About two weeks ago I blogged about a tiny cupcake bakery in the midst of Amsterdam’s bustling city center: Van Ness Cupcakes (read the
previous post here). The discovery of this new cupcake bakery had got me excited for cupcakes all over again. However, it did not come without hardship. Due to my unfortunate clumsiness, I had a slight mishap with the cupcakes on the tram. When Vanessa got word of this, she sent a message and invited me to come over!
When I arrive in the store, I am welcomed by Vanessa into the kitchen. Vanessa works in the IT industry on weekdays through Thursday, after which she puts on her baking gear and starts baking for her shop, which is open on Fridays through Sundays. Talk about a hard working woman. But Vanessa doesn’t consider it work ‘when it is your passion‘. Vanessa recalls having a baking oven for kids when she was little. It was probably around that time that her passion for baking started. Her mother, also a baker, taught Vanessa the tricks of the trade and as Vanessa got older, she was able to help her mother decorate cakes. At one point, she started baking cupcakes for herself. When her cupcakes grew in demand, she knew that it was time to start her own shop.
I tell Vanessa that the Chocolate Baileys cupcake was my absolute favorite and that, with the first bite, I knew it had to have been made by someone who understood and appreciated Baileys liqueur. Vanessa chuckles. She says the best cupcakes are made with ingredients you understand and are familiar with. I concur. As much as I love it when people come up with the most extravagant of tastes, I find that I enjoy my mother’s home-cooked meals, for instance, most. It just feels close to home.
The door opens and an American lady walks in. She strikes up a conversation with Vanessa about the cupcakes, how they are made and whether they are like American cupcakes. Upon seeing the beautiful cupcakes, she is left undecided and instead asks Vanessa for her favorite cupcake. “The Vanilla cupcake,” Vanessa smiles. The woman seems happy with this choice and agrees to get the Vanilla cupcake. She walks out the door happily and wishes us a good day. I tell Vanessa that the first time I walked in, I had so much to ask, but in the end didn’t, afraid I would get in her way. She laughs off the absurdity of this notion (as would I) and says it is what she actually loves. When customers come in and have a talk with her about everything and nothing. It doesn’t even need to be about cupcakes. She just loves getting to know her customers. I look around the store. The interior design certainly gives off a homely and delightful feel. I wouldn’t be surprised if customers opened up to Vanessa about just anything!
I ask Vanessa what, to her, makes the perfect cupcake. From the looks of her face, I can see this is a question she knows the answer to by heart. She explains that the cake of every cupcake should never be dry. That’s the #1 rule right there. Instead, it should be moist and soft to bite into. The frosting shouldn’t be hard, but creamy and velvety. But it should never taste like butter! When you eat a cupcake, you should never be reminded of how much butter you are eating (I agree). And last but not least, the cake : frosting ratio should at all times be 2 : 1. When you take a bite out of your cupcake, you want to be able to take that bite and preferably without smearing! Again, I couldn’t have agreed more. Compared to other cupcakes I’ve had in Amsterdam, the first thing that struck me about Van Ness Cupcakes was the soft, velvety frosting of the cupcakes. While some bakeries do bake their own cupcakes, the cupcakes are often pre-cooled or shipped all over the country, which tends to harden the frosting. But this is not the case with Vanessa’s cupcakes. And paired with a moist cake, that is rich and full of flavor, it is a cupcake you can hardly resist.
Vanessa started Van Ness Cupcakes a year ago. Last Sunday, she, along with many friends, celebrated the bakery’s one-year anniversary. Vanessa tells me the first year went by so fast. She saw this space for rent, small and humble, but big enough to start a dream. Everything else followed soon. Building the bakery’s interior, designing the company’s logo’s, starting the website and social profiles to keep up with customers. But she did it all on her own and it’s all part of something she had envisioned long before she started.
When I ask her what her future plans are for Van Ness Cupcakes, she assures that whatever will follow, it will be big, it will be sweet. And it will all, naturally, involve a lot of cupcakes.
When I leave, Vanessa is kind enough to give me a box of her cupcakes. She felt sorry for the cupcakes that didn’t make it in the box the last time. Needless to say, it was a real treat. And when I got home, the cupcakes were still as beautiful as they were in the store (no clumsy smudging!).
Here’s what I had:
The Coconut cupcake – A sweet coconut cake with coconut topping and shavings of coconut.
The Chocolate cupcake – A moist chocolate cake with velvety chocolate frosting and colored sprinkles. I think I have a new favorite!
Vanessa’s personal favorite: the Vanilla cupcake – A vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and colored sprinkles.
The monthly flavor: S’Mores cupcake – A moist chocolate cake with a s’mores topping and a s’mores (and I suspect, cookies?) surprise on the inside!
Apple Cinnamon cupcake – A flavorful cinnamon cake with apple frosting.
Last but not least, Red Velvet cupcake – A moist chocolate red cake with velvety frosting. You don’t see it on this photo, but the heart has subtle edible glitter.