Caught Sticky-Handed

Sticky Fingers Bakery has long been a sweet sensation within the vegan community, serving up pastries and other delights in the Washington, DC area since 2002, accumulating numerous awards over the years. Most remarkable of all was when chef and owner Doron Petersan broke into the mainstream, not only showing up on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, but stealing the whole show; Her vegan cupcakes won by a landslide against the butter- and egg-based competition. Now, while the bakery that has always been held in high esteem, it’s become a runaway hit sensation, and everyone wants a piece of the pie (or, cake, as it may be.) Luckily, Doron has recently released the secrets to her baking success in a cookbook chronicling the bakery’s most popular recipes, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets.

Upon receiving my copy, I wasted no time and flipped straight to the famed Cowvin Cookies (page 110) I had already heard so much about. Deceptively simple oatmeal cookies, every time I heard these gems mentioned it was breathlessly, typically accompanied by the words “incredible,” or “addictive,” so I couldn’t resist the temptation. However, it was clear that something was amiss when the instructions led me to form the cookies into individual rounds, rather than bars, as they’re found in the bakery. Pleasantly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they made for fine oatmeal cookies… But didn’t quite live up to the hype. Particularly sweet when paired with the frosting-like filling, an additional hit of salt may have helped balance the whole assembly, and brought out a bit more flavor. I can’t say I would make them again as written.

Undeterred, I charged straight ahead to a breakfast treat in the form of Orange Cranberry Scones (page 175). Fashioned into a heart shape for Valentine’s Day, they held their shape admirably throughout their time in the oven. Utilizing the creaming method to bring ingredients together, rather than cutting in to make flaky layers, the resulting scones are more like cookies in texture. No matter, as they’re still plenty tender and bursting with bright citrus flavor. Accented by tart pops of dried cranberries, this sweet and tangy combo is an invigorating start to the day. Sweetened with restraint, the optional sugar topping really pulls the whole pastry together, and should not be skipped.

Suddenly finding myself with quickly perishing blueberries on hand, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets rescued the day (and the fruits) with classic Blueberry Muffins (page 155.) A sturdy but soft crumb gives way to polka dots of blueberries, lightly sprinkled with a crunchy oat topping. A perfectly respectable muffin, it certainly fit the bill, but may have been more successful with a double dose of berries, at least.

The real crowning jewels to this particular tome are, unsurprisingly, the cupcakes. Now I’m kicking myself for not starting there in the first place. Sure, vegan cupcakes are a dime a dozen these days, but how many times do you come across a George Caramelin Cupcake (page 90)? One of their winning offerings on cupcake wars, a rich chocolate cinnamon cake carried the weight of vanilla bean bourbon frosting, bourbon caramel sauce, and candied pecans with grace. Rising to impressive, perfect domes, the cakes themselves would have been perfectly tasty unadorned, but how could you say no to the suggestion of bourbon caramel? Boozy in a good way, the sauce came together easily and thickened beautifully after cooling, becoming the ideal consistency for delicate drizzling. The whole is so much greater than the parts, as incredible as they may sound alone, and I found myself compelled to “taste test” these beauties repeatedly before I felt satisfied with my assessment. Yes, all in the name of the cookbook review; I really took a hit for you guys on this one. It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it.

Rest assured, this book would be worth purchasing just for the cupcake section. Be prepared to use your kitchen scale though, because while there are mercifully weight and volume measurements included when possible, the difficulties of scaling down bakery-sized quantities leaves the standard American baker with a few fiddly measurements to contend with. Ultimately Sticky Fingers’ Sweets is a well thought-out compilation and homage to the DC bakery that started it all, and while all the recipes aren’t runaway hits, the ones that truly are make trying everything else worthwhile.

32 thoughts on “Caught Sticky-Handed

  1. That’s interesting about the Cowvin Cookies. I have a picture of me shoving one down my gullet at Sticky Fingers with a look of pure bliss on my face :) Something must have gotten lost in the translation to the cookbook!

    Your pictures look amazing, by the way. And nice job with the photos in Dreena’s new cookbook!

  2. Wow these pictures show stunning goodies.
    I have not heard of this bakery, but I guess as I was not planing on going to D.C. I did not look for vegan places there, although I would have made sure to go there (haha sweet tooth of mine).
    You surely honor the recipes of this cookbook.
    And scales are great too. That’s the way we do in France, although we can buy cups and spoons now, which is convenient, but still as I try to translate all my recipes into English, I sometimeshave trouble converting the measurements so that English speaking people may be able to make the recipes too.

  3. What a coincidence, I’m trying to contact her for an interview these days!
    And I really want her book although I have no idea about when I’ll be able to go back to baking.

      1. The only difference in Sticky Finger’s gluten free cupcakes is using Bob’s Red Mill flour blend & xanthan gum.

  4. So much yum! I try to stop at Sticky Fingers anytime I’m in DC. I love their cinnamon-y stuff. As always, your food styling makes everything look even more amazing!

  5. Hi Hannah,
    I love your blog, and I’m so glad you got the chance to try our cookbook! We are super excited about it! I just wanted to make a quick comment on the Cowvin Cookie recipe and why it is not in bar form in the book:-) We originally planned to put it in the book as a bar, but we actually changed it to a round sandwich cookie in the store shortly before the book went to print. So we wanted the book to reflect the change at the shop! You can definitely still make them into bars by baking the recipe into a sheet rather than rounds if you’d like.

    The idea behind the book was for us to show folks how we do things at the shop and give bakers a foundation for adapting the treats to their own tastes. So we really hope the recipes can do that for everyone! Thanks so much for the review!

    Cake Designer
    Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats

    1. Hi Kamber,

      Thanks for clearing that up, I had no idea that the Cowvin had changed shape in the first place!
      I did genuinely enjoy the cookbook, and I love seeing how my favorite eateries make their foods, so I’m glad Sticky Fingers shared their secret formulas. There are certainly many more cupcakes I want to try in there!

  6. I love the Cowvin bars! The first time I went my friend got one and now I must get one every time I go back. I was so so so excited to see them in the book (which I don’t own yet, but was planning on, just for said recipe). Yummiest thing ever! Too bad they didn’t work out so well at home, they look pretty different than the bakery version.

  7. Thanks for the review, Hannah. I didn’t realize a cookbook had come out. Though, while I love the bakery case at Sticky Fingers, I have to admit to preferring the savory fare at the bakery.

  8. Thank you for the honest review, Hannah. I doubt I’d ever get this as I’ve never been into big heaping frostinged baked goods, but I will say the cupcakes do look magnificent! I think I’ll stick with your creations instead :)

  9. Lovely review Hannah,

    From my European perspective I find the absence of scales in some many US kitchens baffleing. Although I have 3 sets of measuring cups I usually scribble in my books and convert all the recipes to weight.

  10. I might have had their stuff in Teany, years back. It’s so cool that they have “mainstream” bakery goods-too sweet for my blood. But LOVE that vegan cupcakes are plentiful. However, here in the “Bacon Belt”, they are still pretty obscure :(

  11. I had a similar experience with this cookbook–I made a couple of non-cupcake recipes and was disappointed with the results. But the cupcake recipe I tried was incredible!

  12. Amazing food photography. I have not heard of this cookbook before today but I am sure if you were the photographer, they could have sold even more copies. Will have to give these cupcakes a try. Take care, BAM

  13. Loved the review of the book. I remember seeing them on cupcake wars and the book sounds absolutely wonderful. I want to experiment vegan baking and this sounds like a perfect guide, I should get my hands on them soon!

  14. Aaaah! everything looks out of this world! I want to get my hands on one of those decadent chocolate cupcakes! Yummy!

  15. I certainly wouldn’t mind getting my fingers sticky with these sweets — everything looks and sounds fantastic, Hannah! Those Cowvin Cookies are really calling to me!

  16. I have to be honest, I’m always a bit wary when baking from scaled down restaurant cookbooks because of the whole measurement issue. Sometimes…things can be WAY off. these cupcakes do look delicious, though!

  17. A great cookbook review! Your photos are lovely and those cupcakes sound just as good! You did a really great job of pointing out some of the things to be aware of when baking using other people’s recipes. Thanks for a great post!

Leave a Reply