My regular visits to The General Warren Inne were not like this one at all. I pulled up at 8:30-ish on a Tuesday evening. It was dark already and a heavy crowd of diners were filing out to the parking lot, instead of in to the cozy eatery. I wasn’t there to sit on the terrace and enjoy a cocktail. On this night, I wouldn’t be ordering a three-course meal accompanied by live music in the tavern. Instead, I was interested in one course and one course only: dessert!
I sat down with The General Warren Inne’s talented and friendly Pastry Chef for a one on one about her unique work schedule, the upcoming Chester County Cupcake Clash, ideas for the next big thing in baking and more. Missy King kindly peered through her black rimmed glasses and answered each question with the most unique dash of character, an ingredient that can never be over-used.
Can you explain how your schedule works as the Pastry Chef here at The General Warren Inne? Do you feel it differs largely from other pastry chefs in this area?
A lot of pastry chefs work odd hours, either early in the morning or late at night. A lot of bread bakers start now. Since my newborn, I’ve been working a regular shift of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., give or take a few hours depending on the day. Monday nights are for re-organizing to see what they went through and what parties we had, kind of set myself for the week. Next week I’m starting a new menu so I’ve been working on that so it’s ready in time. Basically, I just come in, re-stock everything and get it going.
You must really love to bake to make an odd schedule like that work. Where does your passion come from? Is there a wonderful childhood experience that keeps you coming back in those late nights?
It’s funny because I worked in restaurants ever since I was younger but I always cooked. I went to culinary school, to Johnson and Wales, and they messed up my schedule. I was supposed to take Culinary Arts but they accidentally scheduled me for Pastry Arts. They said just go to the first day and we’ll figure it out after that. I didn’t know anything. Everyone in my class knew how to use a scale, they knew measurements and what not. When you cook you don’t measure or anything so I was really behind but I loved it. My teacher was awesome. She was very tough and things were this way or not at all. I respected that and I learned things the hard way. So I just stuck with it. I went on to get my culinary degree but decided half way through that I just wanted to bake. I do love to cook at home but I rarely bake there.
Where did you work before starting at The General Warren Inne?
Before here I was at Cake in Chestnut Hill. They used to be a bakery and then expanded into Robertson’s Nursery and the greenhouse became a restaurant. It’s an amazing space. It’s probably one of the most random places for a restaurant. It can be quite chilly in the winter and warm in the summer but….it works.
So do you make the wedding cakes here as well?
Yep! I do all the wedding cakes and the desserts and breakfast pastries for our Inne guests.
Let’s talk Chester County Cupcake Clash, as it’s rapidly approaching on September 20th. Have you ever entered a contest like this before? How are you feeling?
We have entered only a few before and didn’t come out on top so each time I’m like, this is the one we’re going to win. We haven’t done anything with cupcakes yet, though, and that’s what I used to do at my last job so I feel pretty confident that we can kick a little butt. I want to do something with bacon. Maybe a little chocolate, bacon and caramel. I’m thinking, who doesn’t love bacon, besides vegetarians? Patrick [General Warren Inne's Proprietor] and I haven’t officially brainstormed yet but I think that would be something fun. Plus, bacon is so hot right now! I remember the first time I had bacon with sweets was at VooDoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon. It was crazy. One doughnut had pop rocks on it. The maple bacon doughnut had a maple cream filling and a maple glaze and a crispy piece of bacon on top. And then, you know, a fried doughnut so it was amazing.
The desserts you make for The General Warren Inne aren’t usually cupcakes so what are your favorite items to make here?
Occasionally I’ll do cupcakes. We’ve had a few wedding cupcakes like the tiered display and then if I ever have extra batter from something, I’ll make mini cupcakes for special parties. I don’t do a huge amount. I definitely think the trend is starting to fade. I mean it’s been so popular for so long. Other things have tried to mimic that craze. I remember people saying “oh pudding is going to be more popular than cupcakes.” Cake pops are on the heels of cupcakes right now.
I don’t know what my favorite thing to make here would be. I love working with different flavors. When I was on maternity leave I kept thinking I need to come back strong with a new menu. I really decided to take a leap and go crazy with the menu. I played it safe for a while then just decided I’m going for it. Right now I have a parsnip carrot cake on the menu. A lot of people are like “parsnip…what?” but it has a butterscotch flavor when you bake with it and it almost releases the sweetness. It’s pretty sweet to begin with but then when you add a little sugar it’s so complimentary. I think that’s the thing. I want people to realize it’s not just all about sugar and chocolate and eggs and flour. There are so many other things you can incorporate, like bacon, and it works. That’s where I’m at with making things here. Just trying to expand and introduce new flavors. Break people out of the traditional dessert mold.
There are three different cupcake categories for the Clash; chocolate, vanilla and sweethearts (a special theme in honor of the benefactor, Bringing Hope Home – formerly Great Guys Group). Which entry are you most looking forward to?
I have a good vanilla and chocolate cake recipe that I use so there will be a good base to work off of for those. I did a lot of fun things at Cake like a Boston Cream Cupcake, a Lemon Curd and we used to make crazy different ones like S’mores. I think I’m most excited for chocolate though because my husband tells me I make the best chocolate cake ever and he’s hard to please. He’s my toughest critic. I remember when we first started dating I made Irish Soda Bread and put caraway seeds in it. He thought it was disgusting. He doesn’t sugar coat it so if I want an honest opinion I always go to him. He loves the chocolate cake so it has to be good.
Cupcakes seems to be rather trendy with so many TV shows glorifying the tasty treat in the past five years or so. Let’s say it wasn’t cupcakes that got all the attention. What dessert would you want to be the center of attention and recognized by the media?
Hmmmm…that’s a hard one. I do eat dessert but I have to say if I go out to eat and it’s the standard Key Lime Pie or Creme Brulee I’m not inclined to order dessert. I really like places that are trying something a little different and out of the box. I love ice cream and sorbet. People are definitely making crazy flavors with that right now. I guess one dessert that I’m always wanting to be big but people don’t feel the same way is panna cotta. It’s so delicious but people are just “eh” about it. I’ve tried it on a few menus but I don’t know why people tend to shy away from it. It’s heavy cream and sugar and all sorts of good stuff. I once went to a bridal shower in Philadelphia and it was amazing. They used vanilla and salted caramel with a popcorn crunch on top of it. It was tasty. I loved that they had it. I guess that’s one dessert I’m always rooting for.
The contest is blind, meaning voters won’t know who made the items they’re tasting. Does this effect your preparation? Will certain ingredients be used in hopes of really popping for the guests’ taste buds?
Well, I love fall and the flavors of the season. I feel like people will really appreciate them. After the long, hot summer that we’ve had, it’s something we can look forward to. I love cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. Ginger is probably one of my favorites to work with, savory or sweet. It’s tangy though and not for everyone so I’ll have to be careful how I use it if I do. As far as other flavors, I love pineapple and rosemary. They go very well together. I like peppers and a little bit of heat and that’s always good with chocolate but, again, not for everyone. It’s hard when you’re doing a competition like this because you want to make sure it appeals to the majority but you also want to do something a little bit different and memorable, which brings us back to bacon again.
I was messing around at home and I made a chocolate caramel bacon brownie. I made a brownie batter and spread it down and then made a bacon caramel and put a layer of that down and then more brownie….and then more caramel. We keep it in the freezer and cut it up so we can pull it out and have little nibbles here and there. It’s something I would like to try at The General Warren Inne down the road but we’ll see.
If you can’t attend The Chester County Cupcake Clash on September 20th at Radley Run Country Club from 6:30 to 9:30, stop by The General Warren Inne any day of the week but Sunday to get a taste of Missy King’s one of a kind desserts.
The General Warren Inne is located at 9 Old Lancaster Road in Malvern.