As a parent, it's easy to become critical of adult-world twee. It's probably an aftereffect of being bombarded with cutsey kid product marketing. Whether it's all manner of drinks served in Mason jars, burger sliders held together with frilly toothpicks, or specialty ice cubes, there are more than enough whimsical edible trends to go around, especially when you're oversaturated with pint-sized versions of all-things-precious.
And with Obama's face still appearing on a cookie at Whole Foods and cupcakes and ice cream cones covering half the surface of Seattle proper, it's hard to stomach another sweet treat, especially when it's marketed to adults as much as kids.
All that to say, I really wanted to have a chip on my shoulder about Autumn Martin's Hot Cakes mini-empire. So far, for whatever irrational reason, I've avoided trying her molten cakes in a jar at the farmers market or visiting the new Ballard Ave. cafe. But from the first few minutes I walked into the place with my kid and tried a handful of smoked chocolate chip samples, any inkling to do an eye roll turned into pretty heavy infatuation. Because the truth is there's always room for something new when it's done well, and Martin's Hot Cakes shop is close to flawless.It's easy to be smitten with the ambiance, in classic old Ballard style with vintage slide displays and piles of black and white photos to rummage through. Even the obligatory take home wearables, including undies that read 'Hot Cakes' on the ass, become charming in the warm room with wooden fixtures, chalkboard menus, and careful product placement for take home cakes and sauces.
The dark decadence molten chocolate cake with salted caramel, ganache, and fresh whipped cream contains almost a whole Theo chocolate bar. Served warm, even splitting a gooey cake requires a tall glass of water or two. The dessert is a happy departure from the usual batter and frosting or fried dough variety. Eat one and you'll feel like you earned it.
The menu also includes crème brule, hulky cookies, pretzels with toppings like lemon curd and salted caramel, and grilled chocolate sandwiches with, you guessed it, caramel sauce.
Hot Cakes premiered a couple of boozy milkshakes last week: one is made with rye whiskey, espresso, and caramel and the other with Mescal, lime, and caramel. A contrast to the petite mason jar cakes, the 'adult' shakes are served strong in a classic ice cream shop glass for ten bucks a pop.
Martin was on hand to ask customers for their boozy shake feedback on a recent weeknight. The general consensus? Slash a few bucks off the price and switch to a smaller glass. In their current form, the shakes are a well-crafted sugar bomb tilting away from pleasantly rich and towards coma inducing.