Pastry chef Andrea Ballus was going camping. She needed a treat that would last through the weekend—something portable, fun, and delicious. Did she throw some s'mores materials into her bag and call it a day? Not even close. She made two giant Rice Krispie treats, sandwiched them over some homemade frosting, and cut them into bars. They were promptly devoured, not lasting even the first night.
Those Rice Krispie treat and frosting sandwiches eventually became the "Crispy Cakes" ($3) which are available in chocolate and salted caramel flavors at Ballus' new bakery, Sift Cupcake & Dessert Bar, in Pacific Heights.
The Crispie Cakes' super sweet, whimsical nature falls right in line with the rest of the dessert lineup at Sift. The menu seems designed to please your inner child—the one who'd eat spoonfuls of raw cookie dough straight from the bowl, run around the kitchen ten times wielding a spoon as a sword, then do it all over again. There are cruffles (cake and frosting blended together and hand dipped in chocolate) and frosting shots (exactly what they sound like: shot glasses full of frosting). The macarons come in Dr. Seussian colors and a freezer case full of plate-sized Ice Cream Sammys warns, "Careful. Contents are addictive." Even if you're not a fellow frosting fanatic, it's hard not to smile at the more-is-better attitude towards sugar in this cheery, retro-styled bakery.
But the main event at Sift is definitely the cupcakes ($3.25 each). Ballus competed on the Food Network show Cupcake Wars in 2011 and 2012, and fans can try some of the winning recipes at the bakery. The cupcakes are all extremely moist and the flavors tend to riff on childhood favorites. Think Snickerdoodle—a vanilla cake topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and Knock Your Sox Off—a take on Boston Cream Pie in which vanilla cake is filled with Bavarian cream and dipped in chocolate ganache. Even the plain vanilla cupcake tastes, in the best way, like the yellow birthday cake of your youth.
Click through the slideshow to see the cupcakes, cookies, and more.