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Violet, 47 Wilton Way & Broadway Market, E8

With the cupcake craze sweeping the land, it’s easy to forget that the tasty morsels are in fact American. Californian Clare Ptak has had a stall on Broadway Market since 2005, selling her own versions of American cake classics: cupcakes and whoopie pies. Since then she has opened the stylish Violet café on Wilton Way, a Hackney backstreet that’s becoming a foodie destination. I met Claire (plus her handsome whippet puppy) at her flat round the corner from the café, to hear all about her passion for baking.

Interview with Claire Ptak

Claire is a self-taught cook: she started baking aged just 14 doing vacation work behind the counter of a bakery, and begged them to let her into the kitchen. She cooked at summer dude ranches while studying film at college, learning her trade by trial and error, and then moved to Chez Panisse in Berkeley to work as a pastry chef.

She came to Hackney five years ago and started the stall, her knack with cupcakes coinciding with a trend for nostalgia, and for local, natural food. The delicate colours of her buttercream icings come from seasonal ingredients, with rhubarb and elderflower in the spring; cherries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries in summer; quince, fig and Italian fragolina grapes in autumn; and citrus fruits in winter. Claire sources everything with care, buying fruit from Leila’s Shop in Shoreditch; Leila finds the best of British produce at the New Covent Garden Market. Sponges and cookies are made with organic flour, eggs, milk and sugar.

Claire is an established cookery writer as well as being a chef and food stylist, and she has kindly shared two of her own whoopie pie recipes with Eat Hackney. If you want more, see Claire’s Whoopie Pie Book, described by Jamie Oliver as “an absolutely gorgeous book by my favourite cake maker in the whole world”. Crikey!

Recipes

It comes as a surprise that frivolous sounding whoopie pies originate in the straightlaced Amish community. (Though who can forget Harrison Ford in his prime making Amish whoopie in the movie Witness? Anyway….) Both Maine and Pennsylvania lay claim to whoopie pie, which consists of two rounds of spongey cookie sandwiched together with cream filling. The original flavour is chocolate with a marshmallow filling (see below), but Claire has invented new variations such as the sumptuous rosewater and pistachio whoopie. Whether you opt for the large or mini-me version of these all-American goodies is up to you…

Chocolate whoopie pie

Rosewater and pistachio whoopie pie

4 Comments

  1. Posted 31 May ’11 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Helena, thanks, thanks, thanks for letting me know about your blog. It’s great. I love the photos, the space and the feel of it. I would love to promote it in my section “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music… Ad Infinitum”, where I share recipes with other people and upload music clips that I think go with the food. Let me know if you fancy that.

    Talking of food, I’m organising The Big Lunch this coming Friday 3rd June. The actual event is on Sunday 5th June in the rest of the country, but ours will take place two days earlier. If you fancy coming, let me know. Also, if you know of any performer (singer, musicians, poet, dancer) who would like to do something on the day, they would be more than welcome to. Please, bear in mind that this is a free event, so contributions will be voluntary. Also, they will have to bring a dish to share with people.

    I’m planning a little get-together for the end of July. I hope you’re around at that time.

    All the best. See you soon.

  2. Eat Hackney
    Posted 1 Jun ’11 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Cuban in London! There’s nothing like cooking with music blaring and pausing for a dance round the kitchen. It’s an inspiration to combine recipes and sounds. So sorry I can’t make the Big Lunch, boo, but have a fantastic day.

  3. Posted 5 Jun ’11 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the Twitter link. I’m not on it yet.

    I will be writing about your blog either at the end of June or beginning or July, What I would like to do is an interview with you and the reasons for the blog, how your photography is linked to it, what is it about Hackney and its vibe, etc. I will discuss these ideas further in an e-mail.

    Keep well and keep snapping! 🙂

    Have a fab week.

  4. Posted 2 Mar ’12 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    j’adore ce blog!

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