It’s a small world after all. The blogosphere brings together people from the furthest pockets of the Earth, and yet somehow the perception of an immense distance remains between even “real life” friends. After lurking about on Vanessa’s blog and admiring her tasty recipes for a good number of years, it would never in my wildest dreams have occurred to me that she might be closer much than I thought. Upon learning about her latest sweet venture, Hungryface Bakery, that imagined gap was compressed down to nothing when she suddenly arrived at my doorstep bearing boxes of incredible treats. Rather than ship them, it was easier and faster for her to cross a few town lines and meet me face to face. I’m still reeling at how dangerously close such a talented source of delicious baked goods is to my home!
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Vanessa takes the same stance on baking vegan as I do, which means that the fruits of her labor are just damned good eats that happen to be vegan. No more qualifiers, no more excuses. Vegan desserts aught to be held to the same standard as any others, so it’s heartening to see this point of view in those who really can spread the word- And sweetness. Her current selection ranges from cookies to tea cakes, all available to ship anywhere in the US, even if you aren’t as lucky to be practically neighbors with the baker herself.
Heart of Darkness Brownies are the most visually arresting of the group; Bars that are this dark and dense are guaranteed to be a rich chocolate experience. Living up to their outward appearance, each bite packed a punch of full-frontal fudge goodness, offset by deep, dark notes of roasted espresso. A minefield of chocolate chips, hidden by the pitch black surroundings they’re buried in, just a few bites would satisfy even the most voracious chocoholic.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Moon & Stars Shortbread glittered with a topping of snowy white granulated sugar, covering a dense yet delicate, buttery cookie. Slightly bitter thanks to the smattering of toasted black sesame seeds woven throughout that soft yet crisp crumb, a restrained dose sweetness balanced out the whole equation perfectly. Periodic bites of chocolate were also a surprising delight to discover within. A subtle aroma of coconut lends a slightly exotic undertone, making it reminiscent of an Asian chocolate chip cookie.
Another standout was the Earl Grey Tea Cake. Straddling that fine line between muffin and cupcake, it’s certainly sweet enough to be right at home on a dessert platter, but has a more sturdy, substantial crumb, and of course no superfluous frosting to cover up the delicate flavors of tea. Whole tea leaves impart a floral and slightly citrus flavor throughout the moist miniature cakes, accented with a bright spike of sea salt to really draw out the full intensity of typically demure earl grey. Though packed with tea already, they would indeed make an excellent accompaniment to a cup of one, too.
Pistachio Cherry Shortbread stays true to its name and tastes like actually pistachios, which is a subtle and difficult flavor to convey in any baked good. Seemingly sweeter than the previous offerings, for some odd reason these reminded me of strawberry marshmallows, of all things. Though plenty delicious, they seemed out of place amongst the other more adventurous pairings. By comparison, it was simply a bit too tame.
Building up expectations pretty high with a name like The Sugar Cookie to End All Sugar Cookies, these flat, monstrous frisbees of cookie dough have a classically homey appearance that implores you to dive right in. Perfectly chewy, through and through, Vanessa nails the texture, which is arguably the single most important aspect of a solid sugar cookie. Subtle hint of brown sugar adds complexity, but these are really straight-forward, simple sugar cookies, sure to please younger palates as well.
My very first whiff of the Drunken Shortbread tells me that these will be a doozy. Thankfully, the cookie’s aren’t as powerfully alcoholic as they first threaten, but a comfortable undercurrent of bourbon is constantly present from the first bite to the last. Chocolate chips lined up neatly on top like the buttons on a double-breasted jacket add just enough interest to keep the cookie from becoming monotonous. These melt-in-your-mouth tender bars are sophisticated with a touch of whimsy; not too sweet, and just a little bit naughty.
The creative flavor pairings matched up in Hungryface Bakery are what set them apart from the pack, but the superb execution of each individual offering is what will keep the curious coming back. Even if you’re a passionate baker, it’s nice to take a break and let someone else fire up the oven to satisfy your sweet cravings every now and then. Rather than give in to the siren song of stale, store-bought biscuits, take the time to order online. These cookies tastes about a hundred time better and fresher because they’re all still handmade.