they manage that, they also created this cute cafe which is an absolute gem and has honest prices to boot! What I really respect about their business philosophy is how all of the products they use in their desserts are from local producers only, from seasonal fruits to eggs via free-range chickens – it is absolutely worth looking at this factors in a world where often we have no idea what is really in our food.

A short introduction to dessert design 

We started our journey with a cupcake, cookie and cake-pop base, which we would then cover in various decorations like a group of sweet-obsessed Leonardo da Vinci wannabees.

if these desserts could talk, they would say “save me”!

The cupcake base is a basic yogurt cupcake, light and fluffy and since I had a cupcake and half for breakfast before starting – I managed to keep my hands off my test piece until the decorating was done. We started with our cookies, rolling out and coloring our pasta di zucchero (sugar paste) and cutting them in various shapes and sizes under the watchful eye of Francesca.

colorantsIts worth keeping in mind that for health reasons, less is more when it comes to using food coloring in your dessert – certain colors are worse (dark usually being the case – aka don’t ask and eat for a completely black cake unless the outside is just decoration). Just a few drops colours in our sugar paste and we were off rolling and stamping our designs using cute flowers and hearts.

Blogger team at work!

I have to say, while I have no desire to win ‘cake wars’ back in the states, this was a lot of fun! As soon as we finished blinging out our cookies, we started on our cake pops which are exactly what they sound like. New to Italy but already super popular in the states – these bite-size goodies can be decorated a number of ways and kids love them, and… so do adults – aka especially me! While cake is {obviously} used as the ball-shaped base, we covered them in a chocolate ganache sauce (just cream and chocolate) – anyone else love that word? The chocolate has to be the right consistency in order to coat and not be too liquidy, also when it comes to drying the cake pops – it’s important to let them dry outside first before sticking them inside the fridge or you risk a chocolate mess.

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We let these beautiful creations dry and later covered them in white-chocolate stripes. This pretty topping was so easy to do – melt your white chocolate sauce, take a knife and splatter the chocolate {like you’re waving a wand} over your (dried) coated cake-ball and voila – you’ve got yourself a decorated dolce! 

Next up was decorating our cupcakes, the icing was a butter-cream frosting which was one of the most delicious icing I have ever tasted. Made using room-temperature butter, powdered sugar & one spoonful of milk. Icing the cupcakes was simple, you use one hand to squeeze the tube of icing, and the other to guide in a upward-spiral fashion. Kind of like rubbing your belly and patting your head, which I never excelled at but this i managed to do without embarrassing myself.

cuocake

The end product?

When we finished decorating, they wrapped up everything for us in some pretty packaging and I had a fun time trying to avoid bumping into hordes of tourists to avoid maiming my cupcake. The center of Florence has no respect for dessert transportation ;-).

Thats not all! 

To complete our decorating Saturday, we all got a savory brunch delivery from Panino Tondo which I previously included in my list of places to order food delivery in Florence. I love their brunch and the people who work there are super nice, plus you can really never go wrong with crispy bacon and a toasted bagel.

To end this blog post – enjoy this recipe for their cupcakes which are what I believe angels eat in heaven.

Yogurt cupcakes

3 jars of flour
2 jars of sugar
1 jar of sunflower oil
1 jar of yogurt

1 packet of baking powder(lievito) for desserts
3 eggs & lemon (flavoring)

Preparation 

Empty one jar of yogurt and use this jar as your measuring tool for all of the above ingredients. In a mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and yogurt – mixing at a medium speed. Then sift your flour and baking powder together and slowly add this to the ingredients in your mixer, always mixing at the same time. Add your lemon flavoring (or vanilla if you prefer) and mix everything always at a medium speed. Divide your cupcake mix into 14 cupcake holders, and make sure to fill each one 2/3 of the way up (not more!). Set your oven to 180 degree’s celsius for 20 minutes. voila!

Butter cream frosting

100 grams of butter at room temperature, 200 grams of powdered sugar and one spoonful of milk. Mix your butter with the powdered sugar and milk until the mix comes out clear and creamy and stick in your fridge to later use to top your cupcakes.

Craving a delicious cupcake that you don’t have to make, want to order a personalized cake or take a cake-design course of your own? 

Dolce Lab Firenze 

Via de Macci, 38r, 50122 {S.Ambrogio area)
+39 055 386 0279

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am-13.00/15.30-19.00. Sunday 10am – 5pm.

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