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At Chef’s Table: ‘Easy’ memory inspires bakery

Angel Food Bakery owner Stephanie Samuels has quick taste. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times photos

Angel Food Bakery owner Stephanie Samuels has a quick taste. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times photos

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Updated: March 23, 2012 8:04AM

I distinctly remember coveting my friend Valerie Lapin’s Easy-Bake Oven when they first came out in the early 1960s. Walking those few blocks home from Valerie’s house was always a somber experience for my 9-year-old self.

Fast forward to 2004, when I opened Angel Food Bakery. In designing the space, I knew I would fill it with as many Easy-Bake Ovens as I could find. Finally, I had not one, but many — and my collection continues to grow.

I’m sure that playing with Easy-Bake Ovens made an impression on my future baking career. Not only did I grow up with these toys, but it also was a time when snack cakes were very popular. Of course, my brother and I tried to get Mom to buy them whenever we got her at a weak moment.

With my bakery, I knew I could design the menu around the childhood favorites that I so desired. I do find that most of the folks who stop in, especially those of a certain generation, really appreciate the homespun, retro items I offer — homemade versions of Twinkies, Zingers and Chocodiles, which I call Airstreams, RVs and Nutty Campers, as well as Marshmallow Igloos, similar to Hostess Sno Balls, and Whoopie Pies. I regularly look for new “old” desserts to remake and put on the menu.

My favorite customers are kids. The bakery case is just their height, and I love to watch them ooh and ahh over the goodies. The most popular among my customers of all ages remains the cupcake. I recently started hosting afternoon cupcake-decorating parties. It has been so fun to welcome kids in and let them have at it.

It’s very easy to create an old-fashioned buttercream for cupcakes. Whether you use a from-scratch cake recipe or a mix, the highlight of the cupcake is really the icing, and it’s worth it to take the few extra steps to whip it up yourself.

Both the recipes provided here can easily be halved.

Stephanie Samuels is the owner of Angel Food Bakery, 1636 W. Montrose

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