About a year ago, a New York City pastry chef named Victoria Yee Howe started an underground cake club in her Chinatown apartment. One night a month for six months, Howe welcomed strangers (I guess technically they were friends of friends) into her home, charging them $10 to eat as much cake and drink as much coffee and tea as they wanted. In total, she fed some 500 people more than 70 types of cakes and confections that she had made herself in her 600-square-foot “shithole of an apartment,” as she calls it. Howe’s Chinatown Cake Club got picked up by bloggers, and although she probably could’ve scored herself a nice little cookbook deal with a traditional publisher, she instead went the ‘zine route.
My copy of Howe’s 52-page pamphlet, Chinatown Cake Club: A Secret Bakery’s Recipebook for Cakes and Other Confections, arrived yesterday. There are no photos and the entire book is in typewriter font. There’s no name-dropping, no acknowledgements, and the foreword ends with Howe telling readers that she has since moved out of her Chinatown digs and now lives on a boat that lacks running water, and that she’s hardly baked at all since the CCC died several months ago. If there is a less intimidating cookbook author, I have yet to meet her.
Oh, and the recipes? They’re a diverse collection of macarons, cakes, tarts, and ice creams, with a fair amount of Asian flavors (matcha, taro, sesame oil, soy sauce). I’ve got my eye on the Carrot Cake with Condensed Milk Frosting. The cake itself is pretty traditional, but the frosting’s cream cheese/butter/powdered sugar/condensed milk combo sounds divine.