Cupcakes Take the Cake

Just as Hansel and Gretel followed a trail of breadcrumbs,
I followed my nose to DeLish by Irises in downtown Plattsburgh


Story and photos by Alyse Whitney

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DeLish by Irises serves up everything from scratch-made pastries to artisan sandwiches.

The scent of freshly baked pastries was tantalizing as it lured me in from the sidewalk. Although I do not have a sweet tooth, my taste buds were held powerless against the decadent waft of DeLish by Irises’ exceptional selection of cupcakes.

The first step inside was almost overwhelming. Half of the small bakery was set up for seating, while a counter and a cooler monopolized most of the other space. The décor was simple and cozy, just like a bakery should be, yet it was also very clear that DeLish is meant to be a grab-and-go type of establishment. In my ten minutes there, I watched customers order a sandwich or a cupcake, grab their box, and rush out the door. At least two or three of them had a briefcase in hand; in fact, one had a napkin tucked into the collar of his shirt as he balanced a chocolate cupcake and his BlackBerry, putting an entirely new twist on the act of mixing business with pleasure.

After examining the colorful chalkboard menu hanging above the counter, I realized I had missed breakfast – served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. – by about half an hour, so I would not be able to enjoy a buttermilk biscuit breakfast sandwich. In addition to egg breakfast sandwiches, DeLish also offers breakfast pizza, grilled paninis, and the aforementioned biscuits smothered with jam. Everything that can be scratch-made is baked in house. This ranges from spreads to breads, as well as granola and various delectable pastries. On the weekends for breakfast, quiche is also served, and it can be purchased by the slice or as whole pies to go.

For lunch, which is offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., there are also a lot of interesting options. All of the artisan breads offered at DeLish are made in-house and change frequently. Their sandwiches are named after various establishments that exist, or used to exist, at City Hall Place. My favorite sandwich moniker is the classic turkey club, which DeLish cheekily dubbed ‘Club 18’, after a club that used to operate down the street. Sandwiches can be prepared hot or cold and are served with gourmet potato chips. In addition to interesting names, DeLish also offers unique spreads, like apple chutney or caramelized onion and cracked pepper mayonnaise. Salads are also available topped with house-made vinaigrettes and dressings.

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The cupcake flavors at DeLish vary, depending on the season and ingredients available.

While the menu is mildly expansive, the star of the show at DeLish is obviously the cupcakes. Although there were many other appetizing options, I knew I had to try one. But how could I pick just one? In a split-second decision, I asked Adrienne Dionne, executive chef at DeLish, to just give me one of each to take home and devour. My sampling included basic chocolate and vanilla cupcakes as well as the popular chocolate peanut butter, the seasonal vanilla chai, the original Irish car bomb, and a new strawberry crème.

The weight of the cupcakes was surprising, as was the price tag. For half a dozen cupcakes, I shelled out $16, which works out to be $2.50 per cupcake. Considering that the cupcakes were piled with about two inches of frosting, I considered it a fair deal and drove home to share the newfound wealth with my roommates.

When I arrived home, I set up a simple process: unwrap, cut, share, and enjoy. Even with each cupcake split into three pieces, it took us two days to eat all of them. Fortunately, they managed to not dry out too much overnight in their plastic container, which was specifically crafted for cupcake transportation.

The first one we dove into was DeLish’s most popular – chocolate peanut butter. Although it seemed simple, the flavor was very rich and complex. After sampling the cupcake on its own, I determined it must be of the Devil’s food variety, which was ironic considering how heavenly it tasted. The texture of the cupcake itself was a bit dry, but it was quickly remedied with the creamy frosting. The whipped peanut butter frosting was strong; its intensity made it a bit overbearing, but that was nothing a glass of icy, cold milk could not fix. The strong flavor left a residual taste in my mouth for a few minutes, but it was reminiscent of a Reese’s peanut butter cup overload on Halloween, and I could see it being very popular with children.

The next cupcake we tasted was a stark contrast to the previous chocolate peanut butter. The vanilla chai is a seasonal flavor, but DeLish changes one or two cupcakes per week, depending on ingredients available. The aroma was what hit all of us first. A strong vanilla scent was the most powerful, but that flavor did not follow through when we took the first bite. With a pound cake texture, the cake itself was crispy on the outside and dense on the inside, but there was not a lot of chai flavor. It simply did not taste as good as it smelled, and the buttercream frosting piled on top did not add much to it either.

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Cupcakes taken to go at DeLish are placed in a well-designed package which prevents them from tipping over en route home.

After a relatively bland experience with the vanilla chai, the Irish car bomb cupcake was like a jumpstart to my taste buds. A mixture of whiskey, beer, and Irish cream composes this inspiring cocktail, and somehow, all of those flavors managed to come through in the cake, from the inside out. At the center of the chocolate cupcake was a Jameson-infused chocolate ganache, which was then topped off with an Irish cream buttercream frosting. I tried to sample each component separately before putting it all together, and loved the complexity of each ingredient. Unfortunately, when I did put them all together, the parts I loved about the cupcake were masked by one another; although they were strong on their own, they were overshadowed by each other after assembly.

The last three cupcakes were all sampled at once, almost like Neapolitan ice cream. The limited edition strawberry crème cupcake was sickeningly sweet, and it was the only one that none of us finished. The ratio of frosting to cupcake was imbalanced, causing us to all reach for a glass of water. I will admit the addition of jelly inside of a simple vanilla cake was a nice surprise, in spite of the ridiculous amount of strawberry frosting heaped on top.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the vanilla cupcake was the bare minimum, highlighting a strong vanilla flavor. It was a bit dry, but with a basic cupcake, it was almost expected. The chocolate, however, was a nice surprise, and also vastly different from the vanilla. The rich chocolate scent was enticing, almost beckoning us to try it. The frosting on its own was almost like a truffle or softened fudge. I expect it was probably made as a ganache and then whipped slightly, but I cannot be sure. The rich frosting balanced out the simple cake, giving us a perfect ending to our in-home tour de cupcakes.

While the fudge-like chocolate frosting was incredible and the texture of the vanilla chai cake left me craving more, I can only recommend DeLish to someone with enough cash and a serious sweet tooth. Next time I head to DeLish, I will embrace my savory side – who knows, maybe a roast beef sandwich with roasted garlic mayonnaise will hit the spot more than any heaping pile of frosting ever could.

APN gives DeLish by Irises 3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

If you could create a dream cupcake, what ingredients would be in it?

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