Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sweet Review: Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Cafe

For my first cupcake bar review, I couldn't have picked anywhere but Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Cafe in University City.  I can honestly say that Jilly's started this little fascination I have developed over the past five years.  I used to have a friend who lived on Delmar, and one day she told me that I just had to try this new place that opened up down the street.  We went for lunch/cupcakes one day, and it was all downhill from there  just as wonderful as she had described.


Jilly's Cupcake Bar/Cafe

The cupcakes are huge.  I mean, massive.  One pound each!  I don't think I could finish one if my life depended on it.  Either way, they are so rich and delightful.  The buttercream, especially, is unlike any I have tasted.  I would love to know how to recreate it.  For our recent tasting, my friend Pat and I tried two cupcakes: the Strawberry Cheesecake and Chocolate Thunder.  

Strawberry Cheesecake.

Seriously....I really don't need to say much besides that it tasted even better than it looks.  This beauty consists of vanilla cake, stuffed with cheesecake/strawberry jam, and topped with strawberry and vanilla buttercream, white chocolate curls, and graham cracker crumbs.  I have to say, you can really sense the freshness of the ingredients.  A cupcake like this is a several step process - starting with baking a full cheesecake.  You can taste the difference in every bite!

Chocolate Thunder. Dying over here..

If there was one that I actually would try to finish (Man vs. Food style), it would probably be the Chocolate Thunder.  Here we are working with a chocolate cake, stuffed with absoultely decadent chocolate ganache, and topped with chocolate and vanilla buttercream, white/dark chocolate shavings, and bark.  You'd think it would be a serious case of chocolate overload, but somehow the flavors all fit to balance eachother perfectly.  This was the first one I tried and it is still the fave!  The owner, Jill, was also kind enough to send me home with her Flourless Chocolate Brownie (for Passover - so thoughtful!), but unfortunately it was gone before I could photograph it.  Oops!

We sat down with Jill Segal, the above mentioned owner, and her consultant, Casey Shiller to chat about what makes Jilly's special.  We just LOVED how enthusiastic they were about what Jilly's had to offer.  You can tell that they truly value quality in everything that is served.  "It would be so easy to cut corners," they said, "but we take the time to provide the best."  Beyond a cupcake bar, Jilly's actually serves a full lunch breakfast and lunch menu.  (Sundays provide the most delicious brunch I have had in a long time, complete with a design-your-own-mini-cupcake bar)  As far as lunch goes, I highly recommend the brisket sandwich!  To die for. 

I was thrilled to ask Jill a few questions about her experience since opening.  She is just too cute.

1. What originally made you decide to open a cupcake store?
I read an article in Times Magazine in 2007 about the cupcake craze in both the East and West coasts.  It just hit me as the "best" idea ever.  Wow, has this been a bumpy road with many twists, turns...as well as soaring highs...and lows.

2. Do you do the baking, decorating, or both?
Neither, I don't bake or cook, nor do I decorate. However, since I grew up "hating" traditional sugary icings I would NOT eat frostings, at least not until I tried real buttercream, when we made it the first time.  I had an AH HA! moment...so that is what it should taste like...LOVE IT NOW, so long as it is creamy, smooth and tastes real AND delicious...made with butter and powdered sugar...with REAL chocolate poured and whipped inside the frosting. I can taste any frosting and know what they use, lard, shortening, cocoa powder, etc. 

3. How long have you been baking/decorating?
I have been a FOODIE forever...I love food of all kinds and love to eat!

4. Favorite cupcake?
I LOVE our Turtle cheesecake cupcake...we make the cheesecake here and then add dulche de leche which is a spanish caramel that is more milky and creamier than any other caramel...Also, we do a real banana foster that is truly one of the best cakes and frostings ever made, EVER! Ok, also REECES Peanut butter chunkage yes, we sell those too...Chocolate and pb buttercream, topped off with recess chunkage and stuffed with fudge ganache and peanut butter mousse. AMAZING!

5. What other desserts are your favorites?
I Love, love love cookies and brownies (remember I wouldn't eat frosting growing up so for 43 years or so, so I wouldn't eat cake with frosting, or anything with fake goo inside...love Oreo's (but hate & scrape the stuff inside!)  so I ate cookies, cheesecake and brownies...YUM!

6. What is next for Jilly's Cupcake Bar?
We just expanded our space for more seating and we are looking to expand our dessert options...

7. In your opinion, what is next for the dessert industry?
I think the TREND for individual Celebrations like our cupcakes are the future of desserts...the cake concept can only offers up to two choices in flavor, whereas a cupcake, pie, Macaroon can have dozens of flavors, colors and designs...a family of four or a group of friends all have DIFFERENT tastes so you can CUSTOMIZE flavors for your event, dessert, wedding or treat...lemon, chocolate, vanilla, cheesecake, tart, sweet...which I feel is the future. Regardless of all the publicity go or bad for cupcakes, the concept will stay, the vehicle will change. Weddings, special events, baby showers, birthdays, corporate...all can be customized to fit THEIR ideas of delish...their choices that they love...not my or someone else's idea of delish.  I love what we do, we create fun and get to be involved in the most special events in people's lives...that has been the best part of this adventure.

To Jill and Casey, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us!  The cupcakes were wonderful and the two of you were so sweet.  I wish you nothing but the best.

Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Cafe
8509 Delmar Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63124
314.993.JILLY (5455)

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