When I reviewed On Forty One, which I liked very much, I buried the lede.
That’s actually giving myself too much credit. I didn’t even mention the most striking dish, a sturdy slice of butterscotch cake that was sweet in the most sophisticated ways. Paired with a pool of salted caramel frosting, the cake presented deeper, darker flavors than most traditional Southern desserts can claim.
The problem with the cake was I couldn’t determine who was responsible for it. My server said a company called “Sugarpants” provided it, which set off a Googling session involving all kinds of pages that drive parents to install internet filters. I e-mailed the restaurant’s publicist, but my message apparently didn’t reach her.
As I finally learned last week, Sugarpants belongs to Carrie Cooper, a 2011 College of Charleston graduate who was bound for medical school before she fell hard for baking. “I’m all self-taught,” she says. “The internet is extremely beneficial for home bakers.”
Cooper worked as a kitchen manager for Haypenny Confections, a local marshmallow producer, until they shut down last spring. She handled pastries for The Granary from its debut in December 2012; when its chef, Brannon Florie, last fall opened On Forty One, she added it to her task list.
When I spoke to Cooper last week, she told me she’d left both restaurants. “Brannon is a good guy, but they were so busy, and I was so busy,” she said, adding that she’d been working long hours as a server and part-time pastry chef at Sesame and Five Loaves Café, as well as continuing to bake on a freelance basis (she’s supporting her fiance while he applies for medical school.)
But Cooper yesterday e-mailed with an update: She’s going to restart her pastry work at On Forty One. Butterscotch cake for everyone!
Working out of her house gave Cooper the freedom to experiment with different kinds of pastries, such as modern riffs on familiar candy bars. Her home kitchen sessions inspired a Twix-like tart for a Restaurant Week menu at The Granary; she’s now developing a Three Musketeers cake.
“Anything with chocolate or caramel is my go-to,” she says.
For the butterscotch cake at On Forty One, she dispensed with plain white sugar and used dark sugar and molasses for the pastry, layered with butterscotch mousse. “I don’t like frosting, I like filling,” she says.
Although a biochemistry degree isn’t essential for baking, Cooper says it’s helped her sort out vexing issues in the kitchen: “So I didn’t waste seven years.”
Next up, Cooper is staging at Burwell’s, where the dessert menu is already dominated by chocolate and caramel. “Pastry full-time is my dream,” she says.
To learn more about Cooper’s cakes, e-mail email@example.com.