On the way out of town, I stopped by Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, a mother and daughter run bakery in Northern Liberties that uses Grandma Betty’s vintage recipes. Like many grandmas, Brown Betty’s namesake, Elizabeth Hinton, was famous for her pound cake. Other family cake recipes, such as carrot cake, cheesecakes, and chocolate cakes are also baked daily with a pinch of love and family tradition. The cakes proudly pay homage to the women in their family with cute names like Hattie Don’t Play™ and Aunt Eva Says™.
Most of the cakes in Brown Betty’s repertoire are available in cupcake form – perfect if you’re prone to eating an entire cake in one sitting (and want to avoid that), or just want to sample all the cakes (one per day, or in one sitting). I had a dozen assorted cupcakes boxed to go for the dinner party. I am embarrassed to say that I ate more than my fair share of the cupcakes (in one sitting), but I'm doing investigative work, and, um, need to do thorough work.
I was inexplicably drawn to the strawberry cupcake (forgive me, I cannot remember the names off all the cupcakes), stemming perhaps from fond memories of squeezing Strawberry Shortcake’s head to snort the synthetic fruit vapors wafting from her hair when I was a child. There were two strawberry cupcakes, one with chocolate buttercream frosting, and one with strawberry frosting. I ate both. The cake was moist and light, but the delicate strawberry flavor was overpowered by the sweet frosting.
I then ate a pound cake cupcake. The pound cake cupcakes really are pound cake, so don’t expect a light vanilla cake – these cupcakes are heavy and dense…and oh so good.
I heroically swooped down to finished the chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting when a dainty person could not bear to finish the beautiful cupper since being weaned from rich, sweet desserts. I was happy to assist her in her shortcomings, as I’m declaring this cupcake my favorite in the bunch.
After consuming three and a half cupcakes, I needed to put an end to the piggery. From there on out, I just took a pinch from the edges of a few more – all in the name of research, of course. The buttermilk pound cake with lemon frosting was my favorite pound cake, simply because lemon and pound cake are a classic pairing. The pound cake with pineapple was also outstanding, and a different twist on pound cake for me. If you like carrot cake, let me just say that you should start here. The carrot cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting is the lightest and moistest carrot cake I’ve ever had.
Grandma Betty – and all the other fabulous women in their family – doesn’t put out a single bad cake. Betty was obviously one bad ass lady, and her family is doing her – and us – right.
Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, 1030 N. 2nd St., #601, Philadelphia, PA, 19123 215-629-0999 Tues.-Sat., noon-7 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.; Mon., closed.