Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pizza And Cupcakes Are A Perfect Combo

Who has room for cupcakes after eating pizza? Evidently, many do.

Article from Cheshire Herald

Pizza And Cupcakes Are A Perfect Combo

December 11, 2010 by Josh Morgan

Walking into Cheshire Pizza on Highland Avenue, you are hit with the aroma of pepperoni, cheese, and other tasty and tantalizing scents.
Then, hints of carrot, coconut, chocolate, and peanut butter fill the air. Odd for a pizza joint, but this is where some delicious cupcakes are being made each week. Rita Halkias, who moved back to Cheshire just a few months ago after spending a few years in Greece, is baking cupcakes out of her father’s restaurant. Each Friday, she bakes fresh cupcakes that are on display and for sale at Cheshire Pizza. She also bakes to order.

Halkias, who lived in Athens, Greece with her husband for three years, moved back to Cheshire in September with her family, which includes their newest addition, a young daughter. Halkias has a background in special education and previously worked with the state Department of Correction, but things changed when she moved to Greece. “They are like 20 years behind in that area, so it was really tough to find a job,” she admitted. “I used to bake for friends and family, so I started a business in Athens and baked out of my house.” “Simply Rita,” as she is known in baking circles, gathered quite a following in Athens, and was frequently featured in their news media. She enjoyed the Athenian lifestyle but, after giving birth to her daughter, she wanted to move back stateside to be close to her parents. Her expertise in the kitchen goes back to her family upbringing, although she admits cupcakes took a back seat to other delicious desserts. “They made great desserts, but it was never about cakes or cupcakes or anything like that,” she stated. “So I made up recipes, tweaked them here and there, and now I make new flavors every week.” Halkias experimented with cake types and frosting flavors and has over 100 combinations in her homemade recipe book. On display last week were a red velvet cupcake with frosting and a carrot cake-inspired creation with a coconut topping. Some of her best baked goods have been created almost by accident using some leftover items lying around the kitchen, such as a recent Thanksgiving-inspired treat: pumpkin cheesecake. The favorite of customers seems to be the chocolate and peanut butter cupcake, she explained. “Everyone always asks for that one,” she said, smiling. “This is a passion of mine, but I never thought I could make it.” Having grown up in the restaurant business, Halkias said she convinced her family to let her take charge of the dessert menu at Cheshire Pizza. Still, she said, it took a leap of faith to start the business in Greece, as Athenians aren’t too familiar with cupcakes. The moist, light, frosted treats let Halkias show off some of her creative and artistic tendencies, something she couldn’t really do in the special education field. “I really like the art of it. I like to be creative,” Halkias said. “I get a lot of satisfaction from people’s compliments. I get high off people telling me how good they are.” And why cupcakes and not, say, sheet cakes? Halkias scoffs at the cake idea, saying cupcakes are “easy and practical” because you don’t need to cut them or use silverware to enjoy them. They are uniform in size, so everyone gets the same amount, plus, they are smaller than a corner piece of sheet cake, limiting the amount of remorse for those who are watching their waistbands. “It is just the right amount. They are satisfying and you don’t feel guilty after eating it,” Halkias said. She only relies on fresh ingredients and won’t bake with old items if she is going to be selling the cupcakes. Everything, from the cake mix to the batter is made from scratch, Halkias said. She bakes to order and, on Fridays, she sells cupcakes from Cheshire Pizza if people want to try them. The bake-to-order business is still in its infancy and she hopes, by networking and word-of-mouth, people will be asking for Simply Rita. “I was hesitant to start this business, but I love it and still love it every day,” she said. “People used to stop here for pizza, but now they can get a cupcake, too.” For more information on Halkias, search for Rita Pie on Facebook or visit her personal blog, www.cupcakesathens.blogspot.com.  
To all things cupcake!


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