A block from the BQE on a busy stretch of Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue, trucks filled with packaged snacks routinely rumble past the tiny storefront of Cheeks Bakery, but inside there is not an ounce of hydrogenated oil or a preservative in sight. “I don’t even have a freezer in the shop,” says chef-owner Melanie Schrimpe, who developed her menu of simple sweets—including decadent red velvet cakes, plump scones, wheat-free vanilla bean cheesecake, and her signature espresso-sea salt cookies—using almost entirely local and organic ingredients. Everything is made from scratch on the premises, a rarity in this part of town, where most cafes tend to hawk shrink-wrapped or previously frozen pastries.
Having cut her cupcake teeth at Magnolia in Manhattan and then gone on to co-create the menu at the Red Hook pastry shop Baked, Schrimpe, an 11-year Williamsburg resident, now hopes to show just how delicious—and affordable—sustainable fare can be. The produce she uses in her fruit pastries and savory fare comes from local farmers like New York State’s Red Jacket Orchards and the Hearty Roots Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which brings her a weekly crate of fruits and veggies (fresh greens and garlic scapes are some of the latest arrivals). She says she uses organic eggs and dry goods whenever possible, and other ingredients from East Coast-based artisans like Vermont’s Cabot Creamery.
While the moist, lightly frosted cupcakes at Cheeks might command block-long lines in the West Village, Schrimpe says she is pleased with the shop’s location and enjoys helping to revitalize the neighborhood. She appreciates the local customers as well. “In general, Brooklyn is more community based,” she says. “I feel that Manhattan customers come so they can say they’ve had it—not that they don’t appreciate the goods, but I get more of a ‘saw you in the Times, been there, had it, next please’ vibe from them. More of my Brooklyn customers are interested in seeing what rotates due to seasonal ingredients and get excited about new combinations.”
Editor’s note: Cheeks Bakery has closed.