“Customers eat the crumbs,” said Betty Bakery co-owner Ellen Baumwoll. That’s all you need to know about the restraint-wrecking lemon bundt cake ($2.85 per slice, $24 for a 10-inch cake) sold daily at this charming two-year-old Boerum Hill bakery. They’re famous for homey, familiar desserts, like red velvet cupcakes and black and white sesame cookies, but the lemon bundt cake is one of the bakery’s most beloved offerings, a delicious amalgam of moist, tart, and curl-up-on-the-couch comforting.
If, a few bites into the aforementioned cake, images from Bergman and Kurosawa films come to mind, you’re not crazy. This is the same lemon bundt cake that co-owner Cheryl Kleinman has been baking for the Film Forum since 1991, via her wholesale bakery business, which operates out of the same space as Betty.
Baumwoll and Kleinman met in 1981 while working at Patisserie Lanciani in the Village. Although they both moved on to other bakeries and eventually established separate but equally renowned wedding cake businesses (Bijoux Doux and Cheryl Kleinman Cakes, respectively), they retained fond memories of baking together. So in 2003 when Kleinman realized she had extra space at her Boerum Hill wholesale and custom wedding cake studio, she proposed to her former co-worker, inviting Baumwoll to gently fold her business into the space as well. This arrangement proved so successful that when property values in the area started climbing higher than a croquembouche, bringing upscale boutiques along their stretch of Atlantic Avenue, they decided it was time to open a retail bakery up front, and, voilà, Betty (named for their mentor, the revered wedding-cake maker Betty Van Nostrand) was born.
Ironically, despite Kleinman and Baumwoll’s fierce reputations for dazzlingly complex wedding cakes (Betty’s back showroom contains a plethora of examples), they’ve received a number of requests to turn their humble-looking lemon bundt into a multitiered cake for nuptials. As much as they would like to oblige (and can incorporate certain elements of it into a modified version), structurally the cake would never hold up. Nevertheless, by my reckoning (and I concede the logic of this would never sway Dr. Phil) such a request suggests a solid foundation for culinary compatibility in a soon-to-be-wed couple.
This bundt is a home run.