May 20, 2011

Super Faminto: The Cookie Shop Brings More Than Just Cookies (São Paulo)

by Bryan Sanders

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After getting canned without reason, the day after her maternity leave was up, Paula Cinini was not sure what to do; she had always worked as a journalist. To find some solace in this devastating situation, and cope with her mother’s passing, Paula dug up her mother’s old, partly-burned, worn recipe book and began baking.

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The good book with mom’s recipes, burned pages, and finger prints throughout.

Baking is something Paula was taught to do with love. Baking reminded her of when she would help her mother and Italian grandma make pasta as a little girl. Paula took her skills into the kitchen and talent with words and built a blog that has been going strong for over three years. But, she didn’t stop there. Along with the help of her husband Alexandre (he taught himself chocolates, and Paula taught him cupcakes), and daughter Helena, Paula began to bake for their friend’s parties and events.

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A cookie on a stick order going out for the weekend.

The popularity of her blog The Cookie Shop, and moist (yes) cakes, cookies, and cupcakes spread, and soon she had a business that she loved. All of her goods are sold virtually and baked right at home, with the help from Alexandre, who is in charge of the chocolates. Together, it is an entirely in-house operation that has transformed their home.

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Paula and Alexandre.

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Helena.

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Alexandre’s white chocolate, caramel, and macadamia and chocolates.

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Sugar cookies with killer frosting. I ate about four of these.

When asked about her first sell to a total stranger, Paula reveals that her client, a São Paulo University physics student, grabbed her and gave her a massive hug right there in the parking lot, where she admitted she was a huge fan of Paula’s blog, and “couldn’t wait to try her cupcakes!” Paula was clearly onto something.

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Paula deep in concentration.

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Et voila!

Brazilian baking is a bit different that of the U.S. or France. In a country where cake is a part of every afternoon snack, Paula admits that Brazilians are pretty particular about their cake, “They have to be more moist  (yes) and the fillings sweeter. You can’t mess with these two things too much because people are particular.” In Brazilian cakes the main event comes from the filling and not so much the frosting, although that is good too.

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Our moist wedding cake: orange cake with layers of pistachio creme filling. Still drooling.

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Straight from Roger Rabbit: my sister in-law’s coconut cake with fudge filling and sugar icing.

Fresh ingredients like pistachios, fruits, walnuts, and the very best flour fill her cakes (and kitchen).

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The Cookie Shop.

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Tools of the trade.

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Lists.

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The foundation.

The secret ingredient for Brazilian sweet-makers is condensed milk. Paula laughs, “The French patisseries deplore Brazil’s use of it, but no one really cares, because it tastes so good.” It is rumored that the white sweet gooey stuff is making a comeback stateside.

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Due to good ol’ twitter, Paula has recently joined forces with a group of over 50 bakers, other bloggers, and sweet-makers forming a sort of “online oracle” where anyone with a baking emergency can find help within minutes. They call themselves the “Doceiras Tweeteiras” (The Tweeting Sweet-Makers) and have formed a support group for women home alone that exercise creativity and challenge themselves to tackle new recipes and projects.

Paula says her first cake order was a disaster. After the third attempt, the recipe was right, but she had not transported a cake before and  had to readjust and rebuild part of it in front of the birthday girl’s house! To achieve the extreme moistness of Brazilian cake require a process. It takes Paula three days to build a two layer wedding cake, with time to cool, let it settle, then add the filling. The waiting period is crucial to make sure the cake sets properly.

No matter how long it takes, The Cookie Shop’s aim is always to create magic.

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Sweet!

14 Comments

  • yoko
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I am not a huge frosting person, but these cakes and cookies are really pleasing to look at. The face you are making in that last photo is priceless.

  • Yamahomo
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Huge respect for Paula, and huge inspiration for my future.

  • Bryan
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Yamahomo, I told her about you, and your culinary skills. You two would be great friends.Both of you dig on Martha Stewart.next time I am in New York, we have to get a meal.

  • worm
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Wow, what a dream! That cartoon cake is insane. You have to have a very steady hand to do all that piping with the icing. It’s quite difficult.
    The wedding cake is interesting because she really captures the fabric trimming feeling with the lacy detail and buttons.
    Baking is the best!

  • worm
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    … and one more thing… What are those curious square and partial square shapes on the list?

  • Bryan
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    the squares are a counting mechanism. Each side of the square represents one.

  • yamahomo
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Bryan, I don’t “dig” Martha, she is my “competitor”. And yes, if any of out of town Umami writer comes to NYC, I will have to host a special dinner.

  • Bryan
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Noted. Sounds good to me.

  • Posted May 20, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Great post!I bet the orange and pistachio wedding cake was devine (besides gorgeous)! Congrats!

    I’ve met Paula 2 weeks ago and I can assure that not only she cooks those amazingly good sweets (she brought a dulce de luche flan over our get together), she’s the nicest and funniest person ever. She deserves all the success that she gets.

  • Posted May 20, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    I mean DIVINE… sorry for the misspelling ;-)

  • Anders
    Posted May 21, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Adorbz!! She’s the Jedimaster of icing.
    I wish I could order the Roger Rabbit cake for my next birthday – it’s so hilariously cartoonic. I wonder just for fun how it feels to sit down on a wedding cake…

  • Posted May 25, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Condense milk! Have you ever tried the tres leches cake? My aunt doesn’t like sweets and this is the only cake she’ll eat. Thanks for the background behind that yummy wedding cake!

  • Juliana
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 6:57 am

    I am Brazilian and I live in London. One day a long time ago I googled a brazilian cake recipe and I had looked at some websites. Her one caught my attention, it was beautiful pages, looking delicious, very well written! I, who had never baked a cake before, tried the marble cake! It was a hugely success!!! Thanks Paula! Of course I told everyone about it!!

    Bryan, you wrote about the Brazilian cakes being different. It is so funny because most of Brazilians living abroad complain how creammy and tastless are the cakes in Usa, Uk, Fr. And they think our puddings are too sweet.

    I had heard Brazilian people saying this here in London: ‘ I don’t think the sweeties here are very healthy it is so fat, have you seen how much butter they put in it?’ I had heard from some English people ‘ Yes it is okay, perhaps a bit too sweet. I don’t think it is very healthy with all these sugar’

    Why people worry about being healthy? when we are giving ourselves a treat… I think it is just defensive towards our childhood and primary experiences of what sweet and treat mean :)

    Well… we were sugar cane country and you cow farmers with winters. So explained why :)

    Best wishes

    Juliana

    big kiss (in Brazilian style;)) to you and to all your beloved :)

  • Bryan
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Juliana,

    Thank you so much for your comment.

    It is so true. If we are eating cake, it better taste good; healthy cake is just weird.

    I’m glad you are able to use some of Paula’s recipes. Try the pistachio orange one too it is incredible.

    abracos,

    Bryan

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