Alaska Cake Studio is perfectly situated for taking a cupcake and coffee break while strolling downtown on a Saturday afternoon. On a recent trip the doors were even wide open to welcome me in to a confectionery wonderland.
The first case lured me in with shelves of assorted truffles ($2 apiece) in flavors like lemon blossom, orange-scented caramel, passion fruit and raspberry peppercorn. Almost every conceivable sweets craving can be satisfied here. Slices of luscious cake, trifles and mousses, stacks of cookies and thick brownies beckon from behind the glass.
The atmosphere is festive and indulgent. Several shelves are filled with do-it-yourself baking items. Sprinkles are available in a rainbow of colors. Frilly aprons hang on their hooks like cast-off party dresses.
After several minutes of perusing, I'd managed to fill a bag to overflowing with goodies. I had so much sugar that I was a little frightened to ingest it all by myself. I needed to call in some reinforcements.
My next stop was my friend Melanie's house, whose 4-year-old boy Bodey is a disciple of decadence.
I swung my bag onto the kitchen table and he clambered into his seat, eyes wide with anticipation. The first thing I pulled out was a peanut butter brownie ($2.50), frosted and studded with peanut butter chips. Together we bit into the rich cake and smiled with matching chocolate frosting moustaches. Not too dense and packed with flavor, this was a sure-fire winner.
Next was a bag of artisanal strawberry marshmallows ($8.50 per bag). These are nothing like the grocery story version; light and ethereal, sweetly evocative of berries and with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency, I began having visions of gourmet s'mores and superior Rice Krispie treats.
Next came a gooey mojito trifle cake ($7). Yellow cake was covered in mojito-flavored frosting and the lime infusion was refreshing and palate-cleansing. Normally a fork affair, Bodey and I broke off pieces of the trifle and licked the frosting off of our fingers. We both agreed that this was the creme de la creme.
I handed him a gray salt caramel ($12 per box) and was met with resistance. He initially put the whole thing in his mouth, then made a face and stuck out his tongue, caramel and all. I had no such qualms. The gray salt undercut and accented the lushness of the caramel, and I savored the play of creamy chocolate with delicate crystals of sea salt. The grown-up flavor profile meant there was more chocolate for me.
After the caramel surprise, Bodey polished off the rest of his brownie to eradicate the taste of salt and ran downstairs to play, fueled by sugar. I apologized to his mother for probably ensuring a sleepless night for both of them and went on my way.
Once home, I pulled out a Provencale croissant ($3.25) and some truffles to complete my healthy meal. The croissant was delicious. The bottom was almost caramelized, and the crackly exterior gave way to soft, buttery, flaky layers and a savory filling. Assertive salami and pepperoni were wrapped around cheese for a satisfying little snack.
The truffles ($2 apiece) were rich and velvety. I enjoyed a peanut butter pave, a milk chocolate bear claw and a hazelnut truffle.
Chef and owner Will McDonald is both an accomplished baker and chocolatier. He has been baking for over 15 years and has appeared on Food Network's "Food Finds." McDonald and his wife Vanessa also own Confectioner's Studio, a wholesale and specialty cake bakery. They opened Cake Studio because customers wanted a place they could walk into and enjoy the McDonalds' desserts whenever the craving struck.
Their inventiveness is apparent in the wide array of ever-changing creations. Whether you like your sweets with a cappuccino or a big glass of milk, Alaska Cake Studio bakes up batches of pure imagination for every age.
Alaska Cake Studio
Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Options: Dine in, takeout and special orders
Address: 608 W. Fourth Ave.
By Riza Parsons
Daily News correspondent