Being relevant in the food and restaurant industry is a tricky business. Everyone, of course, is looking for the next big idea and while some concepts can really turn into serious money makers, others come and go like the fashion world: in one minute, out the next. The two most notable concepts that I've seen in the last couple of years have been the gourmet burger offerings and the notion of a "cupcakery." While I've spent my fair share of time tracking down who has the best $9 burger in northeast Ohio, I've only briefly touched on one such cupcakery, A Cookie And A Cupcake up in Tremont.
When I discovered that a quaint little shop had opened up just down the road from where I work, I knew I had to check it out. I had read about it in the weekly food articles published in the Akron Beacon Journal and was eager to check out their twist on this growing market segment. Pure DeLite Gourmet Cupcakes was located inside the Merchant's Square Plaza at 125 Ghent Road, Fairlawn, OH 44333 and can be reached at 330-865-4000. If you can find Summit Mall, you can find Pure DeLite. Parking was in the common lot between the storefronts.
Speaking of storefronts, here was Pure DeLite's:
Once inside, I met the store's proprietor, Rachel Hough. Knowing that I wanted to get some photographs of her store and her glass cases, I explained who I was and why I was there. In this particular case I felt it was acceptible to reveal myself because I knew that 1) she couldn't bake a special batch just for me and 2) I would've refused any offer of free cupcakes so that I could write an honest review. While she graciously agreed to let me photograph anything I wanted, she worried that since I had shown up so late in the day, the cases were a bit empty. I assured her that this wouldn't be a problem and was, in fact, a good sign that she was moving her product at a good clip.
Here were a couple shots of the glass cases holding the cupcakes:
In addition to cupcakes, Pure DeLite offers several beverages to eat with your cupcake:
From the Beacon's article, the website, and talking with Rachel in person, I quickly learned that her philosophy regarding cupcakes was that if you could make a tasty cupcake with fresh quality, organic ingredients at half the fat and half the calories, why not do so? Here is what the website says on the front page under nutrition facts:
"That's right, I said healthy! Each one of our gourmet creations has LESS THAN HALF the calories, fat and sugar of a traditional cupcake. Not to mention they are made out of pure, natural, and organic ingredients, making indulging in one (or a dozen) of these the smartest decision you'll make all day."
With a challenge as bold as that, I had to give one (okay, more like six) a try. And no, I didn't eat all six in one sitting; I went back for a second visit. Here was the original box of four I got on my first visit:
Kudos to the box as it did a great job of keeping my selections today from touching each other and marring the frosting. First on the tasting docket today was "The Original":
Consisting of chocolate cake with bits of peanut butter cup baked inside, this was decorated with chocolate peanut butter buttercream, drizzled with a bit of chocolate sauce and finally topped with a decorative half of a peanut butter cup. If you like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter as much as I do, this was a real winner. Both primary flavors were well balanced, the cake was moist, the buttercream soft and smooth, and overall, it wasn't too sweet. It was sweet, don't misunderstand me, but it wasn't that level of sweet where your teeth start to hurt. A very delicious, if not messy to eat, cupcake.
Next up was the gluten-free offering of the day, Chocolate DeLite:
I am very fortunate that I do not have a gluten intolerance. That being said, this chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate creation left this chocoholic fully satisfied. While the cake wasn't as immensely moist as the non-gluten-free one I had just tried, it was satisfying and had I not been told it was gluten-free, would never have known on my own. Fortunately, any of the myriad of flavors of cupcakes can be made gluten-free and, of course, special orders can be placed for whatever type of cupcakes that Pure DeLite offers off their menu.
The third cupcake for this tasting was the sole vegan offering, the Tantrum Tamer:
Your basic chocolate cake base, this was topped with vegan "buttercream" and finished with rainbow "jimmies" (a.k.a. sprinkles). To me, while the flavor of the chocolate cupcake was fine, the texture of the cupcake felt a little bit denser than the previous versions. Figuring this was due to the fact that the cake contained no eggs, when I brought this fact up to Rachel, she seemed a little puzzled because in fact, the chocolate cupcake batter recipe she had developed and used in all the cupcakes requiring a chocolate base was actually vegan. Since this was the only vegan cupcake in the six that I tried, I had nothing else with which to compare it. As with the gluten-free cupcake, any of Pure DeLite's cupcakes can be made vegan, too.
Now that I've had three chocolate cake-based cupcakes, it was time to mix it up a little bit and try "Rabbit Food":
This was a spiced cake base with walnuts, carrots, and raisins and was topped with cinnamon buttercream and dusted with a bit more cinnamon before being decorated with several slivers of chopped carrot on top. The scent of cinnamon wafting up from the cupcake literally made me start to drool even before I tasted it. The combination of the cinnamon in the frosting and the spices in the cake along with the sweetness of the carrots and raisins and the crunch of the walnuts ... oh my! Again, this was sweet without being overpowering and the creaminess of the frosting made each bite a delicious treat for my mouth. I had to keep reminding myself that these cupcakes have less than half the fat, calories, and sugar of their more calorie-laden brethren.
Playfulness seemed to be the modus operandi at the bakery, and the next cupcake was an ode to an American classic, the Hostess With The Mostess:
Comprised of chocolate cake filled with white "creme," this was topped with a decadent chocolate ganache and a loop-de-loop swirl of icing piped on top of the cake. While smaller than the original it copied, it was a very good homage to the one I grew up eating as a child. While purists might miss the extra creme in the center, Pure DeLite's version delivered enough on the flavors to satisfy this taster's Hostess memories. At the very least, I could certainly appreciate the fact that the ingredients in today's version were much healthier for me than many of the questionable ones I would find if I read the package for the original version.
My final cupcake for today's tasting was another American classic in cake form, the Ice Cream Sundae:
The base consisted of a very moist banana cake with a strawberry jam center and was topped with vanilla frosting, chopped peanuts, a chocolate drizzle, and finally perched on top of this creation was a lone maraschino cherry. While this was delicious, my only complaint was that on my second bite, the cake base sort of separated where the jam was and this particular cupcake became a little hard to eat neatly. I ended up having to employ the less delicate technique of shoving the remainder of the cupcake into my mouth and chew thoroughly in order to avoid a complete disintegration. That being said, the flavors were very nice. I especially liked the play between the banana flavor, which wasn't overwhelming, and the strawberry jam. This one could easily be renamed the Banana Split, too.
Lest you think that by this point I had gone into a diabetic coma, since I had shared these with others, in the end I only had the equivalent of three cupcakes. And while that STILL may seem like a lot (and normally I would agree with you), since these were lower fat and lower sugar cupcakes, other than a little bit of water to clear out the residual sweetness, I felt fine. Now, I'm certainly not giving you license to eat as many as you want, but were I to eat one of these creations and still want a little more, a second cupcake might very well be in order.
I am truly delighted to have a bakery right here on the west side of Akron where I can find cupcakes that are not only healthier for me, but also made with fresh organic ingredients. Yes, gentle reader, some people might balk at the fact that they are $2.50 apiece and aren't absolutely enormous. Many times when I am out to eat, I opt to skip dessert, not because I don't like sweets, but because I can't justify spending $4-$8 for a dessert large enough to feed two people after eating a heavy meal. With Pure DeLite right around the corner from my job, I can now get my sweet treat fix and it will only cost me a measly $2.50.
I highly recommend that you stop by and check them out the next time you are over at Summit Mall. Make sure to check their website often as they rotate flavors on a daily basis and their store hours change depending on the time of year. I know I intend to return every now and again for more of their whimsical treats and I would suggest that you do, too.