Discover more from Cake Zine
Eat Me With Your Hands
A special Just a Bite with Jenneh Kaikai of Pelah Kitchen
Hello from Brooklyn, where stone fruit is finally starting to trickle into greenmarkets and onto menus around the city. Our team is hard at work setting the lineup for our next issue, Tough Cookie, but in the meantime, we’re excited to keep sharing peeks from Humble Pie. Today, we’re sharing a special installment of Just a Bite with baker Jenneh Kaikai of Pelah Kitchen, whose toasted coconut cake with dulce du leche mascarpone whip (!) prompted a small riot at our Humble Pie launch party earlier in the summer.
I first tried one of Jenneh Kaikai’s flower-crowned cakes back in 2020, when a gluten-free friend needed a birthday cake that would look great at a Fort Greene picnic and please a crowd. It was moist, deeply chocolatey, and unforgettable. Jenneh’s microbakery Pelah Kitchen, offering gluten-free and gluten-full pastries, has grown in popularity over the past three years, from online orders to buzzy pop-ups. If you’re in New York City, you can try her cake at àṣẹ, a pop-up this Sunday, August 6, with KIT an’ KIN celebrating the traditional Guyanese wedding feast. Trust me: You won’t want to miss it. —Aliza Abarbanel
You’re making dessert. What is it?
It’s cake. The curiosity will usually start based on seeing a particularly interesting flavor detailed in an Instagram or TikTok caption. I’m drawn to desserts that are spice forward, and brown butter-anything catches my eye. I also really appreciate when chefs make changes to a popular base recipe of theirs, incorporating seasonal or unique ingredients.
The Kitchenista is one of my favorite food bloggers and she has a recipe for a really fantastic lemon olive oil cake. She recently upgraded that recipe to include saffron and pistachios. That kind of creativity and versatility is always inspiring.
Someone is making you a dessert. What do you ask for?
Something à la mode and finished with Maldon flaky sea salt. If the dessert itself isn’t great, the ice cream and saltiness helps!
You’ve transformed into a pastry. What are you and how are you consumed?
I’m something toasty and rich. Maybe I’m a brown butter chocolate chip cookie. I melt in your mouth, have the perfect balance of crispiness around the edges paired with a perfect gooey center. Eat me with your hands and savor the little streaks of dark chocolate left on your fingertips.
What fictional dessert scene will you never forget?
The chocolate cake from Matilda. It was so rich and moist with perfect homemade-looking buttercream. Maybe that’s the scene that got me into cake.
What is a baking hack you can’t live without?
Some bakers don’t bother, but I really think cake strips make a big difference in ensuring my cakes bake evenly. The insulation from wrapping your cake with cloth strips soaked in cold water creates a more consistent temperature and level cake.
What's the most challenging and most rewarding part of hosting pop-ups?
The most challenging piece is the execution. I start preparing for a pop up at least two weeks before. It can be such a long lead time of menu planning, shopping, baking, and then packaging everything up. It becomes really rewarding once I’m at the venue all set up and taking orders. I find that there’s so much adrenaline—I’m usually exhausted but still able to connect with and meet the folks that come and support me. In these brief few years I’ve started to develop loyalty and a relationship with my customers and community, so any chance to connect IRL is the best.
Misc Cake Content
If you’re in NYC, the food-focused bookstore Archestratus is hosting a bake sale this Saturday benefiting Yu and Me Books, which is facing damage after a recent fire in the building. Grab a copy of Humble Pie while you’re there!