Second Helpings



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Holy Moly! Bliss With Bite


    “Don’t eat any snacks or drink wine during the event,” the volunteer co­ordinator wrote in an e-mail. Perhaps committed to the “third time lucky” principle, she repeated the advice verbally, adding it to the list of instructions when we arrived. Did those of us about to spend several hours on a Saturday in San Francisco helping out at a fundraiser look greedy, malnourished, desperate or all three?
    As it turned out, following the rule was no problem—until the umpteenth plate came sailing past bearing a selection of petite and artsy cupcakes frosted to perfection. Their source was not difficult to track down. Learning they were Oakland-made, I remembered my mother’s oft-repeated advice. “Rules,” she would say, “are made to be broken.”
    Where to start? How about a tiny vision of heaven labeled Vietnamese Coffee—rich and flavorful, like the beverage at its best. Then onto one called Olé Mole—and holy moly, stop right there. You bite into dense, moist chocolate cake with a generous swirled topping, both just the right sweetness, and luscious from the start. Then the unexpected explosion-in-the-mouth happens, which, let me add, wasn’t just my experience. Back at our silent-auction command post, I learned that two fellow volunteers had, like me, succumbed to temptation. The tantalizing volcanic happening, it turned out, came from a whisper of smoked Mexican dried chili buried in the chocolate. “Amazing how it suddenly bursts forth,” said one.
    Trilly Nguyen, our temptress with the treats she calls her “bits”—they’re about half the size of regular cupcakes—learned to bake from her pastry chef mom. Nguyen gave up a career in graphic design, spent a year in the kitchen at La Farine on College Avenue, then made pastries for a small catering company. She started her own business, Whiskie Bits Bakeshop, named for her favorite kitchen item, the whisk, about 18 months ago. To date, it’s been all cupcakes and cookies, just for catered events. Check her Web site for retail outlets. She has plans to expand.
    Whiskie Bits Bakeshop, (510) 658-8284, www.whiskiebits.com.
—By Wanda Hennig
—Photography by Lori Eanes

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